Most people consider the Med solely for summertime cruising. However, it’s well worth visiting during the so-called shoulder season, between peak and low periods. Flocks of tourists are far fewer, and the weather is no less ideal. Here, Capt. Carl Sputh of the popular charter yacht Starfire shares his favorite Italian ports to pull into during shoulder season.
Being the captain of an Italian designed superyacht, I adore taking Starfire back to her homeland, a place where the seaside air seems to take on a sepia splendor with old-fashioned strolls on the promenade, cooling down with creamy gelatos, the wild scent of lemons tumbling down the mountains, and the fashionable crowds. Those who choose to explore the shores of Italy in the shoulder season can find bright and blustery springs where the scents of orange blossom and jasmine ride on the winds of Capri and autumns where the waters are still warm. The crowds have thinned, the locals return your smiles, and the world seems as open as a clam offering the pearl of possibility.
Docking in the waters of Naples Bay with the shadow of Mount Vesuvius in the background, you’ll enjoy the close-knit streets where old women carry brown paper bags home from market and young riders whizz around on mopeds with an abandoned care. Naples is a charm in those offbeat seasons, a little rough around the edges but fresh and real when sipping coffee in the autumnal sun and cool enough to trek the Caravaggio trail. I recommend guests not to sail away from the shores of Naples without making the journey to the nearby world of ancient Pompeii. Out of season, you can have the ruined city all to yourself as you shake your head in wonder at the fleeing figures encased in ash, the peeling frescoes, and the crumbling amphitheatre still haunted by the looming volcano.
Even with Capri close enough to steal the show, I find Ischia (above) a place wrapped in a golden era of romance. It’s a place adorned with the delights of twisting vines, bubbling thermal springs, and a generous dollop of Dolce Vita. This spot was the star of the show in the popular film The Talented Mr. Ripley, and since then many have fallen for the charms of the simple pleasures of dipping in the waters of the Terme Manzi Spa, roving the peaceful gardens of La Mortella, and simply sitting on the deck of your superyacht watching the golden orbs of light blink across the bay when evening comes. Dinners in Ischia are best taken in the aptly named Garden of Eden, a place where the sound of the waves kissing the rocks, the well-stocked winery, and the freshest sea dishes served with a signature flourish make for an impeccable experience.
With a quarter-million visitors crowding out the tiny island of Capri (top of page), it’s easy to recoil and skip the glittering and gauzy playground of the rich and famous. Yet, Capri in the spring and fall can be a dashing delight. The Marina di Capri still fetches a high price out of season, but the uninterrupted views, the pleasure of plunging into blue waters, and the perfumed scent of rosemary clinging to the air makes it more than worthwhile. Treat yourself to a specially curated perfume at the Carthusia factory shop, hike along the lavender and yellow coastal paths, and take a kayak into the iridescent sapphire hues of the Blue Grotto. For dinner, sit beneath the bright notes of hanging lemons at Da Paolino, where you can sup on pearly clams, rigatoni with saffron-colored zucchini flowers, locally curated cheese carts, and cool limoncello made from the very fruits hanging above your head.
For me, Positano (above) seems to capture the elegance, the charm, and the pure grace of the Amalfi Coast. When we drop anchor offshore, you can admire the pretty pastel homes nestled in the nook of the green cliffs. It’s no secret that the summer months can host exhaustive traffic and the crush of crowds. Spring brings bright colors and nights where you want to wrap in cashmere, but the shoulder month of late September is balmy and blissful, where you feel like you have all the time in the world. Walk the winding paths, choose startling colorful pieces at Ceramica Assunta Positano, wade in the waters of the pretty little beach, and eat, eat, and eat until you cannot take another bite. Be sure to get a table in the gorgeous gastronomical spot of Chez Black. The sublime views, fresh sea urchins swimming in golden glugs of olive oil, and the abundance of torn basil and balsamic splashed across light-as-air focaccia make everything seem just perfect.
Sparkling black sand, the smoking spire of an active volcano, pretty painted glass souvenirs, and royal-blue, Caribbean-like waters. These are the reasons I love taking guests to the tiny elemental island of Stromboli. Just off the coast of Sicily, this is the spot to call your own. At night you can sit on the deck of your yacht and watch fire spit from the cone-shaped mountain. On the romance-laden terrace of Punta Lena, you can admire cascading views while slurping spaghetti alla stromboliana, anchovies with a sprinkle of fresh mint, and a glass or two of sweet Sicilian wine.