Written by Missy Johnston
Day One: Arrive in Genoa via international air to board your yacht. Genoa Airport is very close to the yacht marinas and so transferring for boarding should be a mere 15 – 20 minutes away. Once settling in, set sail for Camogli, Portofino, Santa Margherita, or Rapallo. Any one of these little villages are delightful and a lovely location to explore and enjoy and spend your first night on board. Overnight. Enjoy a first night dinner on the top deck under the stars.
Day Two: Cruise from the Portofino area with breakfast on deck while slowly cruising past the Cinque Terre. Stop for a tender ride into one of the little towns, such as Manarola. The Cinque Terre takes its name from five small villages – Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore and Vernazza – that defiantly cling to the inhospitably rugged Ligurian coastline. They are, and have been for many centuries, practically inaccessible by land due to the harsh, steep terrain which juts up at their backs. The best way to see them is to tender in from the yacht to the base of each village. For those that love hiking there are goat trails between the villages that run along the coast, however, they are rugged and very narrow, literally for goats, and donkeys.
After visiting the Cinque Terre, cruise to spend the night anchored around the old village of Portovenere.
Day Three: Often overlooked, this little village has a long and venerable history as attested to by the castle remains on the promontory overlooking the town and town quay. Many feel that Portovenere is what Portofino was before discovered by the rich and famous and still to this day has the quaint and sleepy feel of a quiet old seaside fishing village.
Perched on the tip of a promontory alongside the Gulf of Poets, the area of Porto Venere, also known as Porto Venere, (a UNESCO World Heritage Site included with the Cinque Terre), is comprised of the little towns of Fezzano, Le Grazie and Porto Venere, and the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. Porto Venere, originally settled during the first century BC, was graced by a Temple to Venus, hence the area and the town name. Today, this is a sleepy little area, where time stopped during the medieval period. Visiting charter yachts can anchor in a protected bay between the village of Porto Venere, and the island of Palmaria for guests to enjoy this little jewel, in the same manner as have civilizations in years past.
After anchoring and heading ashore in the ship’s tender, explore the little winding medieval alleyways of Porto Venere where the still standing medieval gate opens to the historic old town center. Close beside the gates is a tower, and at the top of the promontory looming over the town is the old Castello Doria.
Porto Venere is located on the Gulf of Poets, also known as the Bay of La Spezia, however, so re-named given the legions of writers, artists and poets that are said to have found inspiration in this lovely area, such as writers David Herbert Lawrence and Percy Bysshe Shelley, writer and painter George Sand, and poet Lord Byron. Supposedly, the early-Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli created one of his most extraordinary masterpieces, the Birth of Venus, after meeting Simonetta Vespucci, model for Venus in his painting, while visiting the local village of Fezzano. Some art experts believe that the bays appearing on the right side of this masterpiece are depictions of the Gulf of La Spezia, with Fezzano and Palmaria Island. The Bay of Poets is filled with grottos, and it is said that one of these Grottos, now sadly collapsed, was a favorite haunt of Lord Byron, who famously swam across the Gulf of Poets to visit his friend Percy Bysshe Shelley, the same Shelley that later met his end in a boating accident on this very same Bay. Gunkholing by ship’s tender is a fun activity to explore over 36 grottos in this area.
Perhaps have dinner at Locanda Lorena on nearby Palmaria Island. Overnight.
Day Four: Leave in the early am for the crossing to the Tuscan Island of Elba and wake up for breakfast watching all of the activity in the busy harbor of Portoferraio. Elba, the largest of the Tuscan Islands and the third largest island in Italy, is probably the most well known as the exile location for 300 days for Napoleon Bonaparte and his sister in between his two reigns over France as Emperor. Located there still is the house and summer house of the Bonaparte’s; which are both open as museums. As the brother and sister slipped away hastily from the island, much was left behind and is on display today. However the shoreline and interior of Elba are also lovely, with many anchorages and pine covered shores beckoning for bicycle rides, or a hike to the top of Mount Capanne for a view of the other Tuscan Islands and Corsica.
Day Five: Cruise to Giglio Island, a sister Tuscan Island. Giglio is a lovely island known for crystal clear waters, long sandy beaches around the perimeter of the island, underwater caves and shipwrecks from various centuries. And sometimes on a clear day, dolphins and whale calves can be seen frolicking in the surrounding waters.
Giglio Castello is the medieval walled city on top of the tallest granite mountain on Giglio. With very few tourists to the island, there are few taxis and the easiest way to visit this medieval gem is to take the bus up the narrow winding road from Giglio Porto, the main harbor. The oldest town on the island, Giglio Castello is still humming with activity while the residents continue to go about their daily activities. The main gate dates to the 1300’s and opens to a town of buildings jumbled on top of one another separated by a maze of alleys and narrow streets. Explore this area by wandering, as getting lost is impossible, and stop for a bite to eat at one of the local eateries inside the walls for a taste of the strong local wine called Ansonco and hearty country Italian food.
Later in the afternoon cruise to the nearby uninhabited island of Giannutri to anchor for a swim and a lovely dinner on the top deck. Head ashore to see the ruins of the Roman “Villa Domitia” named after the family of the Domitii Ahenobarbi. During the night leave to cross to Corsica.
Bonifacio Viewed from the Sea
Day Six: Wake anchored in the uninhabited Lavezzi Islands of Corsica. Explore this dreamy archipelago, which only has one lighthouse and two cemeteries where the 750 crew of the Semillante are buried, a boat which sank in 1855. The island’s coves are a favorite with boat-lovers and its fine sandy beaches offer a taste of paradise. Relax and enjoy the sun and the beautiful crystal clear waters. Later in the afternoon cruise into Bonifacio for the night being sure to be on deck for the extraordinary sight of Old Town Bonifacio clinging to the chalk cliffs on one side of the natural opening of the harbor.
Bonifacio is a town of approximately 4,000 people near the southern tip of the island of Corsica, in the département of Corse-du-Sud, France. A picturesque port with trade in olive oil, wine, and fish, Bonifacio faces Sardinia across the Strait of Bonifacio. The oldest town in Corsica, it was founded (c.828) on the site of a citadel built by Boniface I, count of Tuscany. It later passed to Pisa and to Genoa. There is a Pisan-style church (12th–13th cent.) and the town, surrounded by a rampart, is medieval in character.
Bonifacio is split into two sections. The vielle ville (old town), or la Haute Ville (the Upper city), on the site of a 9th century citadel, is located on a peninsula overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the inhabitants reside in the Haute ville, including the town’s most famous inhabitant, Marie-José Nat. The harbor, la Marine, is at the end of a fjord-like inlet that provides a natural harbor, and is a port for a large number of fishing and tourist boats.
Be sure to head up to Old Town and wander the little walking streets filled with little shops, bars, restaurants, and lively little piazzas.
Day Seven: Cruise in the morning to the little fishing village of Ajaccio, the birthplace of Napoleon. Be sure to venture into old city Ajaccio filled with narrow little alleyways. The present city of Ajaccio was founded by the Genoese Empire around 1492. This was the hometown of the Bonaparte family and where Napoleon was born and raised and entered into the military. In the old town is a museum in the original family home named Casa Buonaparte.
Head to a quiet anchorage on the coast for lunch and a refreshing swim. After cruise to the lovely fishing village of Calvi. There are those that say that Christopher Columbus came from Calvi, which was part of the Genoese Empire at the time. It was during the Siege of Calvi in the French Revolution that Lord Nelson sustained the injury that cost him his eye. The harbor of Calvi is shadowed by the citadel, a first sight when coming in by sea. After docking, spend time exploring the old town of Calvi. The area around is well known for producing superb wine, cheese and olive oil. Overnight dockside or on anchor in the harbor.
Day Eight: Disembark in Calvi.