The Punta Campanella promontory has a panorama that’s hard to beat: along the coast, steep cliffs alternate with slopes that dip sweetly into the sea. There are bays and deep ravines covered by typical Mediterranean plants like umbrella pines and olive trees.  Walking along the paths and trails there are the ruins of ancient Roman villas, observation towers and sanctuaries, all of which are of great archaeological interest.

The first few metres of the area’s rocky seabed have several kinds of sponges, bryozoans and colonies of Cladocora caespitosa pillow coral. There are also lots of Lithophaga lithophaga, a bivalve that digs tiny holes in the limestone rocks to nest in. This species is delicious and highly sought after but grows very slowly. It is protected and it is absolutely prohibited to gather, keep or sell them. Clandestine gathering of these bivalves, called datteri

di mare in Italian, entailed destroying the rock they had burrowed into and had caused the total desertification of the local seabed for almost twenty years.

The submerged parts of the rocky outcrops called Vetara and Vervece have great biodiversity and host colonies of yellow cluster anemones (Parazoanthus axinellae), red and yellow violescent sea-whip of the Eunicella and Paramuricea genus and elegant spirogyras (Spirographis spallanzanii.) In deeper waters you’ll find false black coral (Gerardia savaglia). Some of the best diving spots are “Punta di Puolo”, “Lo Scoglietto di Vervece”, the “Secca dei Galli”, “Montalto” and “Scoglio Penna”. The area’s seaside rocks have lots of submerged and partially submerged caves and are excellent spots for diving. The seabed is the natural habitat of lots of species including Branchiostoma lanceolatum, a marine invertebrate that is especially sensitive to the quality of the habitat it lives in. There are submerged arches whose walls are covered in algae, and underwater tunnels that give access to the wonderful Zaffiro and dell’Isca grottos with their beautifully clear turquoise waters and alabaster formations, stalactites and stalagmites. A good way to tour the Marine Protected Area is aboard a hired fishing boat with the local fishermen. When you come back to port you can have your catch cooked by local chefs.

Marine Protected Area

Founded in 1997, the Marine Protected Area covers 1.539 hectares, of which over 180 are a zone A integral reserve signalled by yellow delimitation buoys with signal lights and by yellow top marks on the shore. The reserve goes from Punta Campanella, on the tip of the Penisola Sorrentina, that divides the Riviera di Sorrento in the Gulf of Naples, to the Riviera di Positano, in the Gulf of Salerno. The area is surrounded by extraordinarily beautiful and historically important towns, prehistoric and archaeological sites, look out towers and fishing towns. The zone A integral reserve is signalled by yellow delimitation buoys with signal lights and by yellow top marks on the shore. The zone B general reserve has three access canals by the Crapolla fjord on the coast in front of the Vetara outcrop and the Li Galli islands. Between the Scruopolo outcrop and the outcrop to the west of Grotta Matera, only authorised boats can navigate at a maximum of 5 knots. New rules and regulations are currently being approved.

Useful Contacts

Consorzio di gestione
viale Filangieri, 40 – 80061 Massa Lubrense, (NA)
tel. 081/8089877
Centro visite
tel. 081/8089877
Autorità Marittima
Capitaneria di Porto di Castellammare di Stabia
tel. 081/78711086

By Boat

The Punta Campanella coastline is one of the most famous in Italy and has been a top vacation spot since ancient Roman times. Sorrento, once called Sorrentum, is on a high mesa and is easy to spot from the water. The port at Marina Piccola has a high seawall around it and is being enlarged. You can dock at the base of the breakwater, whereas the southern part of the port is too shallow. In good weather you can drop anchor to the east of the entrance to the port where there are 5m draft and a sandy seabed. After Capo di Sorrento the Marine Protected Area begins.At about 1nm farther south you’ll find the picturesque Marina di Puolo, where you can stop temporarily. The small port at Marina della Lobra, 2nm further south, is only good for smaller boats. After Punta Campanella, topped by a black and white stripped tower, you can find the beautiful bay of Ieranto, where currently only boats used for guided tours may dock. 5nm further east you’ll find the group of three islands that form Li Galli, where soon there will be an area with mooring buoys. Positano has a dock where you can embark and disembark passengers but it’s well worth dropping anchor nearby too. Further east there are no other safe ports until Salerno. Amalfi has about 300 berths, but it’s only protected if the weather is stable: sirocco winds bring waves and strong Mistral and northerly gusts run down the mountainsides. The port is hard to spot from the sea, but a good thing to look for is the cathedral’s cupola. There is a small section of the breakwater near the fuelling station reserved for passing vessels and there are privately owned mooring buoys.