Campania is a southwestern region in Italy, often considered poor and full of crimes. Truth is that this place boasts a lot more than unemployment and mafia. Here, you can find a particularly authentic Italian setting of colourful houses and narrow, meandering streets; lively conversations and packed pizza places; lemon liquor and the flavour of freshly-baked desserts. If you fancy spending some time in a small romantic island – you should most definitely stop by this region. Capri, Ischia and Procida are the three islands of Campania, each of them worth seeing and experiencing.
Ischia is the largest of the three islands. During the 8th century BC it has been conquered by the Greeks. They named it “Island of the monkeys” because it was full of primates at the time. It is believed that a volcano eruption caused all the monkeys to disappear. However, there is still a lot to do and see, starting with a trek in the mountainside or a spa session in some of the hot springs and the natural mud baths. In the 15th century the island was captured by the Spanish kingdom of Castile and the king Alfonso V ordered the reconstruction of the old Greek fortification. Nowadays, you can visit the Aragon castle. It used to shield over 1900 families from the frequent raids of pirates during the Middle Ages.
Procida is both the smallest and the most authentic of the islands. It does not offer a selection of attractions, but a moving picture of a rather idyllic lifestyle far from the tourist crowds. Most visitors come here to immerse themselves in a calm atmosphere where the time is almost standing still. Follow the steep narrow streets that will lead you to the highest point on the island – Terra murata (fenced land). Here you will have the most lovely view over the nearby slopes. Due to the lack of funding everything in Procida is charmingly untended. The old prison, the monastery and the abbey, are all left at the mercy of nature. Anywhere else in the world this would seem horrific. But in Italy even the ruins have the air of romance.
Capri is undoubtedly the most famous of the islands of Campania. As you are approaching it, its silhouette gradually appears as a mirage in the sparkling Mediterranean waters. According to legends Capri was populated with mythical creatures. The ancient Greek poet Homer has written about cruel giants and vicious sirens that endangered the life of anyone daring to sail in those waters. It was by the shores of Capri that the hero Odysseus was enchanted by the sirens that had caused the death of many sailors. I guess that these creatures, too, disappeared due to seismic activity. Because during Jesus’ time, emperor Tiberius retreated to the island to get a peaceful retirement. He was so in love with Capri that he even had 12 villas there! Many present-day celebrities share the same taste with Tiberius. They, however, have settled for a single mansion. It seems like the island is a magnet for influential people because Lenin has also spent holidays here.
The Augustine gardens on the island have one of the most breathtaking views you can ever wish for. The Blue grotto, where besides the darkness, the sea water glows in a fluorescent blue, is also popular amongst visitors.
Every island has a unique charm and character. You can visit each of them on a one-day trip from the mainland. Whether you choose to try water sports and boutique shopping in Capri, or an Italian gelato during sunset in Procida, or cultural tourism in Ischia, you will be fascinated. If the Italian sun is a big too strong for you – have a refreshing dip in the crystal waters around!
Useful information: All of the islands are about 40 to 60 minutes away from the ports of Naples and Sorrento. A return ferry ticket costs around 20 euro and it can be purchased online or at the cash desks on the ports.
While you’re visiting the region, another must-see is the Amalfi coast.