Thursday 14 August 2014

Amalfi Coast

We are on the Costiera Amalfatana, just outside Salerno, working our way north along the Italian coast towards Naples and then onto Rome.  We are berthed in Marina d’Arechi, a brand new marina that isn’t even on my chart, where we spend the day cleaning Stromboli ash from the decks.  Hertz delivers a car which Fatty dubs a Fiat Ugly, and we set off in the hot afternoon sun, air conditioning on full, through Salerno and onto the coast road that runs along the south of the Amalfi peninsula. Our destination is Ravello a small town up in the hills above Amalfi, but first, that crazy coast road.

The Fiat Ugly is perfect for this journey, small and squat, a manual gearbox with five gears but we use just two.  The road clings onto the hillside, assisted by viaducts and tunnels, the sea sparkling far below, where power boats stream across the water like a naval invasion, back to port after a weekend of la dolce vita. In the other direction come the scooters, overtaking on corners, weaving through traffic, carrying young couples home from the rocky beaches of Amalfi.  The road climbs higher into the hills and we arrive at Ravello where we squeeze the Ugly down a narrow alley and into the garage of the hotel Palumbo. Ravello has a strong classical pedigree: the inspiration for Wagner’s Parsifal, a muse for DH Lawrence, Gore Vidal, and the host of an annual music festival held in August. Tonight there is a concert of Dvojak’s work, but we are too hungry for culture and instead we have dinner on the terrace of the hotel, the faint strains of Dvorjak drifting across the hills, and watch the full moon float up from the horizon to illuminate the Amalfi coast below.

The weather forecast is settled, so we leave the shelter of the marina and head for Capri. We pass Salerno, Amalfi, Positano; the view from the calm decks of Juno quite different to the impression from the Ugly, and we cross the channel to Capri where we enter another world.   Paulo, the owner of Magiacuattro - and the rescue gas bottle - has invited us to drinks on the terrace of his hotel, the Caesar Augustus. We anchor in twenty metres of water and bounce around in the chop churned up by a procession of motor boats, ribs and ferries which deliver and collect tourists from the mainland. Anchored further offshore are the exclusive big dogs: triple decker motor yachts which appear set in concrete as their mechanised stabilisers whirr away to prevent the mojitos from spilling a drop.

We tie the dinghy up in the Marina Grande, slipping a tip to the marinero to ensure no one cuts our lines.   As we contemplate the long walk to the taxi stand in the baking heat of the late afternoon, a yellow Mercedes minibus draws up. It is the Caesar Augustus shuttle, sent to meet us by Paolo, and we gratefully sink into the air-conditioned upholstery.  The car squeezes up the roads to the town of Capri, perfectly sited in the saddle between the two gleaming limestone peaks of the island, then we branch off up to Anacapri, the only other significant town on the island. The hotel is quite extraordinary and Paolo gives us the guided tour of the property, champagne in hand, culminating in a breath-taking view from the terrace that is truly panoramic, ranging from Ischia in the West to Naples, Vesuvius, Sorento and Salerno in the East.  Paolo inherited the hotel from his father after a legal battle with a sitting tenant, and postponing his plans to sail around the world, he has restored it from a dilapidated wreck to its current splendour; voted by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the leading hotels in the world – an astonishing achievement.

Back in Capri for dinner, the square is the centre of activity, with four outdoor cafes in transition, from the late swimming costumes to the early cocktail dresses.  By sundown the transition is complete. The day-trippers have left for the mainland and the real Capri comes out of hiding: the exclusive playground for its glamorous residents, hotel guests and yachties, and its fun just to sit and watch the outfits parading by.

Here endeth the hundredth blog!


  1. ....reminds me of my old 2.8 injection .....and congratulation on 100, does that mean we have seen Fatty's smile 100 times!


  2. Ravello.... Dee & I went there ourselves 4 years ago... Stunning coast! xx B&D

  3. Though about you just now and surprisely I managed to find the blog
    looking gorgeous as always guys...caroline shines...obviously enjoying a fantastishhhh summer
    Miss you here at big boats arena...we're having a very good summer too (businesswise)
    ENJOYYYYYYY cristal clear waters of the Med which is the one thing I miss more
    Wishing you all the best, if you can possibly ask for more?!?!?!?!
    Aza Bip Bip