As the world’s number of super yachts expands, there is added competition for marina space and a desire for more adventurous ports of call.
By Irene Moore
Buyers of super yachts at this year’s 31st Annual Palm Beach International Boat Show, which begins March 17 and runs through March 20, are facing a common dilemma — increasing difficulty in finding marina space during the prime summer months in some of their choice locales, which include St. Tropez, Cannes and Monte Carlo. And forget St. Barth in the winter. The question is, “Where is the next Monte Carlo or St. Tropez?” Obviously, the Côte d’Azur will always be among super yachters’ hottest destinations, but trend trackers say there is an increasing desire among owners to break away from the crowds and visit places off the beaten path.
Meanwhile, the yachting industry estimates that the world’s existing fleet of super yachts will grow by 60 percent in the next two decades — to around 11,000.
To service that yen for adventure, new ports are being positioned with the lure of becoming the next European Riviera. In southern Italy, the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities, and Tourism (MiBACT) has stepped up to the dock with Signa Maris, a nautical tourism program. Signa Maris features marinas along Italy’s southern coast and invites yachting tourists to avail themselves of the rich heritage within easy reach of any given touristic port. Signa Maris also promotes the cultural, naturalistic, and gastronomic riches in Italy’s uncrowded southern regions that may not be on a super yachter’s regular itinerary — particularly the ports of Calabria, Campania, Puglia, and Sicily. Here you’re more apt to see what people often call “the real Italy,” away from the heavily touristic regions of the north.
Signa Maris has created a set of itineraries for new discoveries, accessible through the region’s ports. A typical itinerary would be a stop at the port of Naples, a gateway to both the city and the islands of the Bay of Naples. At the Port of Santa Lucia, the itinerary includes a sail to Ischia or Capri. Yachters soak up the sun, swim in clear waters, and chill out in a hot spa. Each island has its characteristic features, so the itinerary includes a visit to the Villa of Tiberius or the breathtaking Grotta Azzurra, a marvel of nature and the most-famous sight on Capri. Yachters dock their boats and hop aboard a wooden rowboat manned by a guide, whose effortless navigation takes them through the meter-high mouth of the cave and then from complete darkness into a sparkling cavern, the Grotta Azzura (Blue Grotto). Take in the colored houses of Procida, or hike up to the Aragonese Castle on Ischia.
Procida, the Bay of Naples’ smallest island — and also its best-kept secret — is similar to Portofino, but without the crowds. Procida is an ideal place to explore on foot. Adventurers will find that its picturesque blend of lemon groves and pastel-hued houses around the port will provide them with colorful memories of a charming town.
On Ischia, at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples, those seeking an experience with a great view can climb up to the Aragonese Castle, built in 474 B.C., with two towers that were constructed to control enemy fleets’ movements. The castle, which stands on a volcanic rock, is the most impressive historical monument in Ischia.
Due to longstanding archaeological digs, the houses and buildings of Pompeii and Herculaneum have re-emerged almost intact, with forums, theatres, and baths still remaining. History-loving yachters can walk through streets dotted with old frescoed tabernae, whose shop counters are still intact.
Herculaneum, which was even better preserved by a lava layer, should not be missed — nor should another ancient town, Oplontis, and modern Torre Annunziata, where Villa Poppaea has been identified and excavated.
These are best-kept secrets for those seeking refuge from run-of-the-mill tourists spots — with the new marina destinations keeping possible adventures exciting, yet remaining off the radar.