Part 11 - Naples / Ischia
Naples / Ischia
The last day of our beautiful journey took us once again to Naples.
There is probably no other city among the typical Mediterranean cruise ports that divides people’s minds as much as Naples. For some, Naples is the epitome of an ugly metropolis, for others it’s “Bella Napoli”. Where some only see daunting chaos in noisy traffic with no apparent order, others pick up on the Mediterranean flair of Neapolitan serenity. For us it might be just these contraditions that make us recongnize the charms behind the rugged facades each time we visit.
It is undisputed, however, that Naples has plenty to offer to cruise passengers when it comes to deciding on how to spend the day. As soon as you set foot outside the terminal, you are nearly run over by various providers. HoHo bus staff offer daily tickets for several different routes providing a great overview of the city by Mount Vesuvius. The buses run through densely populated, seemingly neglected neighborhoods but also through elegant business districts with expensive boutiques and venerable buidlings. Green parks, the St. Elmo fortress and the route to the western districts like Posillipo along the attractive coastal road complete these tours.
For passengers who don’t want to stay in town, there are taxi drivers and tour operators offering tours to the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Others will drive their guests to the Amalfi coast to postcard idylls like Positano and Sorrento. Some of the prices are state-regulated or can be called manageable at some EUR 230.00 for a taxi shared by 4 people.
In addition to the excursions on the mainland, there are also tours to Capri, the famous island attracting throngs of visitors like a magnet.
We had opted for another, lesser-known day trip – a tour to the island of Ischia. In some ways this was a visit to my personal past, as Ischia was an annual vacation destination for my parents and me when I was a little boy. That was more than 30 year ago, and I was happy that after all this time I’d be able to refresh some of the slowly fading images in my mind.
In my childhood days, old streamlined hydrofoils left for the island from „Beverello“ port right next to the cruise terminal. Nowadays, passengers can commute on modern speedboats covering the distance in roughly 45 minutes. Since the weather was perfect that day, there was no danger of getting stranded on the island due to a storm. So we we went to the counter, bought two return tickets (EUR 73.00 for both of us) and boarded a speed boat which left right on time only a few minutes later.
We passed the former Celebrity Zenith and our Reflection, and off we were, heading out to the Gulf of Naples. On the open upper deck we enjoyed the warm late summer sun as much as the beautiful views of Naples and Mount Vesuvius.
Shortly before we reached Ischia, the boat passed the island of Procida and its castle Terra Murata, which served as a prison until 1988 and was considered one of the safest and most notorious prisons in Italy.
Not much later we reached the green hilly island of Ischia and the port of the homonymous municipality. By now, I could see the memories of my childhood unwind again like a film in my mind’s eye.
After a smooth passage, the speedboat docked at the small port of Porto and we left it via the mobile gangway, full of zest for action.
As soon as we had left the boat and new passengers had found their seats, the ferry already took off again and turned in the port. The timetable was really respected to the minute.
The island of Ischia is a very popular holiday destination, as it offers a lot of variety. Long sandy beaches, exotic thermal gardens, hiking trails with breathtaking panoramas and wellness with mud treatments attract spa vacationers and recreation seekers again and again to he green island in the Gulf of Naples. Unlike Capri, there are fewer day tourists and more regular guests staying for longer periods of time. This makes for a more tranquil atmosphere.
We crossed the main street of the town towards Ischia Ponte, cute side streets, colorful houses, many shops and hotels lining our way.
Ischia Ponte is renowned for its old town and the Castello Aragonese enthroned on a small island off the coast, whose origins date back to the 5th century. In the 14th century, a bridge dam (Ponte) was built to connect the castle with the mainland and gave the district its present name.
This is also the location of the main churches in town, e. g. Chiesa Dello Spirito Santo.
Once you step out of the alleys of the old town onto Piazzale Aragonese, you cannot miss the district’s mighty landmark.
As a child, I found visits to the old castle terribly exciting. But today we left it at taking a look from the outside and had a little rest on the bollards of a pier overlooking small fishing boats, colorful houses and the castle before heading back along the beach sections on the shore.
This way we passed Hotel Alexander, our regular hotel over 30 years ago. Not much had changed.
The Lido, the large beach of the community of Ischia, is located just behind the hotel.
Here is something to make you laugh... some testimonies of my memories of Ischia. This was me on the Lido in 1978...
From here, we found the pedestrian zone leading towards the port, where I used to run ahead of my parents towards the next toy store when I was a little boy. The street hosts the typical shops of Italian tourist resorts as well as a little chapel, where a wedding ceremony was being held as we walked by.
And so we reached the little port with its bars and restaurants. Since we had an hour left until the departure of our speedboat, we sat down for a lunch break at the Riva Destra restaurant.
With friendly service, an excellent pizza and cold drinks we enjoyed the view of the port, and I told Birgit some of my adventures on the island back in the days...
When the time came, we walked the short distance to the other side of the port and boarded the speedboat back to Naples. I was fascinated that it left right on time again.
This time, we didn’t go straight back to the port of Napoli Beverello but made a first stop some kilometers before, in Napoli Mergellina. This was a nice opportunity to have a look at the colorful houses on the hill again, which we already enjoyed on one of the HoHo tours a few years before.
After a brief stop we went back to Beverello, our final destination. Again, we went past the hull of the Reflection, which looked gigantic from our seats. The inscription alone seemed to be as big as the entire speedboat.
On the square in front of the cruise terminal we noticed a new memorial which had been erected for the victims of the wave of refugees. A tragic and sad reminder of the terrible events of our time. For me personally also a reminder to be thankful for our good life in a wealthy country in peace and free of persecution.
Around 6.00 pm, again under the beautifully golden light of the setting sun, we bade farewell to Napoli and the Gulf of Naples – from the Sunset Bar, of course.
We had another beautiful evening with our „cruise family“, even though it was also a bit melancholic, as it heralded the end of our beautiful journey.
Once again, we had been so happy on a Celebrity ship that we would have loved to stay longer. Incredibly friendly staff looked after us and pampered us perfectly, and Gede and Aleksander in particular, our waiters at BLU, were simply fantastic.
But that’s not all. Our travel companions Linda and Pete had become dear friends and an inherent part of our daily routine. We experienced a lot together, exchanged many stories from our respective homes, laughed together until tears ran down our cheeks and simply had a lot of fun together. We didn’t use the term “cruise family “ just for fun, as both had grown dear to our hearts.
Linda and Pete, thank you once again for a fantastic time. You made this trip a very special one.
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