Capri and Ischia
Set in the Gulf of Naples, the storied islands of Capri and Ischia have beckoned travelers for centuries. Along with their little sister, Procida, the glittery islands are jewels in the southern Italian Mediterranean, close to Naples and yet a world away.
With Mount Vesuvius in sight, they're not far off-shore but offer a detachment from the mainland vacation, where time seems to not matter, where the sun seems to always shine, and where beautiful travelers stroll the flower-decked lanes enjoying the "dolce far niente".
Capri is a blend of upscale culture and natural wonders, with toney shops and swanky spot, splendid scenery, nature trails and climbs, and protected coves for diving. It is one of Italy's most picturesque places. The fabled land of Ulysses, it still retains its mythical appeal. There are ancient ruins like Villa Jovis and archeological sites to attest to its storied past, but Capri lives very much in the present day, attracting the rich and famous. Its marina is a haven for pleasure yachts, and star sightings are common here. The best beaches are the ones you reach by boat; hire a captain to take you to a hidden cove for a day of swimming in the azure waters.
Azure is the color of choice on Capri, as it is home to renowned Grotta Azzurra, better known as the Blue Grotto. The magical watery cavern is a must for any visit, but don't miss the special appeal of the "faraglioni", the rocky outcrops at Marina Piccola that are the picturesque symbol of the island, and a beautiful backdrop for a seaside lunch. Take the chair lift up to the peak of the island from Anacapri for breathtaking, sweeping views. And nobody can come to Capri without passing through the charming Piazzetta and enjoying a drink or a cappuccino in the piazza.
Ischia is Capri's bigger sister, and a complete contrast. While Capri is a limestone rock, Ischia is a volcanic island, that left it rich in thermal aquifers. That makes Ischia one of Italy's best-known spa resorts, where people from around the world come to soak in the curative mineral-rich waters, enjoy mud treatments, facials, massages and other health-boosting therapies. Ischia is less flashy that Capri, and has a more "lived in" feel, but boasts better beaches that are more easily accessible. It has its own culinary traditions and folk festivals, one of the most beautiful gardens in Italy (La Mortella) and a laid-back appeal.
There are six towns on Ischia, each with its own personality, with the main town of Ischia Porto boasting the most bustle. Ischia Ponte is where you'll find the symbol of Ischia, the rocky outcropping with the sturdy Aragon castle perched on it. For spa seekers, head over towards Forio and the thermal parks where you can spend the day trying out the different pools and hot tubs in a garden setting.
Procida is the smallest of the islands of the Gulf of Naples, and worth a ferry ride while you're visiting Ischia or Capri. It's pastel-painted houses, characteristic cafes, narrow pathways and fishing village atmosphere give it an undeniable charm.
Capri, Ischia and Procida are reached by ferries or hydrofoils starting from the port of Mergellina or from the Molo Beverello in Naples, and the port of Pozzuoli. In high season – from May to October - Capri is also reachable from Salerno, Positano and Amalfi. If you prefer to travel like the jet-set, you can hire a helicopter to sweep you across the bay to the islands!
The isle of Capri rises like a giant slate-blue limestone block, with high cliffs falling sheer to the sea.
Ischia lies in magnificent beauty in the Gulf of Naples, beyond Procida and across the bay from Napoli.
The north-western side of the Gulf of Naples offers the splendour of the small island of Procida, known as "the girlfriend of the sea".
Barano is Ischia's second largest town and one that has kept its painstakingly planted and tended vineyards and vegetable gardens.
Forio is a picture-perfect town, perfectly framed in its seting between the colourful landscapes of Mount Epomeo and the crystalline sea.
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