Yachts are positioning in southern Italy because clients love the region—and the tax savings.

It appears that the 6.6 percent secret is out.

Yes, the south of Italy—from about Naples down through the Amalfi Coast and over to Sicily—has long been worth visiting on a yacht charter. Naples and Pompeii are cultural and archaeological marvels. Capri is Italy’s version of Saint-Tropez, the spot for chic couture. The Aeolian Islands are a natural treasure, rugged and rural with chances to see an active volcano. Sicily is awash in local fishermen and winemakers, with great snorkeling and scuba diving.

“It’s such a beautiful area,” says Frances Edgeworth, a charter broker with Fraser. “You can get a mix of great restaurants, beach clubs and cafés, and then also completely disconnect from the world.”

What’s driving extra interest in the region this summer, though, is the ability for charter clients to see all of that and more while saving a boatload on taxes. While charterers must pay a VAT of 22 percent on itineraries that take place exclusively in Italian waters, that tax rate drops to just 6.6 percent if the region is combined with a substantial amount of cruising time in international waters, aboard a yacht 78 feet (24 meters) or larger.

Cruising to international waters can include an itinerary that blends, say, mainland Italy with the island of Sardinia, or taking a jaunt up to the French Riviera for a couple of days.

“A good broker will always ensure that the itinerary involves some good international cruising,” Edgeworth says. “Every itinerary is going to be different—it’s difficult to do this in two or three days, but you can get it done in four or five days, and I think a week to 10 days is ideal for most people. Honestly, you could spend two weeks there and still have a ton to see.”

The combination of fantastic cruising and reduced VAT has charter yachts lining up to accept southern Italy bookings this summer. Tamsin Priestly, director of charter at Y.CO, says Italy is “the most popular destination by far” for the upcoming Mediterranean season. Based on Fraser’s inquiries, interest in the region has jumped by 30 percent to 40 percent, Edgeworth says.

Local watercraft fill the harbor at Procida.

Local watercraft fill the harbor at Procida.

North American clients, especially, are booking in advance. The early client interest has lead more owners to commit to locating their yachts in southern Italy for this summer, which in turn is helping charter brokers secure more bookings, because more weeks of charter aboard more yachts are available in the destination. 

“It’s overtaken Greece, even,” Edgeworth says.

The sizes and styles of yachts basing in southern Italy are widely varied, too. Fraser is promoting everything from the 95-foot Benetti Uriamir to the 170-foot Golden Yachts Victory. Ocean Independence has the 67-foot Sunreef Ombre Blu3 basing in the region, as well as the 121-foot Benetti Edesia.

Among the yachts that Y.CO has available is the 110-foot Narvalo—a 2016 build that, Capt. Yannick Lowe says, is the only Cantiere Delle Marche currently available for charter, anywhere.

Lowe has chartered in and around southern Italy for several years, and says his must-visit port of call in the region is Capri.

The 110-foot Cantiere Delle Marche Narvalo is scheduled to charter along and near the Amalfi Coast this summer. The captain urges clients to schedule stops at Capri in advance, or risk failing to find a slip in the marina.

The 110-foot Cantiere Delle Marche Narvalo is scheduled to charter along and near the Amalfi Coast this summer. The captain urges clients to schedule stops at Capri in advance, or risk failing to find a slip in the marina.

“It’s the place to be in Italy in the summer,” he says. “It’s the most chic, the most luxurious. A lot of Italian designers have to go there in the summer. It’s way more prestigious than Saint-Tropez. It’s like the Italian version of Monaco, but more authentic.”

Because there’s so much demand to visit the port, he says, adding Capri to an itinerary must be done in advance. A slip needs to be booked in the harbor, which can fit about 20 yachts, and perhaps only 10 yachts that are 100 feet or longer. (Expect tipping the harbormaster to be part of the charter expenses for the week.)

Additional days of the itinerary can of course be planned, too, but improvisations are possible in much of the rest of the region. One of Lowe’s favorite spots to visit after Capri is the island of Ischia.

“You get out of the craziness and the party of Capri, and you can go for a relaxing mud bath and massage, all the spa treatments,” he says. “It’s more down to earth in ambience and very, very nice.”

From there, he says, it’s a half day’s cruise to the Aeolian Islands, where charter yachts can cruise past an active volcano.

“We did that last year—the guests went crazy,” he says. “It’s not an everyday occasion. We stopped the boat and everybody jumped in the water. When the volcano is active, the water is up to 30 degrees there [86 degrees Fahrenheit]. It’s really quite beautiful.”

From the Aeolians, stops on a charter itinerary can include Riposto, at the base of Mount Etna on Sicily.

Piazza Umberto I is the main square in the historic center of the island of Capri. Replete with bars, cafés and shops, the square is a popular meeting place for tourists and locals alike—with the clock tower serving as a landmark.

Piazza Umberto I is the main square in the historic center of the island of Capri. Replete with bars, cafés and shops, the square is a popular meeting place for tourists and locals alike—with the clock tower serving as a landmark.

“You’ve got lots of activities to do there, mainly related to sort of paragliding, helicopter tours around the volcano—you can actually rent a buggy with eight wheels and go over the crater of Etna when it’s not spitting out lava,” he says. “You can also rent quad bikes and go through the forests. I’ve done that, and it’s absolutely amazing. The nature is beautiful. It’s just amazing, pure nature. It’s not like showing off and partying in Capri; you’ve gone to a different planet within a day. This is why the region is so good for chartering. It has so many different things every day.”

And even with all the extra interest the region is attracting from charter clients, experts say, the waters remain clean and clear—something that’s simply not true of charter areas that get overrun without government protections.

“Year on year, it is a region that is becoming increasingly popular with charter clients,” says Capt. Ugur Gunes of Uriamir. “Despite its popularity, the area offers priceless beauty that has been meticulously preserved over the years.”

Even industry insiders who visit other charter hot spots around the world are taken aback when they see southern Italy. Edgeworth, the charter broker with Fraser, visited Sicily about a year and a half ago and still raves about the experience.

“We went to Mount Etna and did all the historical things, and then we went to a vineyard with all the minerals from the volcanic lava—everything grows twice the size,” she says.” We did a wine tasting, and I think it was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. Stunning surroundings, beautiful food, beautiful wine, it was just incredible. The seafood is out of this world. The tomatoes are amazing. All of it.”

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