Filled with the unexpected wonderful pictures Tropea has offered to us, we were preparing to sail for another mythic sea, the "sea of sirens". We filled our tank with fuels in Tropea’s marina and our bow was targeting at the end of the southern peninsula of the Bay of Naples.
The compass showed 325 ° and the distance we had to travel was 134 nautical miles. A light breeze was coming against our port bow and we were cruising effortlessly with 26 knots, with the engine running at 4250 rpm, while our consumption did not exceed 42 liters per hour. All we had to do was to enjoy our beautiful seaway. We were approaching two of the most famous tourist destinations in the Mediterranean. The famous Costiera Amalfitana, located on the south side of the peninsula of Sorrento and the cosmopolitan island of Capri, located a few miles more west.
We soon arrived near the lighthouse of Punta Campanella, the cape of the peninsula. We planned to do a quick, tracking sailing to end up at a place we could use as a base for the days we would stay here. We wanted to locate a quiet place between Capri and Amalfi (known as Costiera Amalfitana) to stay overnight, while we were almost certain that there would be no free space to tie in the marinas of the two places, which are the only marinas in the region.
The night would fall in one hour and our time was very limited.
At “marina del Cantone”
Eventually, we ended up at “marina del Cantone”. Actually, there is no marina here, as the Italians use the term “marina” to define the beach. So, “marina del Cantone” is the seaside Nerano village, a small village situated just above the beach, tucked into the dense vegetation. A fishing village which enjoys its tranquility amongst the busy Capri and Amalfi. It is located 4.5 miles from Capri located more west and 6 nautical miles from Positano and Amalfi located more east.
Marina del Cantone is an open and large bay facing south.
On the east side of the marina del Cantone there is an iron pier from where several tourist boats begin their day trips to the neighbouring Capri and Costiera Amalfitana. This pier is the most vivid point of the beach, as there is traffic throughout the whole day.
There are two very famous floating restaurants on the beach, known for their local cuisine and their delicious seafood dishes: The restaurant “Maria Grazia”, located at the eastern end of the coast, and the restaurant “Da Tomaso al lo Scoglio”, located in the middle of the beach.
Certainly, marina del Cantone is not the place that will delight you at first glance. However, apart from being a strategic point for spending the night, it is a very decent place. Unadulterated and genuine, I would say that it is a place that shows us a more real and authentic picture of the Italian provinces, while it gives us the o
Nino was one of those wonderful locals, whose face and smile were revealing an incredible kindness.
Nino gave us all the information we needed with excess willigness and great joy and he generally made us feel that we found one of our own people in these faraway places. Owner and captain himself of one of the excursion boats that start sailing from the coast at nine o'clock in the morning every day, he was the ideal person to tell us about the surrounding attractions.
At the "sea of sirens"
The next day we moved east, cruising “costa-costa”, aiming to explore inch by inch the famous Amalfi coast, also known as Costiera Amalfitana, which extends from Positano on the west to Vietri on the east. Amalfi is the main resort of the coast, which, along with Positano and mountainous Ravello, constitutes the main pole of attraction of Costiera Amalfitana.
The beauty of the coastline is so exciting, that, for many years now, it is a source of inspiration for a long list of distinguished people, such as Nietzsche, Ibsen, Goethe and Wagner.
Today, Costiera Amalfitana consists an earthy paradise that attracts millions of visitors every year from around the world, who are flooding this unique coastline to enjoy the amazing view on the edge of the rocks, enjoy their espresso in the beautiful small squares and admire the unique architecture of the elegant seaside villages. Without any doubt, the Amalfi Coast is a special travel destination that is fairly characterized as the "San Tropez of the Italian south."
So we started early in the morning from marina del Cantone. Just off the coast, at a distance of less than two nautical miles, we could clearly distinguish the Li Galli islands. Known since antiquity as the "Land of the Sirens", there was no way not to visit them. Our bow turned towards the islands and we soon arrived at this mythical land (see related insert).
The Li Galli islands is a small cluster of three small islands a few tens of meters apart.
They are located 3.5 miles southeast of the marina del Cantone and 3.5 miles southwest of Positano. The largest island is called Gallo Lungo, while the two smaller islands next to it are called Castelluccia and Rotonda.
These three islands belong to the wider marine park of Punta Campanella. According to many researchers, these islands are the Sirenousas Islands, inhabited by the well known from the mythology Sirens. We wandered among the islands for a long time, trying to taste some of the mythical aura of Odysseus and the Sirens, leaving our mind to travel in the descriptions of Homer.
At the sea city of Positano
We were cruising in deep waters with low speed, in a few meters distance from the tough mountains that fell almost vertically on the dark sea. With our sight set high, we were admiring the fascinating spectacle that nature offered to us, observing the marvelous houses that were scattered in selected locations on the cliffs. Shortly, we approached the famous Positano.
The words seem to be too poor indeed to describe the spectacle one faces. Although we had seen so many photos of Positano that it was as if we had visited it in the past, nothing can describe the emotions we felt when we faced the reality. A magnificent sea city hovering between the sky and the sea, nestled in the green rocks. A rare and majestic landscape we are not accustomed to seeing. Without any doubt, it is the most fascinating place throughout Costiera Amalfitana, belted with lemon, orange and olive trees.
he concussive part of this small town is the part facing southeast and, of course, that was the place we chose to marvel and shoot pictures without stopping. As if we were in front of a painting, a masterpiece of beauty and harmony.
The colorful houses, literally wedged into the almost vertical cliff, start from the sea and seem to be built one on top of the other. With a minimal space between them, which is occupied by trees and flowers, and painted with lovely pastel colors, these houses create an enchanting picture.
A picture which becomes even more exciting owing to the unique nature that generously embraces this place. The deep blue sea and the green mountains tumbling into it, with the peaks of the mountains often gettig lost in the white clouds, together with the image of the colorful and vertically built small city, compose a frame of incredible beauty. A frame greately supplemented with the dozens of wonderful local boats moored in parallel rows, occupying almost the entire open bay.
The seaside promenade is filled with tables, where crowds are huddled to try the amazing local cuisine and seafood dishes. Behind the seaside promenade stands the imposing church of Santa Maria Assunta with the towering golden dome standing out among the houses. Santa Maria Assunta constitutes the trademark and the heart of Positano. The famous «Black Madonna» painting is also hosted here. According to the local legend, the painting of the Madonna was stolen since Byzantium era and while being transported to the Mediterranean by pirates, a terrible storm broke out in the waters. The terrified residents heard a voice calling «Posa, Posa» coming from the sea. So, they navigated the sea and found the precious image which was then transferred to the village and the storm subsided.
In front of the church lies the central Flavio Gioia square, where the central street Via dei Mulini ends. This street is full of shops and street vendors. Crowds of people are crowded to pass through and many of them order the famous sandals of Positano, which are made in situ.
Wherever you stand, you feel like standing on a balcony with panoramic view. Whichever angle you look from, the images are so beautiful and alive, so wild and imposing, while something dramatic is emmitting at the same time.
It's a strange feeling, which is mainly due to clouds that slide through the surrounding canyons blanketing the sky, but is also due to the strangely dark color of the deep sea.
From the very first glance one understands why this is a famous travel destination that attracts rich and famous people, and why it competes both Capri and the nearby Amalfi in reputation. Famous writers, poets, filmmakers and composers have been enchanted by its beauty and it has been a source of inspiration for several films and known songs.
At the famous Amalfi
Just beyond the fjord of Furore is the small Conca cape, where the bay that hosts Amalfi begins. This small town is the core of the entire coastline, which was actually named after this town. This is another top tourist destination of the Costiera Amalfitana, the largest and most popular resort on the coast, wich is famous worldwide. Amalfi is a real gem for the region, nestled in a small fertile valley on the outcome of the canyon to the sea.
For many centuries it was one of the most developed sea cities in the Mediterranean.
We approached the port located on the west side of town, at position N40°37'94" E14°36'13. A 190 meters long breakwater protects the port from the waves of Garbi, while the two long piers located nearby serve the tourist boats which are constantly transferring crowds of people. At the end of the inner side of the breakwater the gas station is located, where all the boats are patiently waiting to fill their tanks with fuels.
The boat traffic is very increased during the summer and the port is characterized by a permanent bustle probably more suited to a big city. This is the staring point and the destination of multiple yachts, ferryboats and boats that guide visitors to the neighboring shores.
The only place for one to tie is on the inner side of the breakwater, where there is a small marina of floating docks, the Pontile Coppola marina. The marina has been used for 35 years and is run by Coppola brothers, who offer their services with much love and care. However, there is not enough space for the boats arriving in Amalfi and the chance to find even a little free space is very small. But it is worth trying, because it is a few dozen meters from the center of Amalfi. So, that was what we did. We asked the people of the marina for a coveted space, which was eventually found, even for a few hours of stay...
We went on foot to the two piers of the harbor, among which is the main square of Amalfi, where the statue of the explorer Flavio Gioia stands. Flavio Gioia was born here and he is deemed by many people to be the inventor of the magnetic compass. The heart of the Amalfi beats here and it is certainly the most bustling point of the city.
Opposite the statue of Flavio Gioia is where the central street of Amalfi starts, where motorbikes and cars are prohibited. Only small vans covering the needs of the stores and small electric cars carrying the baggage of guests in hotels are authorized to go through this street.
We had walked a few meters on the paved road when we found ourselves in a magical place. In the small Piazza Duomo, a fantastic neighborhood which certainly is the heart of the entire Costiera Amalfitana (see related insert).
I was determined to sit for hours and loiter without doing absolutely anything. And that’s what I did. I sat there marveling! I was gazing unconcernedly everything around me. Marble fountains were beside me, small groups of friends were sitting on the steps of the church, people of all nationalities were passing by in front of me, wonderful, painted with soft colors, multi-storey buildings were surrounding the square.
The Piazza Duomo is a busy and bustling square, but in a strange way, this did not bother me. I kind of liked it very much indeed. I was experiencing a unique and colorful,lively and cheerful atmosphere. I don’t know if I was in such a good mood that everything seemed to be so fabulous, but I honestly believe that there cannot be even a single person in the world not to be enchanted by this lovely neighborhood which looks like an open theater scene.
Eventually, I sat up and began to climb the 57 steps of the church built in 1718, which lead to the large bronze door of St Andrew.
Towards Ravello, crossing the Amalfitana road
The next day we rented two bikes and took the road 163 or Amalfitana road, or whatever it is called. It crosses along the Costiera Amalfitana and is deemed to be one of the most spectacular roads in the world. Of course, we could not have missed this experience, as even when we were at the sea we could tell that this road would offer amazing pictures to us.
The Amalfitana road is a very narrow road which can barely accommodate two cars side by side, and it is literally like the road is hanging over the sea.
It runs parallel to the sea, often reaching very high levels following the terrain of lush Lattari mountains. This twisting, serpentine road, sometimes entering into successive gorges and sometimes following the steep capes that collapse vertically into the Tyrrhenian Sea, offers a shocking spectacle.Without any hesitation, I would say that this road is a fascinating attraction by itself. As a matter of fact, there are some points where you got the feeling that it hovers over the sea, at an altitude of hundred meters.
We had a car this time through the Amalfi, and shortly after a while we turned left leaving the magnificent coastline behind. Through a very beautiful drive on the slopes of the wooded gorge, we reached the famous Ravello. Well known for its famous palaces with their beautiful gardens hanging high above the sea, but also for classical concerts given in these palaces in an truly exciting environment.
Of course, before starting our wandering, we enjoyed a delicious coffee in one of the three cafes which "decorate" the large cobbled square, surrounded by jars with colorful flowers, stone towers and tall trees.
And when we visited the neighboring Rufolo and Cimbrone villas, we were astonished by the amazing gardens with the colorful flowers and the really tall trees. Reaching at the edge of the gardens, the spectacle they offered combined with the coast and the deep blue sea in the background, was really unique.
Ravello is a beautiful medieval village which, along with Positano and Amalfi, is with no doubt one of the most beautiful travel destinations. Neat and tidy, a real "balcony" of Costiera Amalfitana, built in a panoramic position at 350 meters altitude, it offers untold views and emits a charming atmosphere of peace and tranquility that will surely follow us for a long time. The great composer Ricard Wagner was inspired here and composed the opera Parsifal. At the gardens of Villa Rufolo the internationally renowned festival of classical music is held every summer in a really exciting environment.