Sailing the Amalfi Coast

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Firstly I have to tell you a secret: I never intended to ever return to Italy.

I’ve been to the country twice before and to be honest I couldn’t work out why others like it so.  I’m also aware that I am the only person I know that has been to Rome and didn’t fall instantly in love with the city.  So why did I return?  The simple reason is that friends I made on another sailing holiday a few years were doing the trip.  They live the other side of the world from me, and when they asked me to join them I thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up with them, and as Italy is really only a couple of hours on a plane for me it would be pretty easy.  Also sailing is lots of fun; something lovely about being rocked to sleep whilst on a yacht.

I, of course, checked out the trip before I booked.  It was another Intrepid Travel trip.  This would be my third time booking a tour with them; second time doing one of their sailing trips.  The itinerary looked great: Amalfi Coast Sailing and I phoned intrepid to ask some questions, as always they were helpful and lovely.  I discovered they could hold the place for a couple days whilst I gave it some more thought (I hadn’t known they do that).

Arriving in Naples

Based on the late time my flight arrived in Naples, I knew I would have to wait until the next day to catch my ferry to Procida.  With hearing the stories of Naples not being too safe, I decided to just book a hotel close to the ferry port.  The hotel I found through booking.com had such charm and charisma; when I got there I was almost disappointed I was only staying at the hotel for one night.  I’ve since learnt that Naples has been named fifth in Lonely Planet’s Secret Europe Destinations 2016, and this just shows as always, I should have ignored the “it’s not safe” tag and stayed a little longer there.

Ferry To Procida

I booked my tickets online before leaving home, and although maybe not necessary at the time of year to do so in advance (unlike July and August where pre-booking is recommended), I think it made things easier and avoided any language confusion I may have caused as I don’t speak the correct lingo.  The ferry was only 40 minutes and it was as straightforward as straightforward could be.   I headed to the cafe where I was meeting the Intrepid group leader and the rest of my travelling companions.  As I already knew two of them would be me my lovely Aussie friends, I wasn’t worried too much.

Meeting My New Travel Companions And Yacht Skipper

I had lunch in the designated cafe, and waited for others to arrive.  My friends were the first to join me and I had chance to catch up with their travels.  Soon another three ladies showed up.  They all seemed normal!  Phew!  Two sisters from Australia and a girl in her late twenties from the states.  The skipper joined us and introduced himself and then we had two more people to wait for.  We waited for them to arrive, while we chatted.  Time was getting on, they were nowhere to be seen and we needed to do a food shop.

The Kitty and Food for the Week

The skipper told us what food was already on board. £25 was the recommended amount for us all to put into the kitty and we stuck with that.  We all discussed things we liked and didn’t, and the skipper offered to cook us dinner on board that evening.  We agreed on fish pasta.

We walked around the local shops together as a group and our skipper/group leader helped us translate to the shop assistants, and gave us advice.  Helpfully pointing out what foods were produced locally and always encouraging us to go for that option, whilst it was never a problem if we wanted something out of the region.  Which is just as well, being a Brit in Italy I needed Prosecco!

As a group everyone was chilled with what we bought, if someone wanted something then we bought it.  There was even enough money in the kitty for alcohol too.

Luckily our skipper headed back to the original meeting point, and found the other travelling companions; they’d been given the wrong time by their travel agency.  Another two lovely Aussie Ladies.

The Yacht

As I’d done a previous sailing trip, I knew what to expect when it came to the boat.  Just enough space for 8 to sit outside, downstairs there is a small kitchen with a cooker and fridge and a table with enough space for 8.  Getting in each others way in the communal area is part of the experience.  There were 5 bedrooms rooms.  The skipper took the one at the front, then there were two rooms with bunk beds and two rooms with double beds.

I was sharing one of the bunk bed rooms with the lovely american, who luckily was very easy going.  The wardrobe was very small, enough room to hang a few things and two shelves; one each.  I was only just able to fit my clothes for the week.  Under the bottom bunk bed I was able to squash down my duffle bag to store.  It is advised to only take soft bags, for this reason, as there’s really not a lot of room.

First Stop: Ishcia

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We left beautiful Procida and set sail for lovely Ishcia before it got dark.  We anchored at this beautiful location with no other boats around and the beautiful castle for scenery.  Our skipper started to cook dinner for us (which we were all most grateful for),  we pitched in where we could, but with such limited room around the kitchen you could feel like you were just getting in the way.  Whilst we had dinner, we cracked open the prosecco and got to know one another.  It was clear we had a good group and a good skipper/group leader; we’d struck it lucky.

The next morning we prepared our own breakfast from the supplies we had on the boat and then headed to land.  When you have awful balance as I do, getting from the yacht to the inflatable yacht tender can be a little worrying that I could fall into the sea.  Luckily the group were patient with me and the skipper told me exactly where to put my feet and this made sure I did not fall in the water.

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We had a couple of hours to explore the island and do whatever we wanted.  I was happy just to wonder and look in the shops.  Although I do hear the castle is worth the 10 euro entry fee.

We could have had lunch on the island if we’d chosen to, but we headed back to the yacht to prepare our own from the supplies we had.  After all we had delicious fresh local cheese, tomatoes and prosciutto, amongst other things on the boat.

Next Stop: Sorrento

We set sail, and unlike the day before where we had just been motoring, we actually put the sails out.  The nice thing about the sailing trips that intrepid do is that you can get involved and a couple of the group who had experience in sailing and some that hadn’t got involved with pulling ropes or whatever it is you need to do.  I’m happy to just enjoy the trip and not get involved, and that’s OK too.  I think there is nothing like sailing on a yacht admiring the beautiful scenery.

Sea sickness is common and I make sure I take travel sickness tablets in the morning and don’t go below deck whilst we are moving.  (I learnt this the hard way from my last sailing trip).  There are a few things that can help once you get sea sickness and these include looking forward and having the wind in your face.

We moored at a marina in Sorrento.  It had wifi, so we “lost” people for a short while, as they put their head into the phone and caught up with the outside world.  As a group, we ate at a lovely restaurant, where I had a delicious calzone.  I thought it was nice that the group leader also joined us and was part of the group and not just our leader.  We were never restricted to the recommended restaurant, and could chose to go somewhere else, split up from the group or even eat on the boat.  However we always chose to eat as a group, and the restaurant we went to was always reasonably priced.

Pompeii

After a good night’s sleep in the marina at Sorrento, being gently rocked to sleep by the sea, we were up early to catch a bus to the station, followed by a train to Pompeii.  Our group leader made it all straight forward and with some wise advice to be on the left of the train as then the sun wouldn’t be on us.  Once off the train, we were greeted by our lovely tour guide, who was arranged by intrepid.  The guide was extra but the whole group had agreed a few days earlier to share the cost.

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The tour guide brought Pompeii alive for me, and it was no longer just ruins.  I could truly imagine how it would have been.  I would thoroughly recommend visiting with a guide.  The three hours there were amazing.

Afternoon in Sorrento

After lunch we headed back to Sorrento.  Some decided to get the ferry over to Capri, as they were only doing the 4 day trip which didn’t include Capri.  Some of us enjoyed a local coffee in a square in Sorrento.  (Now I’m home, I’m still missing being served a delicious cappuccino at just the right temperature to drink.)  We then walked around all the lanes of shops and took in the atmosphere of this lovely town.

Next Stop: Amalfi

After another nights stay in Sorrento we set sail in the morning for Amalfi, passing Positano on the way.

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Sadly we had to say goodbye to three of our group today.  The trip could be done as a full week, or 4 days (either the first half or the second).  Only five of us did the full week.  We were joined by a new Australian couple.  When living in such a small space, you bond quickly with your fellow travellers and joining an established group half way through must have been quite difficult for them.  Feedback which I have already given to Intrepid.

Some of the group caught the ferry over to Positano, but I decided to explore Amalfi with a couple of the others.  It was disappointing that we didn’t have time to do both, but we already were seeing a lot in such a short space of time anyway.

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I’m so pleased I got a chance to walk around the church in Amalfi Cathedral.  It’s certainly worth visiting.

Next Stop: Capri

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We caught the funicular, which climbs uphill through lemon groves and drops you directly in the Piazzetta of Capri.  The town is so beautiful, and we headed to the picturesque gardens which could be so easily missed if you didn’t know about them.  Today for me was a non-camera-day, sometimes I just want to experience the day and not see any of it through the viewfinder of my camera.  All of the others in the group took plenty of photos for me to remember it anyway.

Again that evening we helped our skipper prepare a lovely dinner, whilst we watched capri start to light up from the boat and sipped more prosecco.

Day on the Boat

Due to weather conditions we headed back to Ishcia.  Some went on shore, but I took the opportunity to have a lazy day and sit around on the boat and read.  We then headed back to Procida for our final evening.

Back to Procida

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The trip finished in the morning and I said my goodbyes to all of the group except to my two friends who had invited me to join them and I spent my final day on the beautiful island with them.  I’m so pleased I had some extra time to enjoy this island, which is a bit of a hidden treasure across the Amalfi coast.  It is far less touristy than the other islands, to my eye it is more beautiful and the local charm is unmissable.

In the late afternoon I jumped back on a ferry and headed back to the airport and said goodbye to Italy.

Conclusion?

This trip became more about the people I met along the way than the beautiful scenery.  All of the original group are now my friends on facebook, and I’m under strict instructions to get saving so I can go and visit them in Australia.  Even when catching the plane there and back, I spoke to so many other travellers.

And the other question: would I go back to Italy?  Yes!  Yes, it’s back on the list of places to visit.

 

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