After more than 20 years of living and working in Italy, I have come to appreciate the subtle differences between the various areas of the country. In the industrial north, the fashion industry sits comfortably side by side with sport car manufacturers. The obsession to look good is overriding.
The Italians call this “La Bella Figura” and, while it is a pleasure to behold, the preoccupation sometimes comes at the expense of the self-deprecating humor that Brits like me are more accustomed to. Perhaps this was part of the reason that my trip to Naples to visit the Columbus Yachts shipyard came as a breath of fresh air from the starchy atmosphere that sometimes permeates the north.
Naples represents everything that foreigners hope to find in Italy; a vibrant city lying in the shadow of Vesuvius — the very air is alive with energy. Music plays in the bustling streets, cab drivers weave in and out of chaotic traffic as they engage their passengers in animated conversation and merchants trade on street corners and in hidden piazzas. The food in Naples simply is some of the best in the world. Genuine, tasty, healthy ingredients are cooked with passion and served with the kind of sincere and expansive hospitality that has made the city famous even in its own country.
This vibrant and exuberant backdrop provides the context in which we find the Palumbo shipyard, located in an imposing position in the port of Naples. Palumbo is a family business that represents an inspiring story of Italian entrepreneurship and work ethics. Since Salvatore Palumbo formed the company in 1967, its workers have labored tirelessly in the shipbuilding industry to the point Palumbo now has facilities in Naples, Messina, Marseille and Malta. Today, Palumbo is a well-recognized name in the construction and repair of ships, as well as the refit and repair of superyachts.
In 2008, Palumbo decided to further its considerable facilities and skilled workforce by building superyachts under the Columbus Yachts’ brand. Giuseppe Palumbo, grandson of Salvatore, stepped up to the plate and took the reins of this new enterprise. Under his leadership, an array of impressive yachts has been launched and delivered to a growing clientele. I met Giuseppe (known as “Pino” to friends) in the shipyard to discuss the LIBERTY 33M “FAST” and the LIBERTY 38M, both offered by Columbus.
It was an exciting meeting. Despite our different backgrounds, we found an instantaneous synergy in our recognition of these yachts’ great potential.
Constructed entirely from aluminum, yachts in the Liberty range were conceived to offer the best possible yachting experience for owners and guests. Both Pino and I have spoken to yacht owners who found that their yachts had internal areas that were seldom used, but they did not offer enough deck space. At the end of the day, most of the fun that can be had on a yacht is found on deck — in the daylight at least. For this reason, Pino commissioned the design of a series of yachts that explores and exploits the full potential of the deck space while also allowing sensational views out to sea from the interior. Full-height windows are fitted in the salon and large windows below deck so that owners and guests are constantly connected with their beautiful surroundings. However, the design team did not want the yacht to look like a floating greenhouse, so the windows are enveloped in a unique and stylish superstructure that make the yachts in the Liberty range instantly recognizable.
From the stern to the bow, design choices have been made to maximize owners’ and guests’ enjoyment on board. The transom on each of the Liberty models features a reverse lip that houses a plunge pool surrounded by sunpads. The elevated pool is not just an attractive aspect when seen from the dock, but it also adds privacy to the generous aft-deck seating area. Beneath, and inside the transom itself, a beach club is located to allow sea-level entertainment with quick access to the water.
While underway, the beach club is enclosed by class-approved sliding glass doors, ensuring the area can be enjoyed at any time.
Both the 33M and the 38M have made extensive use of the bow, too. Both models have recessed seating areas for alfresco dining, but the 38M also offers a swimming pool and sunbathing area reminiscent of those found on the roofs of exclusive hotels. Actually, the foredeck is large enough for tender storage on both models; Columbus offers an optional elevated teak deck to conceal the crane and toys.
It almost goes without saying that each yacht has an expansive flybridge; the aluminum construction allows buyers to create a layout that works best for their personal requirements. Columbus offers a hardtop design or an elegant radar arch, but something that really stands out from the time that I spent with Pino and his team is that at Columbus, the client is king and the shipyard always will work to find a solution that makes him (or her) happy.
Marco Casali of Too Design was commissioned to design the Liberty yacht range; he has worked closely with Columbus to propose a selection of layouts that illustrate the builder’s flexibility and its serious commitment to client satisfaction. The 33M is proposed in a “Flat” version — the galley positioned in a central island on the main deck immediately aft of the helm station — a “Loft” version places a large galley below deck in the crew area, opening up the main salon; the raised pilothouse version is for those who prefer the master stateroom on the main deck. The 38M is offered as a raised pilothouse yacht and Marco’s renderings show a spectacular panoramic window with views out to sea and direct access to the foredeck pool and seating area. I can hardly imagine a better way to start the day.
Marco also has developed a range of interior design proposals that elegantly complement the purity of the yacht’s lines. Each proposal is named after Italian locations — the “Capri” is light and airy with sun-bleached wood beams and sea-blue fabrics blending to produce a fresh and crisp ambience. “Roma” offers a more stately and elegant disposition, with novel materials and warm woods used to convey a sensation of peace and relaxation. Finally, “Milano” is a more contemporary synergy of modern materials and avant-garde textiles that marry perfectly to produce a decor that takes executive chic to a new level. A “U.S.” version of the yacht also has been discussed, but I have to say that in my experience, the shallow draft of just less than six feet for the 38M and five feet, three inches for the 33M will be enough to entice many American buyers; the sumptuous Italian styling and inimitable lines designed by Marco Casali should do the rest to sweep the U.S. market off its feet.
Building a yacht in Naples offers buyers the opportunity of a lifetime to experience the passion and vibrancy unique to this city. The yard has more than 50 years of shipbuilding and repair history, as well as an impressive line up of recent yacht launches, so the enjoyment of visiting during the construction can be enhanced by the peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that Columbus Yachts really knows what it is doing and genuinely cares that the finished product exceeds expectations.
Personally, my expectations are very high for the new Liberty range. These yachts offer enormous freedom of choice in layouts and interiors, freedom to enjoy the sea and the outdoors from the moment you leave your cabin, and freedom to choose a shipyard with all the enthusiasm of a newcomer but with the heritage of a veteran. In short, these yachts offer Liberty.