The Tyrrhenian Sea, September 2, 2022
(Ponza, Ischia, Capri, Positano, Amalfi, Pompei & Herculaneum)
Having Tayla and Jeremy onboard with us for two weeks was the highlight of our 2022 sailing season. We picked them up in Rome and headed straight for the Island of Ponza for some serious thawing out from a cold and harsh Melbourne winter. Unfortunately the weather had not received our request and rather than calm seas and blazing sun, we had 17 knots of wind on a lea shore. We did manage a quick excursion to the town of Ponza (which frankly felt a little fake and Disneyland), but had to quickly retreat to a sheltered bay and take cover from an approaching storm. And boy what a storm it was. The next day was still windy and stormy, so other than a bit of a swim, we were boat bound for the day. There looked to be plenty of interesting anchorages to explore around this area, however we needed to get moving, so perhaps next time Ponza.
After a full day's Sail, we landed in the historic town of Ischia on the South East corner of Isola d’Ischia. This quaint little town is overlooked by an impressive citadel (Castello Aragonese) that was built in 474 BC, high upon a volcanic rocky outcrop that is only connected to the mainland/Island by a narrow causeway. Once again we had managed to accidentally arrive in a small Mediterranean town during a major local festival. To this day I have no idea what was being celebrated. It was most likely in honour of a saint and at that a saint that loved fireworks. The streets were crowded, there was live music and a fireworks display that seemed to go on forever. Loud too. Very loud. It will also remembered by us as the place that Jeremy accidently ordered a Pizza with french fries on it…
Our next stop was the Isle of Capri. Holiday destination for the rich and famous and superyacht central. Also the chosen holiday location for Roman emperors as we would discover at a later date. It’s over crowded with day boats, tourist boats and tourists in general. Unless staying in one of the exorbitantly expensive hotels or eating in a restaurant that you booked 12 months ago, you’re pretty well stuck with the thousands of other tourists queuing to catch a bus out of the port and up into the hills. Still, it’s well worth the journey. The views are spectacular and we enjoyed a chilli tomato pasta that was unmatched anywhere in our travels. By sea it was bumpy and rolly, but interesting all the same.
Positano is one of the most spectacular towns in Europe. A favourite amongst Instagramers, Celebrities and honeymooners alike. The pastel coloured buildings defy gravity and hang impossibly from the jagged cliffs of the Amalfi coast. People spend thousands to spend a night in Positano. We, on the other hand were anchored for free for as long as the weather permitted. We had a better view than anyone staying in the expensive hotels ashore and easier access to the 28oC water whenever we felt like a swim. It doesn’t get much better than this. Hiking up the hills in the heat was challenging, however we ate some terrific meals with equally terrific views. Albeit, dripping with sweat. We also finally managed to celebrate a birthday with Jeremy after missing the last two due to covid restrictions. That was by far the best part.
AMALFI & RAVELLO
Amalfi is beautiful in its own way, but it’s not a pinch on Positano. As a result, it was a little bit of a letdown. However, perched high on the hills behind Amalfi is the less visited town of Ravello. It can be accessed by a short, but insane bus ride or an equally insane hike up the hill. We were going to bus up and walk down, however with a big day planned at Pompei the following day, we thought better of it and opted to return by bus. The streets of Ravello are beautiful and offer aerial views of the Mediterranean and the Amalfi coast below. Like most of the Amalfi coast, virtually everything that is sold has a lemon theme. Lemon soap, aprons, limoncello, lemon everything. While there we managed to crash yet another wedding that had spilled out into the public domain. Ravello was well worth the effort.
POMPEI & HERCULANEUM
Once we were comfortable with leaving Nova Jean for the day in the slightly dodgy harbour of even more dodgier Salerno, we jumped on a bus to Pompei. Well, almost… We caught a bus that went right past Pompei to a station where we caught a connecting bus that once again went right past Pompei, where we were to catch a final bus that would take us to the main gate. We decided to walk the last leg just to be sure. Pompei was just incredible. A 2000 year old town frozen in time when in 79 AD Vesuvius erupted, covering Pompei in ash and toxic gasses. Roads, houses, shops and even people all excavated frozen in time. Panic and suffocation in their faces. It’s difficult to comprehend how truly ahead of their time the Romans were. And to think that after the fall of the Roman empire, most of us went back to living in straw huts for the next 1000 years. Pompei is a must see for anyone visiting Italy.
But wait… Herculaneum was next and boy did it blow Pompei away as a spectacle. While Pompei was crushed under tons of falling ash, Herculaneum was engulfed by a steaming mud slide spewing out from the same eruption. The mud made its way into the buildings, supporting the walls and in some cases even the roofs of the buildings it buried. In Herculaneum, even wooden structures and furniture had been preserved. And the frescos painted on the walls… 2000 year old decorative paintings still intact. This is another must see when visiting Italy. I recommend you do them both with a guide, in the morning when it’s cooler and unlike us, over two days. It took a number of days to recover.