Visitors to Naples and the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy, should not miss the opportunity to visit the three islands found in the Gulf of Naples: Ischia, Procida and Capri.
They are all connected to the mainland by ferry and hydrofoil from Naples or Sorrento; probably the most famous of the three islands is Capri, for years the preferred holiday destination of the rich and famous due to its climate, its beaches and the cosy atmosphere.
On arrival at Marina Grande, the main harbour, a short funicular ride takes visitors to the village above, where the famous Piazzetta is located; literally a very small square. It is the place to see and be seen: sipping cocktails at one of the rather expensive bars with tables on the square crowded with ladies wearing designers outfits and matching handbags and shoes.
Taking the time to explore the small alleys away from the square, you will have the opportunity to find out more about the village, visit its shops and, have a nice Italian ice-cream in one of the less expensive establishments away from the Piazzetta.
Just a short distance away is the quieter village of Anacapri. With its villas on the slopes of the hills, it offers hiking trails or, the opportunity to take a chairlift to the top of Mount Solaro for wonderful views of Capri and the islands of Ischia and Procida in the distance.
To get a view of Capri coastline, the best way is to join one of the boat tours that leave from Marina Grande. They all follow a similar route around the island with views of the Faraglioni, three stacks located off the coast, Marina Piccola and the Punta Carena Lighthouse along the way.
There are also many caves around Capri, the most famous of them is the Grotta Azzurra. To enter this cave, visitors board small boats and need to lie down while the boats enter the cave through a narrow passage; inside sunlight creates a blue reflection on the water illuminating the cave, hence the name Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto).
Although Capri can be visited in one day, many visitors choose to stay a few days to fully appreciate all the island has to offer before moving on to the other islands in the Gulf of Naples like Ischia.
This volcanic island attracts both Italians and foreigners to its shores due to the beneficial qualities of its hot springs water, particularly indicated to cure respiratory problems. The minerals rich mud helps curing skin conditions like psoriasis. The influx of visitors to this tiny island have unfortunately contributed to the loss of agricultural land, favouring the construction of a number of residential structures, often without taking into consideration the surroundings.
Still, Ischia provides visitors with the chance to have a relaxing holiday exploring the villages and beaches or brows one of the many ceramics shops found all over the island.
Ischia is also the name of the main town on the island, divided into Ischia Porto, where the main harbour is located, and Ischia Ponte where the Castello Aragonese, a castle built in 474 BC and accessed through a tunnel or by a lift, can be visited. Other villages on the islands worth a mention are Casamicciola, Lacco Ameno, Serra-Fontana and Sant’Angelo. Here, a small isthmus connects the mainland to a rock from which beautiful views of the bright coloured houses of the village can be enjoyed.
Driving away from the coast towards the hills, there are many lookouts with beautiful views of Ischia coastline and the neighbouring island of Procida in the distance.
Also a volcanic island but much smaller than Ischia, Procida is a picture-perfect jewel in the Gulf of Naples.
There are a few cars on the island and, the very narrow and steep roads are difficult to negotiate. Although buses are available, the best way to explore the island is by hiring a “microtaxi”. These three wheeler vehicles similar to an Indian auto rickshaw, driven by experienced locals will take you from Marina Grande where the ferry docks, to all the main attractions on the island. A typical itinerary will include a visit to Terra Murata, a fortified settlement that includes a castle a prison and a number of churches, the colorful village of Corricella, and a number of view points to see the island and the islet of Vivara a natural Reserve connected to Procida by a bridge.
Most visitors to Procida, are day trippers on their way to or from one of the most famous neighbouring islands of Ischia and Capri. But, for the few that decide to stay in Procida a bit longer, there are a number of beaches on the island waiting to be explored. Cinema goers will recognize some of them as the settings of movies like the Talented Mr.Ripley and the Oscar winning Italian movie Il Postino: The Postman which were both filmed here.