Naples is the centre of Campania, an Italian province famous for its ancient Roman monuments, volcanoes, spas, brightly coloured houses and, of course, limoncello. Set sail on one of our recommended routes and discover the islands and resorts that are definitely worth seeing.
Sailing in the Bay of Naples
A while ago, we recommended an orientation route for new skippers around Šibenik Bay in Croatia — an intimate route, well-sheltered from the winds with short crossings between the islands and mainland making it ideal for training a novice crew.
In many respects, the Bay of Naples is the Italian alternative to Šibenik Bay. At only 30 km in length and encroaching some 15 km into the mainland, it isn't a large area and the islands here are just a few miles off the coast with not much distance to cover.
While the mainland offers magnificent resorts and sights from ancient Rome, the Renaissance and the prosperous years of Campania, the islands enchant with their laid-back atmosphere, colourful houses and distinct culture. You'll be spoilt for choice but you can easily sail around it in a week and you might even have time to enjoy the attractions of the neighbouring Gulf of Salerno.
YACHTING.COM TIP: The local charter companies recommend catamarans, which have a lower draft to get you closer to the rocky coast of the islands. If you're tempted to finally try a catamaran, the Gulf of Naples, Capri, Procida and Ponza might be the right trial destination.
View of the Faraglioni rocks along the coast of Capri
Islands in the Gulf of Naples
In the Gulf of Naples, there are only a few islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Nevertheless, they are renowned tourist destinations you'll want to check out.
Capri and its magnificent Blue Grotto
Capri is an island for trekkers and hikers, with two peaks, Capri and Anacapri, connected by a valley at lower altitudes. Being the only island in the gulf not formed by volcanic activity rather than separated from the mainland, the coastline rises steeply from the waters. This has also influenced the character of the roads, which are steep, meandering, and too narrow for cars to pass. The towns here are quiet and romantic but tourists and celebrities are drawn by gems such as the Blue Grotto, a 60-metre-long sea cave only accessible by boat, or Villa Jovis, the remains of a palace built by Emperor Tiberius.
Island of Capri
Ischia and its thermal baths
Ischia is the largest island in the Gulf of Naples. It was formed by volcanic activity which led to its relatively circular shape and its characteristic thermal baths. Among the most famous are the Gardens of Poseidon and Negombo. Take a few days to explore Ischia, as the towns here are charming and each offers something special. For example, the fishing village of Ischia Ponte is at the foot of a medieval hilltop castle and the harbour of Panza is home to a cactus botanical garden, Giardini Ravino, with one of the most extensive collections in Europe.
The island of Ischia is famous for its lush vegetation, which you have to virtually wade through to reach the highest peak, Monte Epomeo, and its production of lemons, which are essential for making limoncello, the liqueur that made Campania famous.
Procida, the island you'll recognise from films
Procida is more modest than Capri and Ischia, which makes it perhaps more appealing. It offers similarly beautiful vibrant houses stacked on the hillsides, the same beautiful sea, but without all the luxury hotels and large marinas. Perhaps that's why the island has a reputation for being a popular film location, starring in films such as The Talented Mr Ripley. Awarded the title of Italian Capital of Culture for 2022, the otherwise quiet streets are regularly alive with processions and festivals, such as the Sagra del Mare (Festival of the Sea).
Procida is dominated by a massive fortress that first served as a palace, then a fortress, and even a prison. Today it is a popular tourist attraction, together with the church of San Michele Arcangelo and the renowned local beaches, such as Chiaia, reached via 186 steps.
Colourful traditional houses in the old town harbour on the island of Procida, Naples
The island of Vivara is the smaller, greener sibling of Procida, and both are connected by a bridge. Usually, it is inaccessible to the public because it is a protected area. Firstly, more than 200 species of birds live and nest here. And secondly, there are important archaeological monuments documenting the former settlement of the area by the Greeks. However, you can still admire it from the deck of your boat.
Part of the Pontine Islands, Ventotene is a quiet island that's small in size. Although seemingly an insignificant island, the foundations for the creation of the European Union were laid here when the Ventotene Manifesto was drawn up during World War II, calling for the unification of Europe into a federation to prevent wars.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Italy is a sailor's paradise. Find out what other places you should visit, what sights to see, where to anchor and what to sample in our article on the 15 most beautiful places to sail in Italy. Whether you're heading to Liguria, Tuscany or the Amalfi Coast, you'll have an unforgettable experience.
Palmarola, a haven for diving and snorkelling
Plamarola's rocky coastline, lined with cliffs, coves, and caves, makes it an ideal spot for scuba diving and snorkelling. The island is a nature reserve, but there are a few places to anchor, such as the moorings at Cala Brigantina.
Aragon Castle is the most impressive historical monument in Ischia
Zannone, an island of natural beauty
Part of the Circeo National Park, one of Zannone's main attractions is the wildlife, alongside the ruins of the Benedictine monastery. It is still home to mouflons, which were brought here by the Italian aristocracy as game. Although the island is not completely open to the public, by appointment it is partly accessible.
Ponza or "Capri without the tourists"
The island of Ponza is known by many as Capri without the tourists. And like Capri, it offers picturesque harbours with vibrant houses, the crystal-clear Tyrrhenian Sea and distinctive culture. Only in a more intimate way. The white rocky coastline dotted with caves also invites snorkelling and diving.
The beautiful beach of Chiaia di Luna on the island of Ponza. Unfortunately, the beach is closed to tourists due to falling rocks.
Route through the islands of the Bay of Naples
Enjoy the best of the Bay of Naples islands. The 7-day itinerary is suitable for crews who dare to take the longer crossing between Zennone and Ischia:
- Day 1: Naples — Procida (12 NM)
- Day 2: Procida — Ventotene (26 NM)
- Day 3: Ventotene — Ponza (22 NM)
- Day 4: Ponza — Palmarola (5 NM)
- Day 5: Palmarola — Zannone (5 NM)
- Day 6: Zannone — Ischia (49 NM)
- Day 7: Ischia — Naples (16 NM)
Climate and weather conditions in the Bay of Naples
The weather conditions in the Bay of Naples are usually quite calm and favourable to boaters and locals alike. Although the remnants of the French Mistral can arrive as late as autumn and the coast is not spared the Tramontane from the north, the bay is generally well-sheltered from the Mediterranean winds with the Alps acting as a natural barrier. In Italy, the rule is that the further south you sail, the hotter it gets.
In the summer season, the wind is usually a pleasant 15 knots without any surprise gusts. The island of Capri is most at the mercy of the sea and the winds, but even here the conditions are not severe and less experienced crews can enjoy sailing. The local anchorages are calm and well-protected. However, at this time of year the sun is relentless, rarely hiding behind clouds and it is easy to get sunburnt. After all, you're already in the subtropics.
Archaeological site of Baiae near Naples, Italy. Baiae was a Roman city famous for its thermal baths.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Follow the current weather conditions in this region and in the whole of Italy on the local Meteo Aeronautica website.
What to see in the Bay of Naples
The ports of the Bay of Naples resemble open-air museums or archaeological digs.
Sunken excavations of the Parco Sommerso di Baia
The underwater excavations of Parco Sommerso di Baia is a protected area at the very edge of the bay. The area is famous for its preserved Roman sites, some of which sunk due to volcanic activity. Now you can dive to them and discover forgotten urban mosaics, ancient statues and the remains of houses on the seabed. Or take a guided tour from the deck of a glass-bottom boat.
If you haven't had enough diving, there is still another protected underwater park to visit — Parco Sommerso of Gaiola. This extends out in the waters around the two islets of La Gaiola, connected by a bridge, with ruins that can also be visited. But beware, the island is supposedly cursed — tragedy has struck numerous people who owned property or lived here.
Portici, a popular spot for 18th-century nobility
The town of Portici attracted the nobility like no other place in the 18th century. King Charles of Spain became ruler of Naples and Sicily, constructing a magnificent palace in Portici with gardens that reached the sea. Of course, the nobility followed suit, and around 100 summer residences were built here. Nestled between the sea and the Vesuvius volcano, the town is nevertheless quite built up and in the 1990s, alongside Hong Kong, was one of the most densely populated cities.
Pompeii or Herculaneum near Vesuvius
If you're thinking of seeing Vesuvius, you'll want to visit Pompeii — a city buried beneath the volcanic ash that preserved its streets, houses and people. However, as an alternative, there is Herculaneum — a similarly preserved but slightly smaller ancient site typically overlooked by tourists. Or why not visit both?
Ruins of Herculaneum (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Recommended route for a 7-day sail from the Bay of Naples to the Amalfi Coast
Amalfi and the Amalfi Coast are often mentioned in connection with the Bay of Naples. Although these are officially part of the neighbouring Gulf of Salerno, they are so inviting that not sailing there would almost be a sin. They share history, architecture and a way of life, and are simply magical. Even a novice and intermediate crew can make the journey along the coast:
- Day 1: Naples — Procida (12 NM)
- Day 2: Procida — Ventotene (26 NM)
- Day 3: Ventotene — Ischia (22 NM)
- Day 4: Ischia — Capri (19 NM)
- Day 5: Capri — Positano (11 NM)
- Day 6: Positano — Amalfi (6 NM)
- Day 7: Amalfi — Naples (26 NM)
The picturesque Amalfi Coast
Naples is a bustling metropolis with many preserved monuments. However, some people say that it isn't nearly as pretty as in the promotional photos and that it's busy and overcrowded — after all, it is the third largest city in Italy. On the other hand, its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Piazza del Plebiscito and Palazzo Reale are definitely worth seeing. Fans of subterranean spaces will love the local catacombs and chambers, once built by the Greeks, used as shelters during World War II and now as obscure museums and exhibition spaces. The majestic temples and churches in Naples would take at least a week to explore, and that's not to mention the castle or the city's aristocratic palaces. So, allow yourself a few days to explore this fascinating city after you return the boat.
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