THIS is the last of my Italian trio of articles and I’ve arguably saved the best for last. We’re in the Bay of Naples.

Percy Shelley waxed lyrical on this deeply inspiring natural amphitheatre: “The sun is warm, the sky is clear. The waves are dancing fast and bright.” His own mood may have been dark against nature’s brightness, but mine soars arriving back in Sorrento, with Vesuvius gazing back on one flank and Capri blinking back on the other.

It is easy to see why poets, artists, film directors and dreamers have been entranced by the vast bay that unfurls in front of Italy’s third-largest city. As if the distressed grandeur of Naples is not enough, Vesuvius remains an active reminder of Nature’s omnipotent power. To the south, the Sorrentine Peninsula struts skywards, reaching above Munro height. Then there are a trio of islands. Capri is the rock star; Ischia the classical dame. We’ll come to Procida.

The National: Galleria UmbertoGalleria Umberto

The Bay of Naples oozes romance, culture and history. I’m enjoying my first limoncello spritz with the human embodiment of that. Luca Fiorentino is one of the family that not only owns Sorrento’s best hotel – the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria ( – but lives here too.

Luca’s family have presided over this stately dame since 1834. Like Sorrento, it is bathed in history.

“You swim in our pool and it is with Roman ruins. When the head of the Musée d’Orsay visited, he was amazed we were using a chair he has behind glass. I told him we actually use 45 of them,” Luca smiles. “We have had everyone staying, here from Caruso and Pavarotti, through to your Princess Anne.”

I imagine the latter belting out Flower Of Scotland on the terrace as we peer back towards the blinking lights of Naples.

We don’t peer for long. I’m in for a treat, as you usually are in this part of the planet at dinner time. I’m dining at the hotel’s Michelin-star oasis, where Antonino Montefusco works wonders. I savour their Greatest Hits tasting menu. Local produce shines through the foams and the thick blanket of smoke that heralds dessert with serious theatricality. It’s simply one of the best meals I’ve had in Italy.

I’m pained to leave Sorrento and the epic view from my room, but around the bay one of Europe’s most effervescent cities awaits. It’s impossible not to react to the home of pizza. Life courses through every sinew, even more so since my last visit as they are still celebrating Napoli securing their third Serie A title earlier this year.

I stay in a simple Airbnb by a metro system that is a work of art in itself. The whole city is, but not a staid one stuck behind Perspex.

The National: Robin's viewRobin's view

In Naples, one minute you are gawking at neoclassical pillars and marvelling at world-class art, the next disappearing down a flight of steps into another ropey side street bursting with street food.

You eat almost by accident here, but you must resolve to try a Margherita at Pizzeria Brandi as it was invented here, the tricolour replicating the Italian flag to please the eponymous monarch.

My trip finishes with another highlight. A ferry spirits me with Shelley and a pod of dolphins to the isle of Procida. It may not be renowned compared to Capri, but its craggy coast and pastel-hued houses are instantly cinematic. I’m not surprised they’ve shot a volley of classic Italian films here and the Hollywood epic The Talented Mr Ripley.

Time for another Airbnb. If you want to book, it is “The Secret Corner Of Giovanni The Fisherman”. You should. Leonardo is lovely; his apartment is too. For £50, I could have three guests, but I’m glad it’s just me so I can concentrate on the view from the terrace over the bustling harbour.

It is alive not only with fishing boats, but also a never-ending stream of ferries pulling swerving, flowing manoeuvres that would have a CalMac skipper having palpitations. It’s an irresistible scene I watch for hours.

I do break away from the terrace thankfully long enough to discover Marina di Corricella. This is one of the prettiest wee harbours I’ve seen anywhere around the Mediterranean. And that is saying something, as I’ve written half a dozen books on Croatia and been to Italy more than 20 times. I dine at Fuego by the water on boat-fresh squid, followed by homemade pasta alive with the fresh catch of the day. A glass of local wine for £2 finishes things off perfectly.

This bijou isle is only 4km x 4km, so I walk every bit I can. There are black sand beaches aplenty I swim off, a citadel to hike up to bursting with historical ghosts and another pretty wee harbour in Marina di Chiaiolella. There are endless wee lanes, a sprinkling of elegant churches and independent shops to check out too. Procida in summer caters towards holidaying Neapolitans, but it is not suffering from overtourism like Amalfi. Think what Coll is to Skye.

I love my Scottish isles. But as I sail back across the Bay of Naples, doffing my metaphorical cap one last time at Vesuvius, I really would rather not be anywhere else. Cheer up Shelley – you’re in arguably the finest oasis in Italy. And that is saying something.

easyJet ( flies direct to Naples from Edinburgh


Holiday Extras - I’m sometimes doubtful about sites that aggregate travel elements together, but I used Holiday Extras recently and was impressed. For this Italy trip their car parking at Edinburgh was cheaper than the official airport website. And easy too with a fast shuttle to the terminal even at 5am. They can add on fast track security, lounge access and even car hire at your destination too.