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The Charismatic Seas of Naples

The enchanted gulf of an Italian region washed in history as told through Sailing The Seas

The Charismatic Seas of Naples

Escape

This bay is the fabled home of the sirens, the mythical creatures who lured ill-fated sailors onto the rocks with their enchanting song. In reality, this grand gulf is awash with antiquity.

 

The Charismatic Seas of Naples

A fisherman preparing his nets in Procida, one of the Flegrean Islands off the coast of Naples in southern Italy. (Photo: Dayyan Armstrong, Sailing The Season) 

Naples is a vibrant southern Italian city; home to indulgent cuisine, it is the birthplace of dried pasta and, yes, pizza. The region is also famous for being the site of the ancient city of Pompeii. This major port city is the jumping-off point for sailing the Sorrentine Peninsula and the Campanian Archipelago, including the seductive island of Capri. South of Sorrento, you’ll find yourself along the coast of the Gulf of Salerno, where the famed towns of Amalfi and Positano sit tucked under formidable cliffs. Heading west from here, you can sail to the astonishing Phlegraean Islands: Ischia, Procida, Vivara, and Nisida. Capri sits off the Sorrentine Peninsula between two gulfs, of Naples and Salerno, and has an international reputation as a retreat for artists, writers, and celebrities. Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey (800 BC), depicts a voyage through this region, and several of the islands are described in recognizable detail, although the names have changed.

To understand sailing the Gulf of Naples, you must understand the city of Naples itself, with all its illustrious culture, family sentiment, organized chaos, unique, and beautiful magnetism. A look into Naples’s past will help you understand the present. Cars have replaced the horse-drawn carts, fashion might have shifted, but the streets look almost identical to the days of the Roman Empire. Out on the islands, there are ripples of Neopolitan city life, mostly arriving on the daily ferries and again when heading back during the sunset.

 

The Charismatic Seas of Naples

Aragonese Castle in the distance as the Sailing Collective journey through the picturesque Gulf of Naples. (Photo: Dayyan Armstrong, Sailing The Season)

Italians come to the islands to fall into the groove of oceanic living. On a sunny day, when the wind is light, swimmers of all ages venture out from the rocks into the sea with freedom. Still, when dark clouds linger in the sky, the sea turns gloomy and violent, children and adults alike stay inside, listening to the rain drive sideways onto their wooden shutters. On a sailboat, you sway to the rhythm of the sea. Get your quiet night at anchor in wilderness cove when the weather allows; take refuge in the safe harbor of a close-by seafaring town when it doesn’t.

Ross Beane and Dayyan Armstrong of Sailing Collective steer a visual journey into landscape and lifestyles of Procida and Capri.

Procida

Procida is the smallest island in the region and one that should not go unnoticed. It is perhaps the most unfettered island, with the fewest visitors during the summer months, and a recommended destination after leaving the busy ports of Naples under sail. Sandwiched between Ischia and Capri, this secret of an island is modest and wears its charm quietly, appearing like a forgotten land as you sail towards its shore. Home to two harbors, one on either side of the island, and plenty of anchorages around them (access by boat is simple). On the northeast coast lies Marina di Sancio Cattolico. The protected harbor here will provide shelter in any inclement weather conditions.

To the south, you will find Corricella, the commercial fishing harbor used by both small local fishing boats and bigger trawlers; it has no space for visiting yachts. In settled weather, you can anchor just off the seawall or further southwest along the beach. Buildings line the hill in disorganized rows of brightly painted yellows, pinks, blues, and reds, with houses built cascading down onto one another. Stairs wind their way through the alleyways of the steep neighborhood. Sat atop the settlement is a domed yellow church and, next to it, the Palazzo d’Avalos—a 16th-century palace- turned-prison that sits majestically at the peak of the island, overlooking the bay.

 

The Charismatic Seas of Naples

May to October is the ideal season to visit the scenic islands of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Gulf of Naples. (Photo: Dayyan Armstrong, Sailing The Season) 

Leading up to Corricella along the bay is a dramatic black sand beach, popular with the Neopolitan city dwellers who enjoy it on the weekend days during the hot summer months. Dinghy or swim ashore, you’ll find yourself enjoying a refreshing beverage and a granita al Limone—a shaved ice snack made with fresh local lemons, sold to you by an Italian working one of the beachside café stands. This beach is a long walk from town and often overlooked by the few tourists who show up on the island’s shores. Luckily for sailors, you can drop anchor in the bay and arrive in style.

Capri

From the watchtowers of Ischia’s castle, Capri appears in the heat of the summer haze, 15 nautical miles away. The island sits off the coast of the Sorrentine Peninsula and is perhaps the most famous island in the Mediterranean. Sheer cliffs rise hundreds of meters from the ocean along most of Capri’s shoreline. Only a single marina on the north, and a small, fair-weather landing on the south, grant you access to all that waits onshore. Since its earliest times, the island has had a prestige that draws high-profile visitors. Emperors had their summer palaces built here, to enjoy the engaging vistas of Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. Aristocrats and rulers have called Capri home during the summer months throughout the ages. Artists, writers, and painters have immortalized it during their stays on the island.

Sailing, nautical mile after nautical mile, the scale of the island unfolds until you are in the shadow of the cliffs and realize how grand it all is. Warm orange sunlight shining on its western cliff during the late afternoon looks unreal, like a painted backdrop behind a movie set. The Punta Carena Lighthouse, at the southwest tip of the island, sits high above the water. In 2019, the last of the lighthouse keepers left their post on the cliff peak, putting to rest 152 years of active duty.

 

The Charismatic Seas of Naples

The Sailing Collective team recommends anchoring at several locations to really grasp the majestic atmosphere of this historic part of the world. On their list includes Aragonese Castle and Sant’Angelo in Ischia, Sorrento, Marina de Coricella in Procida, and Marina Piccola in Capri. (Photo: Dayyan Armstrong, Sailing The Season) 

On the eastern shore is the Blue Grotto—a cave that is famous for its stunning blue hue in the afternoon, as the sun shines through underwater passes to illuminate it. It is too deep to anchor at the entrance to the grotto. The only access is by local tour boat, one of which will pick you up from your vessel and take you around the cave on a short tour for a per-person fee. The experience of waiting in line to enter detracts from the majesty of the cave itself to the extent that this is not a “must-see” stop, despite its international fame.

The Gulf of Naples is a very enchanting itinerary that takes mariners across seas sailed for millennia. By the period in which Homer’s heroes sailed the Tyrrhenian Sea, islands developed by great civilizations, gaze at a legacy while voyaging through the water. While some sailing areas do highlight nature or great sailing, the Gulf of Naples itinerary throws the focus onto idyllic Italian architecture and unique and thriving culture. A region renowned for its beauty, this becomes even more prevalent when one sails away and sees the landscape from a distance. 

Sailing, the culinary cuisines of visited regions, and the cultural landmarks that define some of the most galvanic anchorages of the world-Sailing The Seas is a presentation of new vessel culture and exploration. Available worldwide from August 25.


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