Napoli & West Coast

 Up Round the Toe

wpe26.jpg (48253 bytes) Home, for our visit to Napoli, was Castellammare de Stabia a commercial & active ship building harbour listed in the pilot as not suitable for yachts, but with a thriving, crowded marina underneath the abandoned grain warehouse in the corner.  Castellammare is certainly not touristy.  It's a working town with the bustling narrow streets and lines and lines of washing hanging between the buildings like Christmas decorations.  It's a bit like being on the set of a Sophia Loren film.  The only thing missing unfortunately are the subtitles - the accent here is the Italian equivalent of Geordie.

Oh, and as you will see, they go to endless lengths for that special wedding photo - very Italian.


One of the nicest of many nice things about Castellammare di Stabia are the waterfront restaurant stalls. There are 16, all leased from the local authority, and all offering exactly the same menu - "what do you have?" we asked the first time, before we knew the ropes, "we have everything" seemed a less than helpful reply, and eventually a dog-eared menu was found somewhere behind the counter.  And, well, they had everything really, as long as it included pasta, fresh fish or especially if it included mussels - the bay is lined with mussel beds.  Slightly fizzy water is brought by the jug and is free.  A bottle of wine or a bottle of beer are the same price, making the wine slightly better value as there's a bit more in the bottle.  We discover later that the water (Aqua della Madonna) gushes out of a spring in the harbour wall where anyone can take as much as they can carry  - there is a constant procession of people with containers on shopping trolleys.  


We took the train into Napoli, a bit of a culture shock (it is hard to remember when we were last on a metro or in a City)  and of course made the almost obligatory trip to Pompeii and the National Archaeological Museum. 

And then we had one of those strange coincidences, that are so unlikely that they normally only occur in bad detective novels so as to allow the author to attempt to tie the plot together.  In front of us in the queue for Pompeii were Steph & John, friends from the UK that we hadn't seen since we left.

"Hi Steph", I said putting my hand on her arm - I was greeted by a look of horror and she looked to be getting ready to slap my face.  Strange - had I been very drunk at the last dinner party?  Had I deeply offended her?  No, none of these things.  What I had been doing was carrying around a large bottle of partially frozen water, in the hand that I now had on her arm! Steph had presumably read, or heard about, the habits of hot-blooded Italian macho men so an icy hand on her arm was the last thing she expected.

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wpe23.jpg (42136 bytes) We spent the day together and they came to visit us the following day at Castellammare, where we could show off our recently acquired knowledge of Neapolitan dining habitsAnd then it was time for us to fill up with Aqua della Madonna and head off again following in the steps of Odysseus.  First Capri, which is just as pretty as the guide books say, and then working our way down the west coast of Italy with some tricky goose wing sailing from Lindy on the way.

Once south of Napoli it's a different, poorer world, that tourism has hardly touched.  Small towns, a mountainous landscape and very few decent harbour, though we were lucky with the weather and were able to anchor off the beaches.  Where we did take the time to go ashore, it was always a pleasant experience.  The pace of life is slower here, and as it's not often visited by yachts we were something of an oddity.  The people were friendly and happy to spend time talking to us in our broken Italian.  Finally though we had to rejoin a more well-trodden path.

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We deliberately set off for Isola Stromboli so as to arrive before dawn.  Stromboli has been described as the biggest and oldest lighthouse in the Med and at night you're able to see the glow for 50 miles and we wanted to see it in all its glory.  Well, it must have been switched off for the holidays, not a glimmer.  Not only was the biggest and oldest lighthouse in the Med off, but the light on the neighbouring small island of Strobolicchio seemed to be on holiday as well! wpe2.jpg (12868 bytes)
We spent a few days in the Aeolian islands.  Stromboli did manage a few puffs of smelly gas every so often and the sea around us was full of floating pumice, indicating that at some point there had been a bit more activity. In actuality there was to be a major eruption on Stromboli requiring people to be evacuated from their homes by helicopter, just a couple of weeks after our visit.

Next was Lipari, where we finally worked out how to fit the dingy wheels that we'd found on board in 2001.  We ran the dinghy up on the beach, Lindy jumped ashore, I flipped the wheels down, locked them in place and jumped out to help her.  The wheels promptly sank in the sand anchoring the dingy firmly to the spot.  It was only with the help of a couple of Italian sunbathers that we were able to wrestle the dingy up the beach.  Not exactly a raging success!

The last of the Aeolians that we visited was Vulcano, slightly more active than Stromboli and emitting a constant stream of sulphorous gas that made us feel slightly sick.  A little highlight was watching fat tourists immersing themselves in the hot mud baths and waddling off like strange alien creatures.

But amusing though all this was, it was impossible to disregard the smell.  So next day, it was off to Sicilia for us. 

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Up Round the Toe
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Last updated 18th March 2018