Italy - Tuscany← Back to all destinations
The Italian Riviera has always been seen as a poor relation to that of France. A huge mistake. Less developed and with some truly inaccessible places both on and off shore, it is ideal cruising country for a yacht.
Genoa to the north is a much underappreciated culture-rich city, the home of Marco Polo and, hosting beautiful palazzos and a spectacular new Opera house, a medieval city well worth exploring. This coast is the location of some real gems, some like Portofino, much visited – some might say overrun – by day tourists, others, like the cliff-edge villages of the Cinque Terra, off most visitors’ radar due to their inaccessibility.
And then there are the islands – everyone knows Elba but who have had the privilege of calling in at Giglio or Ginannutri or even more off the beaten track, Gorgona, Capraia, Pianosa and Montechristo? This itinerary takes in some lovely islands and a few interesting places on the mainland before finishing just to the north of the Eternal City, Rome.
Day 1 .
Flying in to Genoa. the approach over the city shows what a warren of tiny streets make up the medieval quarter. Before sailing from the Porto Vecchio it is worth exploring the tiny alleys – some no more than an arms-width across - and discovering a way of life hardly changed for centuries. The new opera house is spectacular and the Via Garibaldi holds perhaps the largest collection of palazzos cheek-by-jowl outside Venice. The Palazzos Rosso and Bianco with their incredible collections of Old Masters are not to be missed
A short steam out of the busy port takes the yacht to an overnight anchorage off Portofino. Going ashore at night, Portofino regains much of its fishing village charm.
Time to sail for the Cinque Terra, the collection of five cliffhanging villages and little towns, established since Roman times. The village of Vernazza with its striking Saracen twin towers is the only one with a port and there is time at least for a coffee and a wander ashore even if not to tread the ancient footpath that links all the little settlements. The captain stops off first at the tiny Isola Tinetto with its 4thC Byzantine Oratory and then on to Isola Palmaria with its famous Grotta Azzura before sailing to the spectacular little harbour of Portovenere. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is said to be like heaven; worth striving for and almost as difficult to reach.
Day 3/ 4
An early morning departure for the 80 mile steam to Elba and a chance to relax on deck with a book. Elba is reached in the mid afternoon to tie up in the pretty harbour of Portoferraio. Napoleon’s home for 300 days of exile in 1814, his town house holds an interesting Library. In front of his country villa is the Demidoff gallery built by the eponymous Count to house his collection of Napoleonic artifacts. The island is worth a day’s stay exploring its many picturesque bays and coves to snorkel and swim. Spectacular panoramas and crystal clear waters make the beaches second to none. An early evening sail on day 4 to the promontory of Punta Ala, the “wing point” extending towards Elba from the mainland, provides a sheltered and peaceful anchorage.
Leaving the Tuscan coast the captain heads out to the islands of Giglio, known as the pearl of the Tuscan archipelago and Isola Ginannutri. Unspoilt nature and a mild climate combine with crystal clear waters and hardly-visited sandy beaches (mostly inaccessible by land) to make this unquestionably “one of Tuscany’s most beautiful children”. Dropping anchor in the impossibly pretty Porto Giglio, the view of the medieval castle looming over the colourful row of quay-side houses nestling between two piers in an attractive cove. The quayside boasts some delightful little cafés and ristorantes for the evening.
A lazy morning in the port, followed by a fifteen mile steam to Porto Ercole, nestling on the slopes of Monte Argentario. Porto Ercole is a complete contrast to the peaceful islets earlier visited; very much a jet set destination yachts abound in and outside the harbour and a trip ashore for a pre-dinner aperitivo is a delightful people watching opportunity in one of the many trendy cafés along the waterfront. The town is guarded by twin Spanish fortresses of Forte Stella and Forte San Filippo and a delightful Gothic gate leads to the tiny Piazza Santa Barbara. Returning to the yacht she heads along the coast to one of the rocky coves to drop anchor for the night of peace a quiet.
A short sail over breakfast takes the vessel to Ginannutri, the most southerly of the Tuscan archipelago. The ruined ancient seaside Villa Domizia was the summer estate of the Roman Ahenobarbus family and an evocative place to visit. With no permanent population, once the day tourists disappear back to Porto Santo Stephano, the island belongs to those few yachts that anchor for the night in the marine-rich waters. A beach barbecue ashore is a lovely way to spend the final evening aboard before heading to Riva di Traiano.
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