Italy’s Amalfi Coast: Great Beauty, Gripping Drama
Put a compass to paper and trace a circle. Then tell me which other country has such a concentration of places like Amalfi, Naples, Ischia, Procida, Sorrento, Positano, Pompeii, and Capri. Diego Della Valle
Italy’s Amalfi coast has long been hallowed ground. It reveals a quintessential balance between the beauty of nature and the creativity of man. The stunning stretch of Mediterranean coast has been a royal retreat since antiquity. It was a mandatory stop on the Grand Tour. The cinematic vision of 20th century film directors opened Italy’s Amalfi Coast to the eyes of the world.
Topless automobiles, with gorgeous women in super-sized sunglasses riding shotgun, Hermes scarves blowing backward, careening around 37 miles of hairpin curves. String quartets on glamorous verandas eclipsed by magnificent sea views. Dashing men in formal attire lolling about champagne parties that go on for days.
Then and now, the stunning towns of the Amalfi coast; Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello and the Isle of Capri, dazzle with mesmerizing allure.
Italy’s Amalfi coast is a happy dream that haunts you for the rest of your life.
Italy’s Amalfi coast gateway, Sorrento, is a sprawling cliff-top resort overlooking the Bay of Naples. Here fascinating history co-mingles with romantic legend, and a certain magic lingers in every sun-splashed corner.
Sorrento was once home to the Phoenicians. Then came the Greeks. Homer tells the tale of Ulysses seduced here by the song of the Sirens. They were followed by Romans then Normans. Writers, poets, thinkers and European elite on the Grand Tour spent summers; Lord Byron, Keats, Nietzsche, Goethe and Walter Scott.
Sorrento is at once chic and fashionable, ancient and rustic, depending upon where you meander. The air is fragranced by lemon and orange groves. The Old Town encircling Piazza Tasso is your destination for an authentic Italian sensory experience. On the other side of town, the Via Correale offers the trendiest of everything to the well-heeled visitor.
“Positano bites deep.”
“It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone. Its houses climb a hill so steep it would be a cliff except that stairs are cut in it. I believe that whereas most house foundations are vertical, in Positano they are horizontal. The small curving bay of unbelievably blue and green water lips gently on a beach of small pebbles. There is only one narrow street and it does not come down to the water. Everything else is stairs, some of them as steep as ladders. You do not walk to visit a friend, you either climb or slide. Nearly always when you find a place as beautiful as Positano, your impulse is to conceal it.” (John Steinbeck, “Harper’s Bazaar”, May 1953)
Anchor in the vibrant harbor, the colorful city rises before you in a cubist geometry of pastels. The picturesque seaside town is beloved for sunny days, ice-cold limoncello, trendy beach clubs and boutiques, and celebrity hideouts. This is a walking adventure of cobbled streets, steep, winding stairways, hidden gardens, and extraordinary vistas. Be seen at the Champagne & Oyster Bar at Le Sirenuse. Music on the Rocks, a beach club, restaurant, and nightclub carved of caves and grottos, attracts young, privileged jet-setters with clubbing stamina.
Amalfi, unlike any other.
In Amalfi, in a small stone church, there is a plaque inscribed with words penned by the renowned Italian poet Renato Fucini that reads: “The day of judgment, for the Amalfi people who will go to heaven, will be a day like any other.”
This ancient city of cloisters and cathedrals, covered streets and corkscrew passages, has offered a glimpse of paradise to visitors for centuries. This is a fine town to stroll about aimlessly, admire the art and architecture, meander along the narrow alleyways in search of souvenir treasures, and wine and dine sumptuously. Close to the main square, we recommend La Caravella Restaurant, with a cellar of 1800 labels and a Michelin star. East of Amalfi, the pretty fishing town of Altrani is just a ten minute walk, but feels worlds away.
Ravello, City of Music
“The most beautiful view in the world.” Gore Vidal, from Villa Cimbrone
Ravello is an artfully manicured, sculptural patchwork of ancient, old and period architecture. There are gated grand villas and flowering gardens, fine galleries, designer boutiques and world-class restaurants all interconnected by narrow, shaded lanes perched 1,200 feet above the sea. An unexpected, sun-drenched square, a bench with ocean views, violin strains from a third story window, can leave one speechless. It is no wonder that Ravello has been the muse of composers, musicians, poets and writers. The who’s who list is lengthy.
Summertime here is a special paradise for lovers of the fine arts. The Ravello Festival is dedicated to Richard Wagner, who composed the second act of his opera Parsifal here. Villa Rufolo, an architectonic and artistic treasure, hosts seventy days of music, dance, cinema, exhibitions and cultural events that climax with the magical Dawn Concert.
Capri: “City of Sweet Idleness”
Circumnavigating the Isle of Capri, gliding near the Faraglioni rocks, making a pass at the Blue Grotto, the shimmering caves, the quiet coves, is unsurpassed luxury yachting. The ragged shoreline is a thrill for snorkelers, divers and tender explorations, for playing on the yacht toys and basking in the sun. However, the island, with it’s remarkable pathways through woods and vineyards, historic villas and elegant walking streets, is equally compelling.
“Capri is my ultimate holiday destination.”
– Vidal Sassoon
Once the shaded cafès encircling the famous Piazzetta in Capri Town were the favorite haunts of artists, writers, intellectuals, and the aristocracy. Today, the jet setting elites; movie stars, high-profile athletes, TV personalities and international celebrities, occupy their seats. As luck would have it, the cannoli topped cassata is just as sweet. A few steps from the Piazzetta, VIP nightlife commences with champagne at the Hotel Quisisana’s Krug Room. Politicians and poets, royalty and rockstars have been crossing the threshold since it opened in 1845.
Nearby, the urban island of Ischia offers a different yet rewarding experience. Volcanic origins have left fertile soil beloved by wine grapes, and medicinal hot springs, some public, others attached to hotel spas. Castello Aragonese in Ischia Ponte is a vast medieval complex that will intrigue history buffs. The island also has unique coastal architecture from the days when fishing, rather than tourism, was the mainstay.
Italy’s Amalfi Coast is a painterly canvas of bright, intense color. The sunlight shimmers on a cobalt blue sea. A confection of houses cling to the rocks, tumbling and climbing one over the other, revealing vestiges of ancient civilizations. Local, proud people greet you with genuine warmth. The intense perfume of native lemons and olive groves, vineyards, and gardens, hangs thick in the air. A yacht charter along Italy’s Amalfi Coast is a privileged experience that no one should miss.
Some of our favorite places:
Ristorante Museo Caruso, an elegant, soft light, dining experience. Gourmet cuisine with an operatic drizzle.
Sant’Agata sui due Golfi: Don Alfonso 1890, 2 Michelin stars. Restaurant, boutique hotel, cooking school, farm. It’s worth the excursion.
Angelo Fusco Jewellery, corals, cameos and fine keepsakes. Located at the entrance of the main square, just steps from the shore.
Ravello Concert Society, 2016 concert schedule and tickets
Capri Palace Hotel & Spa, an exclusive retreat for blissful rejuvenation.
Contact Select Yachts to learn more about crewed luxury charter on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. We’ve been there. We know the ropes.