Positano, Italy, is not for those who fear heights. The white, yellow and peach-colored houses and storefronts go up, up and up some more again, lining the streets and stairways that climb from the water’s edge to somewhere in the middle of the bright blue sky. Standing on a charter yacht’s bow and looking up from the harbor feels like being inside of a postcard. That an artist painted while full of love in his heart. And maybe after drinking some really great wine.
The picturesque harbor is one of many that lure charter clients to Italy’s Amalfi Coast—which, according to early indicators, seems poised to be the Mediterranean’s must-visit destination for the upcoming summer months.
While Spain’s Balearic Isles have been a magnet for charter inquiries in recent years, after regulatory changes created a rush of excitement about that region, the Amalfi Coast seems poised to dominate now as more and more clients look farther to the eastern edge of the West Mediterranean.
“It seems to be the hot spot for the season,” says Lara-Jo Houghting, charter manager at Churchill Yacht Partners. “Most of our inquiries have been from Amalfi to Sicily, and also the reverse. Sicily also seems to be more popular than in the past, too.”
One of the yachts in her charter fleet, the 157-foot (47.8-meter) Christensen Lady Joy, is moving to Amalfi from May through August, specifically to meet early demand for bookings.
“We originally were going to base out of the South of France, but the charters have taken us to Amalfi, Sorrento, Capri,” Houghting says. “That’s where people want to be.”
Beyond the Amalfi Coast’s beauty, charter brokers say, clients are looking to the region for tax savings. Charters that stay within Italy’s territorial waters face a VAT of 22 percent, while those that include Italy, but also a jaunt into international waters, are subject only to 6.6 percent VAT. That makes the latter itineraries some of the most tax-effective for charter clients across the whole of the Mediterranean, whose other nations can charge VAT of 10 percent, 20 percent, or more.
Alev Karagulle, director of marketing and communications at Burgess, says Italy’s VAT reduction has been in force since 2012. It’s possible that, with recent buzz about Spain dying down and clients looking to try other destinations, more people are simply looking to the Amalfi Coast for the first time in a half-dozen years. They see the 6.6 VAT option, and a deal is made.
And the region is an easy sell, Karagulle says, because of its beauty and all the things charter clients can do there.
“The big draw of the Amalfi Coast is that the cruising distances are short between the mainland hot spots and the off-lying islands—Capri, Ischia and the Pontine Islands to the northwest of Ischia—and the landscapes are dramatic and very picturesque,” she says. “The dining ashore and the shopping is fabulous, and in between there are plenty of beautiful anchorages for enjoying your yacht and all her facilities.”
The place along the Amalfi Coast that most charter clients have heard of is Positano, which became well known in America thanks to the 2003 film “Under the Tuscan Sun,” starring Diane Lane.
“Positano is a particular draw,” Karagulle says. “Built vertically into the cliff face, the pastel-colored houses tumble down to the sea, and the steep, narrow streets are full of boutiques, cafés and restaurants. There are amazing views from the terrace of Le Sirenuse or Il San Pietro, where you can lunch looking down to your yacht at anchor below.”
Farther along the coast is Ravallo, known for its gardens and classical music concerts all summer long. And there’s also Capri, which Karagulle calls “the full summer scene with a real buzz, beach clubs, gourmet dining, designer shops and luxury spas.”
Houghting says that international accessibility to all of that and more is key for many clients. Americans can now get a direct flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport into Naples, Italy, and then take an hour-long car ride from there to Sorrento, where the charter yacht can be waiting.
“A lot of Americans will stay in a hotel in Sorrento to acclimate to the time zone before boarding the yacht,” Houghting says, adding that there’s so much to do and see ashore, a few days can be spent touring the coastline before or after any charter itinerary.
Karagulle says people-watching is also a regular pastime on the Amalfi Coast, where stars from Greta Garbo and Grace Kelly to Jackie Kennedy Onassis and, more recently, Rihanna have been spotted.
“This part of Italy has been attracting the beau monde for decades,” she says. “It’s glamorous, fun, beautiful and perfect for yachting.”