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CHASING LA BELLA VITA ON THE ISLANDS OF CAPRI, ISCHIA, AND PROCIDA

January 31, 2018

 

Ischia

The largest of the three islands, Ischia is known as a healing paradise on the Mediterranean Sea. Its rich volcanic earth and natural thermal spas make this spot a much sought after destination. Besides the health benefits, Ischia has a vibrant archaeological presence. From museums, to shopping, dining by the sea, and immersing one's self in thermal pools, Ischia is an island with a lot to offer. 

 

Stay 

Mezzatorre Resort & Spa // This may well be the biggest splurge of your trip, but it will also probably be your most memorable stay. Nestled above a rocky cliff, Mezzatorre's vistas are breathtaking, and its grounds are superb. The amenities are luxurious and top notch, and the hotel's quiet yet central location is ideal. If a health retreat is what draws you to Ischia, Mezzatorre is surely the place to put your mind at ease. 

 

 Photo source: Leading Hotels of the World

 

Eat 

Antico Girarrosto Ischitano // Nothing is more delicious than the roasted chicken and potatoes at Antico Girarrosto Ischitano. Not only does the rotisserie offer roasted classics, but its pizzas are both insta perfect and supremely good. Open for lunch and dinner, you can't go wrong with simple, rustic dishes. Via Baldassarre Cossa, 8 Ischia, Italy 80077

 

Do 

Archeological Museum Pythecusae // Ischia was colonized during Greek times, and thus it has layers and layers of history and craftsmanship. A particular unique find in the Pythecusae Museum is Nestor's Cup, an invaluable vessel di vino inscribed with three verses from Homer's Iliad, dating back to the 8th century BC. The museum is housed in a beautiful, historic villa, and entrance is about five euros. Villa Arbusto, Corso Angelo Rizzoli, 210, 80076 Ischia NA, Italy

 

 

 

Aragonese Castle // No trip to Ischia is complete without a visit to the Aragonese Castle. Perched on its own little island, connected by a pedestrian bridge, the medieval castle is a magnificent sight to take in both from afar and up close. While its 10 euro entrance fee grants you a lot of antiquity to take in during the day, one of the most unique ways to visit the castle is during its open air film festivals held in June and July. Via Pontile Aragonese, 80070 Ischia NA, Italy

 

Spiaggia di San Mantano // Tucked away behind thick brush, the beach of San Mantano is probably the best on the island. It's clean and scenic, and also adjacent to thermal pools, Negombo Thermal Gardens. Many flock to this beach, knowing about its beauty, so grab a sun lounger early in the day and you'll be guaranteed front row seats to the best view, the turquoise waters. 

 

 

 

Capri

If all three islands are gems, Capri is the big, fat 40 carat diamond. Its glitz and glam culture knows no bounds, as don't its hotel and restaurant prices, but don't let that intimidate you. Every traveler to Italy must visit Capri at least once in his or her life, if not for its resort atmosphere, for its jaw-dropping naturally, rugged beauty. The undulating cliffs of the island are a beauty to look at from the sea, and a real huff and puff to traverse upon by foot. Though many tourists end up spending most of their time in the main square, there are so many places to explore, taste, and shop in on the island. 

 

 

Stay

Hotel La Palma // Spending at night on Capri is probably going to be more expensive than staying on Procida or Ischia, so you might as well splurge a bit to fully embrace the glamour of the island. Although pricey, Hotel La Palma is one of the more affordable high-end hotels in the area, and delivers a superb experience. Built in 1822, it is Capri's first formal hotel. Don't let its age fool you, however. The rooms are bright, airy, and beautifully designed with original tiles. To stay at this property is to fully immerse one's self in the golden age of the Mediterranean. As far as location, you cannot ask for a more prime spot. La Palma is situated in the center of all the action, near the main piazza, and best of all, it is right next to the most amazing pasticceria, Buonocore. 

 

Photo Source: Hotel La Palma

 Photo Source: Hotel La Palma

 

Eat

Pasticceria-Gelateria Buonocore // If you're on Capri as a day trip, and don't have much time to spare, the one place you must grab a bite is at Buonocore bakery and gelato shop. Sure, it's all sweet treats, but, hey, you're in Italy. Do as the Capri-ites do. Having been to this pasticceria on two separate trips, I can attest to the consistency and quality of the desserts, especially the cannoli. Oh my. The ricotta filling in the cannoli at Buonocore is light, sweet, and addicting. Many a tourist line up for the gelato, which is great as well, but the cannoli is the most deserving of your attention. Via Vittorio Emanuele, 35, 80076 Capri NA, Italy

 

 Photo source: Tripadvisor

 

Do 

Trek up to Piazza Umberto // Once you de-board the ferry in the Marina Grande, you'll see a lot of people forming a mess of a line to take the funicular up to the center of Capri. While tickets are only two euros, the cable cars can get crowded and hot in the summer months. Walking up to the Piazetta is both cheap, scenic, and active, especially after getting off a ferry. The 30 minute paved hike up is rather steep and includes a lot of steps, so if you have luggage, you may want to reconsider this option. Once you see the iconic clock tower in the main square, you'll be both elated and proud of your achievement, albeit slightly sweaty. 

 

 

Villa Jovis // Twelve ancient Roman villas dot the island of Capri, but it is Emperor Tiberius' summer home, Villa Jovis, that stands out. Built in the first century B.C., Villa Jovis is prime real estate with it's location on cliff's edge and expansive views of the Gulf of Naples. When visiting the ruins, one can imagine the splendor of the villa in its heyday. Although, rumor has it that Tiberius pushed his servants off the cliff for pleasure's sake. The historical villa is about a 45 minute uphill walk from the Piazzetta. The walk alone is beautiful, and gets you away from the congested main area. Entrance is four euros a person. Via Tiberio, 80073 Capri NA, Italy

 

 

  

Rent a Boat // While many tourists queue up and spend big dough to ride a boat into the famous Blue Grotto, I suggest teaming up with your friends and splitting the cost of a rental lancia, or a small wooden boat. For 70 euros, you have two hours to explore the perimeter of the island, or as I did, find a great spot to anchor and dive into the beautiful, azure water. Being on Capri is a special experience, but softly swaying on a boat cliffside is simply magical. 

 

 

Play Dress up // Capri is home to a dizzying number of designer and boutique shops. While the high prices may be intimidating, the clothes, accessories and shoes are at least worth drooling over. If you can swing it, find a shop that makes custom sandals, and then you'll always remember the way the island felt under your toes. 

 

Procida

If you've never heard of Procida, you're not alone. I had never heard of the island either until I saw a flyer on my campus for a summer abroad session there. The background photo of the flyer showed villas painted in soft pastel colors, stacked above one another on a marina floating above the bluest water. I knew that Italy has many beautiful destinations, but this one struck me as something special. Having spend three weeks on the island, I can promise you that Procida is the hidden wonder you've never heard of. Only once did I hear English spoken on the island, besides from the 10 other students who were studying with me. Although just as beautiful as Capri, Procida is a true working class island. Inhabitants have been fishermen for centuries, and that tradition survives to this day. If you make the time to explore the island, you will dive deeper into the richness of Italy's relationship with the Mediterranean than you ever thought possible. 

 

Stay 

Gioia 13 Apartments // Formerly Le Grand Bleu guest house, Gioia 13 is a simple, budget friendly apartment hotel. I stayed here for three weeks on my study abroad trip and while it was rather mediocre at the time, it has since been completely renovated. In addition to the modern renovations, each unit is spacious and includes a kitchenette, as well as AC. The owner, Mimo, is friendly and gracious. The real highlight, however, is the rooftop where there are 360* views of the entire island and the surrounding Mediterranean Sea, as well as a pizza oven and grill for personal use. The central yet quiet location is also very convenient. Via Flavio Gioia, 37, 80079 Procida NA, Italy

 

 Photo source: Gioia 13 Apartments

 

Hotel & Spa La Suite // If you are willing to venture deeper into your pockets, La Suite is a luxurious getaway on an otherwise unassuming island. This property is also a renovation, but that of a former palace from the 17th century. The rooms are modern and elegant, and the pool area is ethereal with clean lines and handsome, white day beds and umbrellas. The location is also very central, close to several black sand beaches. Via Flavio Gioia, 81, 80079 Procida NA, Italy

 

Photo source: Hotel & Spa La Suite

 

Eat 

Il Vefio Pizzeria // Though this second floor pizza ristorante is not much of a looker, Il Vefio is a true hidden gem. The pizzeria is literally hidden at the top of a pair of stairs on the side of a postal shop. This eatery may be hard to find, but it's worth the effort for the delicious pizzas. The Margherita is a classic and the tomato basil is simple and great for vegans. The average cost of a pizza is about five euros, and a bottle of vino di casa is several euros. The divine pizzas made this spot my favorite place to eat on the island. Via Libertà, 57, 80079 Procida NA, Italy

 

Photo source: Il Vefio Pizzeria

 

Gelateria Cuore Azzurro // The best gelato on the island is found in this little gelateria. Each flavor is indulgent and delicious, but beware the nutella flavor, its thick, rich qualities may stop your blood flow. As with the rest of the island, you'll mostly find locals here, so you'll know you've found the right spot. Via Roma, 45A, 80079 Procida NA, Italy

 

Do  

Maricella // A truly chic spot to shop in on Procida, and at prices that won't break the banca, Maricella offers a treasure trove of unique and cute finds, ranging from dresses, to jewelry, to shoes. I bought a pair of platform wedges for myself and I brought home and gifted a number of colorful bracelets to friends and family. I still wear some of those pieces to this day and smile thinking of the little shop on the little Italian island. Via Roma, 80079 Procida NA, Italy

 

Photo source: Maricella

 

Marina Corricella // This marina is the most iconic of the three on the island, namely for its pretty Easter egg-like coloring. Facing toward isola di Capri, it also has the best views. This marina is active both during the week, it remains a flourishing fishing village, and on weekends, when residents of Naples come out in droves on their boats and anchor by the port. Some remain lounging on their boats during the day, while others hail a dinghy to the restaurants and bars dotted along the marina. A most notable bar to visit in the marina is that of La Locanda del Postino, one of the film locations for the famous Italian flick, Il Postino, The Postman. 

 

 

 

 

Abbey of St. Michael // Walking up Via Salita Castello will be a work out, but you'll be rewarded with the most picturesque views of La Marina Corricella and its sweet enough to eat pastel colored houses. Along the way up to the abbey, you will spot several canons on your right side, which is where you ought take your camera out. The view from the top of the abbey is equally impressive. If you continue further up, you will find an old prison and an old fortress. 

 

 

 

Marina Chiaiolella // On the opposite side of the island from Marina Corricella, Chiaiolella is home to some delicious seaside restaurants, including Ristorante Da Mariano. Strolling along the pier is a great way to take in the island lifestyle. From the marina, you can take a short and adventurous walk on a pedestrian bridge to the little island of Vivara. 

 

Spiaggia Cala del Pozzo Vecchio // This beach is just about the best on the island. Long enough that you can take a leisurely walk, it gives you enough room to have some personal space from your fellow sunbathing, Italian neighbor. Look out for the unique rock formations jutting high out of the water. Black sand beaches mean the sun is even stronger, so pack your SPF. 

 

Walk the Island // The island is only so big, buses are almost non-existent, and taxis are sparse, so of course walking is inevitable. By striking out on your own, you'll instantly feel immersed in the locals' way of life, getting lost in tiny, winding streets, and looking up at huge lemons, growing in every available patch of green. You'll even get to intimately know those driving around; the roads are so narrow, that every time a car passes, pedestrians must stop and step onto front doorsteps to let the cars go by.  'Mi scusi,' the driver says, as you cling to the side of a building, protecting your toes from the wheels of his Fiat.

 

 

 

How to get to the Islands
There are a number of ways to get to, from, and between the islands. Most importantly, there are two different types of ferries. The hydrofoil ferry is the fastest option, as well as the pricier option, but only by a few euros. The most common port of departure to the islands is Molo Beverllo, Beverello marina in Naples, although there are also ferry ports in Pozzuoli and Sorrento. A journey on a hydrofoil to Ischia from Naples takes an hour. Naples to Procida is about 40 minutes, and to Capri the ferry is 50 minutes. The most convenient resource to figure out ferry schedules is the site, Naples Bay Ferry. Ferry prices average around 18 euros each way. 

 

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