Ischia and Procida are two unspoiled islands in the Bay of Naples. Unlike their better-known sister island Capri, these two little gems are affordable, more local, and full of character -- what they lack in million-dollar yachts and designer shopping, they more than make up for in natural beauty and charm.
Since it was the end of the September neither Ischia nor Procida were crowded and my hotel for two nights was a steal (I stayed at the Hotel Parco Conte in Casamicciola on Ischia). I hopped on the high-speed train from Florence to Naples after work Friday, and from Naples both Ischia and Procida are just a ferry ride away (this website is a wonderful resource on the islands and transport).
I spent my first day in Ischia exploring the entire island… and I mean all of it. I was a bit overzealous and ended up walking more than 12km. In my defense it was a gorgeous day and there was just more to see on foot! I started at the exquisite Mortella Botanical Gardens (which has more species of plants than I knew existed) before heading to the town of Forio. From Forio, I took the bus halfway to the quaint (and traffic-free) town of Sant’Angelo. Neither Forio nor Sant’Angelo have attractions or major sites, per se, they are mostly just adorable little towns perfect for exploring, shopping, relaxing on the beach, or enjoying a meal while people watching in the main square.
In the afternoon I headed to Ischia Porto (which is the main town on the island) to explore the Aragon Castle. This castle was definitely the highlight of my trip (#historynerd). After the fall of the Roman Empire, the inhabitants of Ischia, which was an important trading city, protected themselves from invasion and pirates by fortifying an even smaller island just off the port that offered natural protection and was easily defensible. Throughout the Middle Ages this complex grew and the entire population of island took refuge within its walls when necessary. In 1441 Alfonso of Aragon (the King of Aragon) built the castle we see today. Under Alfonso the castle and its court grew substantially. Although the castle is now partly in ruins, it retains its royal grandeur – with vines and flowers growing over and around old castle walls and a roof-less church overlooking the bay. It is definitely a must-see!
The next day I hopped on the ferry to explore the neighboring island of Procida. Procida is even more untouched by tourism and modernity than Ischia. It is a charming and very colorful fishing village.
After a quick hike around Procida I was back on the ferry and heading towards Naples to return to Florence. It was a quick trip, but I am so glad I finally got to explore these amazing islands!