Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Italian Prison

Nook of Naples:  Whenever I'm wandering around Naples close to the sea, I often ask my friends, "What is that island over there?"
"That one?" they point.
"Then that one?"

Three islands sit off the coast of Naples -- Capri, Ischia, and Procida.  On a clear day, they're visible from the Bay of Naples as well as from Mt. Vesuvius.

Capri is where you can visit the blue lagoon, the Villa of Tiberius, or enjoy the cafes and restaurants that make you feel you're inside the movie with Sophia Loren and Clark Gable, It Started In Naples.

Procida, while smaller with not much to see, has a stunning panorama of the sea captured in the photo that introduces my blog (above).  The island is also where the movie Cinema Paradiso was filmed.

Ischia is the spa island where you can receive all kinds of massages, herbal treatments, or take a bus ride to the lavish Gardens of Poseidon.  There, you can linger on their private beach or bathe all day in more than twelve different swimming pools.  (Though children are permitted in three pools only, all of which are cold water.)

But a fourth island struts directly off the Bay of Naples -- Nisida.  Harder to find by car (you get there by passing an industrial area near the Children's Science Center), Nisida has a causeway monitored by a security guard who always lets people pass.  Walking toward the island, Italian yachts line the harbor.  You can also see the Italian prison at the very top of the island.

While visitors aren't allowed at the prison, if you have an American military pass, you may go down the causeway, hang a left, and flash your ID in order to get past the gate.  Here, a tiny military base has yachts that Americans can rent for day-long sailing.  There is also an American yachting club that holds competitions during certain times of year.


Eleonora said...

I heard Nisida used to be a breathtakingly gorgeous resort place, with Art Nuveau buildings and stunning terraced cafes. Now it hosts a military presidio and a juvenile detention facility, whew what a change.
Some say Homer was inspired by Nisida as the famous home of the singing syrens luring Ulysses to their shores, is it true?


Deanna said...

Well duh....after all these years. I have lots of pictures of this island so I could say "That's where my cousin Angelo works"..he is a cop. I never knew it was a prison. He was a prison guard. Hmmmm, my mother never said that. Wonder why? Now I REALLY have to learn my Italian better, so I can ask him about it.
By the way...I really enjoy your blog! Buona giornata!

Barbara said...

Hi Eleonora!

Yes, you are right, it's a juvenile detention facility, not a prison. Mea culpa! Everyone always tells me 'that's the prison'.

Nisida, while still ruled by the Bourbons, was a notorious prison. (It's also where Brutus was said to have hatched his plot against Julius Caesar.)

While I never heard of the singing syrens luring Ulysses on Nisida, when the Greeks settled by the Bay they called their city 'Parthenope' -- named after a siren. Strabo mentioned that the tomb of Parthenope existed here and a torch race was held every year in her honor. But Pliny said that was just a myth.

I will have to check out more about Nisida having once been a resort. That's interesting! I couldn't find anything out about that.

Hi Deanna!
Yes, it would be interesting to find out what your cousin did on Nisida specifically. I went out there with my husband to check out the sailboats at the military base. Your cousin might have worked there as well.


Barbara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KRISTY said...

I believe you might be referring to the NATO Yacht Club which is located on Nisida. Their website is

Barbara said...

Yes, thanks, Kristy!!!!! This website was the one I've been looking for! My husband loves to sail!

Anonymous said...

Hello Barbara... thank you. I really enjoyed this one. We are thinking of our next trip to Naples and perhaps staying on Procida. What do you think? Cinema Paridiso is one of me favorite films. I always thought it was filmed in Sicily! Learn something everyday! Thank you. Melinda

Cherrye at My Bella Vita said...

Interesting. I never knew there was a fourth island off the coast. That is what so intriguing about Italy ... we have secrets everywhere. :)

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

It's like Baby Alcatraz kinda sorta ;) Thanks for sharing all this interesting info!