Both Ischia and Procida belong to the group of volcanic islands in the Bay of Naples known as the Phlegrean islands. Ischia, the largest of all the islands within the Gulf, is characterised by scenery of an extraordinary beauty, largely unaltered by the presence of man. With its abundance of thermal springs and volcanic mud, the island is a spa goer's paradise. The significantly smaller Procida, on the other hand, still conserves its ancient fishing tradition, tradition which forms the basis of the island's economy.

After Sicily and Sardinia, Ischia is Italy's third largest island in terms of population density. The island's flourishing tourist industry is, without shadow of doubt, result of the basin of thermal water lying below the surface. The basin is one of the largest in Europe, and the source of some 103 springs and 67 fumaroles. Thousands of tourists from all over the world visit Ischia, eager to reap the benefits of the waters used in the island's numerous spa establishments.

Among the six districts, that of Ischia, divided in the fractions of Ischia Ponte and Ischia Porto, is the largest and best known. Ischia Ponte still conserves its appearance as characteristic fishing village lying at the foot of the Aragon Castle. The fortified complex, now a privately owned property, is accessed via a tunnel dug out of the rock. Here, visitors find the Church of the Immacolata, dating back to the 18th century and now a fabulous venue for art and photographic exhibitions, the Cathedral of the Assunta, and the Piazza d'Armi, this latter opening out on to the terraces built in the 15th century by Alfonso d'Aragona.

Just 4kms from Ischia Porto lies Casamicciola Terme, once the preferred spa town of the Bourbons. Tracing the coast, we come to Lacco Ameno which, in the 1950's, reached celebrity status thanks to its popularity among the international Jet Set. High on the list of the illustrious personages to have frequently stayed in Lacco Ameno we find the name of the film director Luchino Visconti who purchased "Villa La Colombaia" to serve as his sumptuous island residence. The property has now been transformed in Cultural Foundation where both itinerant and permanent exhibitions are held.

Once beyond Caruso Point, home to some of Ischia's most beautiful villas, we reach the beach of Citara and the Gardens of Poseidon: the most famous thermal park on the island. In Forio, visitors are greeted by a maze of little roads, typical of the medieval period. This is where to find the 16th century Church "del soccorso", built in honour of the Madonna, protector of Sailors.

Sant'Angelo is located on the Southern side of the island. This charming village, with a population of no more than 600, is a completely car free zone. On the 29th of September, St Michael Archangel's Day, the village is transformed by the lights of a spectacular firework display.

Procida is the least visited of the three islands in the Gulf of Naples and perhaps for this reason it has managed to conserve all of its age-old charm, epitomised by the modest little cottages clustered together in typical Mediterranean style. The untarnished beauty of Procida has enamoured many an artist and writer, the most famous of which the novelist Elsa Morante who set her "The Island of Arthur" here. Procida has provided the set for numerous films of international renown. Recent award winning movies to be filmed here include Michael Radford's "The Postman" and Anthony Minghella's "The Talented Mr Ripley".

Boats to Procida dock at Marina Grande, the island's only commercial port, directly in front of which there is Palazzo Montefusco, one of Procida's most important historical buildings. Still in the vicinity of the port, there is the 18th century Church of Santa Maria della Pietà, situated within a little square lined with shops and boutiques. The historic center of Procida is best represented by the walled village of "Terra Murata" and the Castle built by the Cardinal Innico d'Avalos in 1563. The Benedictine Abbey of San Michele Arcangelo, occupies a stunning position overlooking the sea.

The islet of Vivara can be accessed by foot - along a bridge which links the little island with that of Procida. A veritable natural oasis, the whole of this uninhabited islet has been declared State Nature Reserve.

Rising up out of the waters directly in front of the Sorrentine peninsula, is the island of Capri: one of Italy's most sought-after tourist destinations, where lush gardens alternate with sumptuous villas and boutiques filled with designer fashions. Capri has been a favourite holiday resort of the rich and famous since the times when the Roman emperors built their palaces and seaside villas here. Those in search of somewhere just as beautiful yet more peaceful than the celebrity packed town of Capri, should head for Anacapri, located on the highest part of the island. The island of Capri is linked to the mainland by ferries and hydrofoil connections which depart from both Naples and Sorrento. A spectacular vision of the old fishing village of Marina Grande greets visitors as they approach the island. In the immediate vicinity of the port, there are the ruins of the Palazzo a Mare: Emperor Augustus' impressive sea edge villa.

Obligatory the stop at the famous Piazzetta, and its stylish bars, the tables of which spill out in to THE square where to be seen and be seen being seen. From the piazza, with its characteristic bell tower complete with majolica faced clock, visitors enter the historic center of Capri where, amidst narrow lanes and barrel and cross vaulted dwellings, they come across the Palazzo Cerio, now the town's principal museum. Having walked along Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Camerelle, the most fashionable of the islands shopping streets, visitors reach the Charterhouse of St Giacomo. This enchanting monastic complex is surrounded by gardens brimming with flowers, flowers from which the monks extracted those essences which came to form the basis of Capri's long standing perfume making tradition.

A moment or two of relaxation should be enjoyed in the nearby Parco Augustus, a fabulously panoramic garden from where to admire stunning views of the Faraglioni, Monte Tuoro, and the Bay of Marina Piccola. Of course, nobody can say they have experienced Capri without having first taken part in a tour around the island by boat, exploring the succession of tiny bays, inlets, and hidden coves and sea caves which punctuate the coast line. The most famous of the sea caves is, of course, the Grotta Azzurra, which takes its name from the intense blue color of the waters.

Those wishing to reach Anacapri, may do so by bus or taxi but also via the ancient flight of steps which from the port of Marina Grande leads all the way up to the walls of Anacapri, coming to an end in the vicinity of Villa San Michele. Villa San Michele, the one time residence of the Swedish physician and author, Axel Munthe, was built on the site of an old roman villa and is now a fascinating museum. The historic center of Anacapri is protected by the imposing form of Monte Solaro, the summit of which can be reached by foot or via an exhilarating journey by chairlift. The Church of San Michele, with its exquisite majolica pavement depicting the Earthly Paradise, and the Church of Santa Sofia are both more than worthy of visit. For nature lovers there are a number of enchanting walking routes through the countryside of Anacapri and along the coast past the 19th century blockhouses which once defended the island from attack.