As you may remember we used Procida Island as our base for a week with a plan to alternate between hanging out on the island and doing day trips on the mainland and to other islands.
It turned out to be a great idea (if I do say so myself!). One day with no agenda exploring the nooks, laneways and beaches of Procida, followed by a day of hard-core exploring off the island.
Doing day-trips from Procida is very do-able but the ferry/hydrofoil schedules from SNAV and Caremar will become your new best friends while you do it. I kept photos of them on my phone and referred to them constantly. If you miss one it can be a looooong wait for the next one, so be warned.
The other thing is that it’s not exactly cheap at around 8 Euros each to Ischia and 13 Euros each to Napoli, one way. Locals get a heavily discounted rate (quite a few people live on Procida and commute to Napoli) and I jealously eyed off their special cards. But for us the trade-off of staying somewhere small, beautiful and quiet more than made up for it.
So where did we go?
Adventure #1 – Isola di Ischia
I’d seen a TV program (NB not ALL my ideas come from TV!) about some public gardens on Ischia and so that formed the basis of our plan.
Ischia is an island close to Procida (about 4kms away) in the Bay of Naples and is quite big, so we needed wheels to get around. We had noble plans of using local buses but it was my birthday and to be honest we just really couldn’t be bothered so we caught taxis all day. They were easy to find but expensive. Perhaps a scooter would have been a better idea, although we didn’t really know where we were going so perhaps not!
Our first stop was Giardini Ravino, a stunning cacti and succulent garden. You’d have to really like this type of thing to enjoy it, and we do so we loved it!
After that it was off to Giardini La Mortella (the one I’d seen on TV), a botanic garden built by an English couple in the last half of last century. From my journal: “It’s beautiful, and built up a hill with terraces. Gorgeous views. Plants from all over the world. A Greek theatre, a museum, a cafe. A lovely place to stroll around”.
We didn’t have time to see much else on Ischia but from the taxi window it looks really beautiful. Very green, with lots of fancy hotels, beach clubs and expensive boats everywhere. I imagine this would be a great destination for a resort-style holiday.
For more information:
Giardini Ravino here
Giardini La Mortella here
Adventure #2 – Pompeii & Herculaneum
If you’re in the neighbourhood you really have to see Pompeii, right? We went but I have to say we didn’t love it. We do love antiquities but having seen other places over the years (like Ephesus in Turkey and the Greek temples in Sicily), it’s really not awe-inspiring. It probably didn’t help that we hired the world’s most useless audio guide. We might have liked it better if we’d had a real human guide instead who could take us to the highlights and include the stories that makes these things more interesting. The best bits for us were the forum, the faun villa, the Greek theatre, the brothel, the baths and the dead bodies. The bodies, or lack thereof, were a real disappointment actually – we both expected to see load of them, but there were only two that we could find.
Lunch however was insanely good. We bought panini in the cafeteria there and didn’t expect much since it’s so overrun with tourists. But it was the BEST SANDWICH OF OUR TRIP! Seriously. Real buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes like only the Italians can grow, prosciutto, and rocket. Divine. Can you imagine ever getting anything like that at a tourist destination in Australia? No, I thought not. And it was cheap!
We had heard that Herculanaeum was really worth seeing, so after lunch we dragged our tired legs and sore heads (we both had really bad headaches by this stage) and caught the train a few stops back towards Napoli. Once there we avoided the shuttle bus touts (they make it sound like it’s a long walk, but it’s not) and walked the few blocks to the entrance.
From the entrance you look down on the site so you get a really good idea of what’s there before you go in. It’s small (which was a godsend after wandering semi-aimlessly around Pompeii for hours) but has pretty much all of the same ‘best ofs’ that Pompeii has, and without the crowds. It was practically deserted …
We much preferred Herculaneum to Pompeii, and I want to say I wished I’d skipped Pompeii altogether but since I was in the neighbourhood and all …
Getting there is pretty easy although you need an early start. It’s a ferry to Naples, a walk to the station, then a train to Pompeii. We caught the 7.30am ferry and arrived at Pompeii at 10am. Herculaneum is a few stops back towards Napoli on the same line. Then you reverse the sequence and you’re home!
Adventure #3 was Napoli and I feel I should give it it’s own post, so that one’s coming next!
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Until next time, safe travels,
The Travelling Pantaloni