Procida island

Far from the worldliness of Capri and Ischia, scented with lemons and windswept, Procida escapes the radar of mass tourism (August apart) and retains a rarefied, authentic, almost melancholic atmosphere. It is very small (4 km² of land), with a tangle of houses in pastel, pink, yellow, green and blue, its marinas with small boats and fishing nets piled on the piers. The local spirit is fully expressed on the streets and in the squares, with deeply tanned fishermen resting in the shade of sun umbrellas, kids chasing each other through the alleys, and restaurants that never disappoint clients.

But no, even the summer, however, would return invariably, the same as usual. It cannot be killed, it is an invulnerable dragon that is always reborn, with its wonderful childhood. And, it was a horrible jealousy that made me bitter, this: to think of the island again on fire from the summer, without me!
(Elsa Morante, L’isola di Arturo)

Nothing could be better than a slow-paced exploration of this island. Visit Marina Grande, where sailors sell the freshest fish directly from their boats. Stroll along the uphill alleys to Terra Murata, the highest point of the island, with a magnificent landscape on the gulf, the Church of San Michele Arcangelo and Palazzo d’Avalosformer prison abandoned in 1988 and now open to the public. Marina della Corricella is the small fishing village theater of Il Postino, last masterpiece by Massimo Troisi (in addition to interpreting Pablo Neruda’s postman, the actor directed himself and Michael Radford, receiving five 1996 Oscar nominations – including the best film award – and winning a statuette for the best dramatic soundtrack). Tourists enjoy searching for the film’s backdrops (especially visitors from Naples, who exalt Troisi, with good reason, as much as Maradona). The village slopes with its colorful houses from Piazza dei Martiri to the marina. Further south we find the beautiful Chiaia beach, a semicircular cove of fine sand. At the western end of the island there is the informal Marina di Chiaiolella with old fashioned restaurants, a harbor where pleasure boats moor and colorful water taxis that carry you to enchanting beaches. There is still an island to visit: Vivara, crescent green, uninhabited, connected to Procida by a pedestrian bridge. Miraculously immune to overbuilding, it has been recognized as a State Nature Reserve. 

Ischia island

Even Ischia, the largest of the Flegree islands, experienced the glorious 1950s. Director Luchino Visconti loved the island so much that he bought Villa La Colombaia, which is not open to visits. However, it was Angelo Rizzoli, publisher and film producer, who built the Regina Isabella Spa Hotel and attracted a bunch of celebrities to Ischia. We are referring to Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Maria Callas and William Holden. Today, if Capri is wrapped up in its aristocratic cloak, Ischia has slipped it off, while remaining elegant, evergreen, healthy and sought after. It is a mosaic of different environments: the cliffs overlooking the indigo sea, secluded beaches, picturesque towns and unspoiled nature with bougainvillea skeins and luscious Mediterranean vegetation. Castello Aragonese stands proudly on the opposite island of Ischia Ponte: 25 centuries old, its walls conceal churches, prisons and gardens. It is the venue of the Ischia Film Festival in June. Forio is the widest village on the island, with narrow streets enlivened by artisan shops and restaurants, and the unmissable La Mortella gardens, an enchanting botanical garden with a large variety of species, created by the passion of Susana Gil (aka Lady Walton, wife of the composer William Walton). And, then, you can’t miss Sant’Angelo, Ischia’s refined village. Located at the south end of the island, you will appreciate all its charm only after a long and tortuous descent. The pastel-colored houses, the small marina, the square with the refined boutiques and the restaurants recall Capri. However, climb up to the Madonnella, the highest point of Sant’Angelo, and from there descend to the Maronti beach, one of the most beautiful on the island, with a multitude of fumaroles, a volcanic phenomenon that gives rise to gas bubbles at 100°C and releases steam jets from the sand. Along with the Bay of Sorgeto (Panza, near Forio) with its natural spa pools, these two sites are the free spas of Ischia. Yes, spas are Ischia’s main tourist attraction. Some have made history and are still intensively visited for their natural environment, which is always lush and well kept, and for the healing and beneficial properties of the water. Poseidon Gardens in Forio have 20 spa pools; Lacco Ameno, in the bay of San Montano, has the Negombo Spa Park; and Barano d’Ischia features the Fonte delle Ninfe Nitrodi Park. And, finally, you will find walks with various levels of difficulty to explore the island and enjoy its magnificent views. The most beautiful climbs will take you to the top of Mt. Epomeo, at the highest peak of Ischia. The path makes it way along scenic vineyards with wonderful views of the Gulf of Naples and of the neighboring Campi Flegrei. On the way, stop at the Church of San Nicola at the hermitage, excavated in the tuff.

Capri island

Capri‘s velvet-like elegance and glamor are a thinly veiled invitation to hedonism. It is hard not to give in to the flattery of such a beautiful island. And, in any case, the most skeptical could be enchanted by the siren song. A microcosm in which sea, vegetation, art and culture are in perfect balance. The cliffs, the magnificent views along the paths, a fertile and lively soil with thick vegetation, the warm hues of citrus groves, the banks of brilliant bougainvillea and, then, the Roman villas, with traces of the passage of Octavian and of the sadistic Tiberius, who had twelve villas built and chose enchanting Villa Jovis as a residence. But things changed in Capri in the 1800s when the sparkling Blue Grotto was discovered. An ancient karstic crevice conceals a spectacular, almost surreal environment where the filtering light sheds a silver glow on everything. Word spread and the island became an attraction for artists, musicians, writers, aesthetes, such as John Singer Sargent, Debussy and Thomas Mann, for example. Later, in the fifties and sixties, while the whole of Italy was still licking its wounds from World War 2, the first sybarites visited Capri to enjoy a life of luxury, leisure and pleasure, the lifestyle called “la dolce vita”. The glittery international jet-set arrived with movie divas, magnates with their wives, and Hollywood stars. Vintage photo archives depict Jackie Onassis, Brigitte Bardot, Rita Hayworth with Prince Ali Khan, Ingrid Bergman, Maria Callas and Pablo Neruda. The local economy took giant leaps at the time, and hotels, restaurants and clubs were opened. Tailoring developed with maestro Emilio Pucci, and Capri fashion with mid-calf trousers, sandals and jewels became an international trend. The island’s charm has been renowned since.

One of Jackie’s most beautiful and published photos portrays her walking barefoot along the streets of Capri with a t-shirt and a pair of white pants. Her absolute simplicity is the quintessence of elegance.
(Franca Sozzani) 

But, let’s go in order. The main port of the island is Marina Grande, from which boats leave the island or head for the Blue Grotto. On the other hand, Capri is the most important and picturesque, with white tufa stone houses enhanced by flowered terraces, boats and mega yachts anchored to the marina, narrow alleys overflowing with boutiques, besides clubs and exclusive restaurants that have supplanted local activities. But, the fulcrum of happy life is the iconic piazzetta, a living room in the heart of the village, with the Church of Santo Stefano, the town hall and many elegant cafés with tables on the street for a pleasant aperitif, when the square becomes a catwalk. It’s like attending a fashion show, with people in evening dress and an impeccable demeanor. However, you an easily get away from the crowds by taking Via Vittorio Emanuele and then turning into Via Camerelle with its many designer shops. Finally you reach Via Tragara, a quiet walk that leads to the namesake belvedere. From here, going eastwards, there is a rather demanding route with climbs and flights of steps that leads to the modernist Villa Malaparte and the natural Arch. Or, from the little square, always following via Vittorio Emanuele, via Serena and then via Matteotti, you can reach the gardens of Augustus, near the charterhouse of San Giacomo, with flowers and terraces where you can admire the view of the Faraglioni, the three pinnacles of rock that rise majestically in the sea to guard the island. From here, you can climb the winding via Krupp up to Marina Piccola, a small peaceful corner with a beautiful bay sheltered from the wind. The western part of the island features the promontory of Anacapri, the popular but sober counterpart of sumptuous Capri, the ideal place to take a slow stroll along streets colored with geraniums. And, when you want to go back to being a VIP, you just have to descend the 881 steps of the Scala Fenicia that lead directly to Capri. 

In Capri, you meet a lot of people who might look famous though they are not.
(Diego De Silva)

Gulf of Naples Islands: what to see in Ischia, Capri, Procida

Caves, bays, inlets, breathtaking views, good food and a wonderful climate. From Naples or Sorrento, from Amalfi or Positano, those looking at the horizon can see a triangle of rocky shapes emerging from the sea in the distance. It is the first meeting with the gems of the Gulf of Naples: Capri, the mundane; Ischia, the island of well-being; and Procida, the conservative.

CapriIschia and Procida leave behind the histrionic Naples, with its hustle and its contradictions, basking in their overwhelming beauty. Scattered on a sea of a saturated blue, they have made an eternal pact with the sun and the mild climate, the lifeblood of the luxuriant nature that adorns them all year round. Yet, the three enchanting islands of the Gulf of Naples present features and characteristics that are anything but homogeneous. Capri with its pointed shapes is an ephemeral elite living room. Large, kaleidoscopic Ischia with luxuriant vegetation and rounded profiles treasures its sulfurous waters. Finally, small, simple, colorful and authentic Procida. Luscious meals, golden and black beaches, wellness treatments, walks and trekking, romantic sunsets: what else do you need?

Ah, Naples is nothing without its islands: Capri, of course, Ischia and even Procida.
(Tahar Ben Jelloun)