There are 3 islands off the coast near Naples: most people know Capri, but we'd never heard of Ischia or Procida. All were rumoured to be beautiful, but the ferry to Procida takes just 45 minutes: instant escape!
We left Naples overcast and drizzly, but Procida was sunny, instantly cheering us up. The port bustled with cafes and gift shops, whining still with the inevitable scooters. Two mins walk though, and it became a sleepy village of an island, all cobbled lanes and crumbling render: just what the doctor ordered. We booked into a little hotel and resolved to put airports from our minds.
It wasn't a big island: we could walk its length in 45 minutes, cross it in 20. The coast was a series of round bays with high cliffs: flooded volcano craters, trimmed with dark, volcanic sand. A daunting 16th century fortress of an historic centre stared down from a high cliff at one end.
We spent our days pottering between the three pretty fishing harbours, watching men making nets and learning to drink espresso. We relaxed in the sun for hours on largely deserted beaches, gorging on picnics of local fruit, cheese and salami.
I paddled and sketched. Though it was clearly a busy resort come summer, we were out-of-season, so things were wonderfully peaceful.
We did a day trip to Ischia, also lovely, but much busier. Ischia has volcanic hot springs and we found one bubbling up in the shallows at the edge of a beach, so hot, you could burn your feet.
We walked in the sulphurous crater of the Solfatara volcano on another day trip, to Pozzuoli. The ground was warm, even through our shoes and, all around us, steam whisped and curled out of the earth.
At several places across the huge crater, foul-smelling vapour jetted into the air from larger, orange holes, like the spouts of putrid kettles.
If you are interested, there are more sketches from the islands posted on my Picture Gallery.