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5 Italian Island Hideaways
Arriving in Italy is a bit like coming home to me. I love the country, I love the food, the coffee, the larger-than-life design sun glasses and the theatrical gestures that accompany every conversation. And so do millions of other travelers. In summer, expect rows of cruise ships tying up in places like Livorno, Venice and Civitavecchia with matching crowds at major sights. While Rome, Florence and Pisa are without doubt must-sees on any European itinerary, there are other Italian places to discover by cruise ship.
Map of Italian island hideways
This country is blessed with some beautiful islands that have become hideaways for the Italian "in" crowd. Only a handful of small cruise ships are able to call at these stunning, colorful places where "la Vita dell'isola", island life, still rules. So hop on board and join us for a virtual cruise to five of our favorite Italian islands.
Arrival in Capri
Silver Wind anchored off Sorrento, Italy First look at Marina Grande, Capri Capri Town Restaurant in Capri Town Shop in Capri Town
View of Capri Town Capri, Italy Marina Grande, Capri The pretty port of Marina Grande, Capri Last look at Capri
July 7, 2004 - Early in the morning Silver Wind drops anchor off Sorrento. Perched high on the cliffs above the blue Mediterranean Sea, Sorrento has it all. A stunning setting, beautiful vistas, a charming old town and an overdose of "La Dolce Vita". But today we do not stay in Sorrento. Instead, we opt for a trip to Capri. We pick up a ferry timetable and hop on the first available steamer to the island. The ride takes between 45 and 75 minutes (depending on your choice of traditional or fast ferry) and is a wonderful way to enjoy the beauty of the Bay of Naples. Excitement peaks as we reach Marina Grande, the picture-perfect little port of Capri. With its busy beach, little town square, colorful fishing boats and seaside restaurants, Marina Grande would be reason enough to visit the island. But then, who would want to miss out on Capri Town, looming above us on the mountain top? With its breathtaking vistas, its picture-perfect alleys lined with bougainvillea and its trendy boutiques, Capri Town looks like a film set. It is almost too beautiful to be true. Even the boat loads of tourists that crowd the town square cannot take away the sheer beauty of the place. That evening, Captain Corsaro steers Silver Wind right along the rocky shores of Capri and we take a last glimpse of the island that stole our hearts.
Arrival in Elba
First glimpse of Portoferraio, Elba Bay of Portoferraio SeaDream I in Portoferraio, Elba Portoferraio waterfront Cruise ships in Portoferraio, Elba
Elba's rocky coastline Portoferraio, Elba Elba coastline HThe port of Portoferraio, Elba Portoferraio, Elba
. . . . .
October 21, 2007 - If it's Sunday, this must be Corsica. WRONG!! Due to strong winds, SeaDream I's Captain Valter Berg has had to alter our itinerary and has decided to first head for the Italian island of Elba. By 9 AM SeaDream I approaches the picture-perfect harbor of Portoferraio, the island's main town. Although the sun shines brilliantly, the wind is cold and with predicted highs of 55F / 12C sweaters and jackets are essential today. If the weather had been better, our yacht's water sports platform might have been used today. But with the prevailing cold front the temperature is way too low to take to the water. Still, there are other options. Both SeaDream yachts carry a number of mountain bikes that can be borrowed by the guests in all ports of call. So we just walk to the gangway, tell the watchman that we like to use the bikes and voila ... off we go. What a great way to discover a port of call! We bike to the old town of Portoferraio, located on a peninsula jutting out in the bay. Guarded by a fortress and a distinct pink lighthouse, the maze of alleys and stairways breathe that typical Italian atmosphere that I like so much. However, on this chilly Sunday in late October the tourist season is all but over and most shops remain closed for the day. Thankfully, the local waterfront café is open for business and serves a mean espresso.
Royal Clipper at anchor off Panarea
Approaching the island of Panarea, Italy Royal Clipper anchored at Panarea The town of San Pietro, Panarea San Pietro, Panarea Local Panarea transportation
San Pietro town center Local grocery shop on Panarea On Panarea even the grafitti is art Panarea villa Royal Clipper at anchor
June 12, 2003 - Early on Thursday, Royal Clipper cruises the Aeolian Islands towards Panarea. Located to the northeast of Sicily, the Aeolian Islands are a group of volcanic islands that are truly unique. The largest island is Lipari; the smallest is Panarea. In summer, the islands are jam packed with tourist that come to the islands to swim in crystal clear waters, to climb active volcanoes, immerge in natural mud baths, hike and sail. Panarea is the most undeveloped island. With only 300 inhabitants there is no tourist industry here. Serene, utterly beautiful and unspoilt, Panarea comes close to my idea of heaven on earth. As we arrive by tender from Royal Clipper, we see a truck parked on the jetty, unloading timber. We soon find out that this small jetty is the only place to park cars and trucks, as the roads on the island are not wide enough to allow cars. The whitewashed village of San Pietro is all you would imagine of a storybook Italian hideaway, picture perfect with its blue and pink shutters, blossoming bougainvillea and oleander. It is all too obvious that the rich & famous have already discovered Panarea and we are in awe at some of the immaculately kept mansions that we discover on our walking tour. It is quiet here, except for the sound of the remarkable three-wheeled scooters that we see carrying everything from refrigerators to people.
Picture Perfect Procida
View of Naples ferry port from Ruby Princess Leaving Ruby Princess behind as we head towards Procida First look at Procida from the ferry dock Procida, movie island Stunning view of Corricella waterfront, Procida
It doesn't get more Italian than this The island of Ischia looming on the horizon The Castello of Procida La Conchiglia Restaurant on the local beach A red Fiat 500
Corricella waterfront Corricella waterfront Corricella waterfront Corricella waterfront A wonderful lunch
July 22, 2013 - Some years ago I saw a photo of Procida's colorful waterfront in a magazine and I remember that I was mesmerized by it. My chance to see Procida with my own eyes came when I cruised the Mediterranean on board the giant Ruby Princess. The ship called at Naples for the day and with Procida being "around the corner", I persuaded my friends to forego on the regular tour offerings and instead visit the island where movies like " Il Postino" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley" were filmed. Procida is home to 10,600 people and can be reached in half in hour by fast ferry from Naples (just steps from the cruise ship dock). We arrive in a bustling, pretty port that has a very authentic feel to it. A steep street leads up the hill to the other side of the island where you will find center of the town. Its stunning waterfront with its Lego-like maze of brightly colored houses appears will take your breath away. Although the island is a popular summer destination it does not feel too manicured. In fact, this island is buzzing with local flavor. In contrast with neighboring Capri, the price level on Procida corresponds with its down to earth image as we discover during a simple but oh so delicious pasta lunch. Alas, the downside of cruising is that you do not want to miss your ship so all too soon it is time for us to hop on the ferry and head back to Naples and Ruby Princess. That evening at dinner, fellow guests tell us stories of oppressive heat and overcrowding in Pompeii and Sorrento. We sure are glad we escaped to Procida instead!
An alleyway in Ventotene
A look at Ventotene from Royal Cipper Ventotene port Porto Romano, Ventotene Stairs from Porto Romano to the main town Porto Romano, Ventotene
The way to the beach, lined with boats Beach at Ventotene Porto Romano, Ventotene Beach at Ventotene Downtown Ventotene
. . . . .
June 13, 2003 - The island of Ventotene is part of the Ponte Archipelago, roughly located to the northwest of Naples. It has only 750 inhabitants and is very popular with divers that are lured by the very clear waters. We visit Ventotene during a cruise on the wonderful Royal Clipper. From the tender dock at Porto Romano we immediately stumble into the hustle and bustle of the main town, perched on a limestone cliff, with dive shops and small restaurants lining the marina. This the place to "Think Pink", as most houses are painted either yellow or indeed bright pink. The result: a photographer's dream. We wander through the pretty town square with its tall palm trees, through narrow cobblestone streets surrounded by rambling buildings. The black sandy beach with its colorful umbrellas is reached by a tunnel that is lined by fishing boats. Up on the cliffs people sip espresso on a shady terrace. It's all delightfully Italian. That evening, all sails are hoisted as Royal Clipper sets course for her home base of Civitavecchia. As the sun sets over the Thyrrean Sea, another unforgettale cruise is coming to an end.

Photos & Text:
Bart de Boer

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