Nisida, Porto Paone, the lesser known side of the island 

Nisida is an island of many facets and fascinating places, among which Porto Paone stands out. This less known corner of the island is a real hidden treasure near Posillipo. 


Many tourists focus on the most famous destinations of Naples and its surroundings, but there is a less known and less visible side of Nisida that deserves to be known: we are talking about Porto Paone. Nisida is home to the juvenile prison and can only be visited at certain times during organized visits. 

What does the name Nisida mean? 

The name is linked to the Greek term “nesida”, which means “small island”. In fact it is an island of volcanic origin in an almost completely circular shape, the smallest in the archipelago of the Flegree islands.  

Nisida between mythology and history 

Where is Nisida Island? The fascinating island of the Flegree archipelago is a place rich in history and myths that have shaped its identity over the centuries.  

According to some interpretations, the island of Polyphemus mentioned by Homer could correspond to the small island that stands near the extension of the hilly area of Posillipo. In particular, Porto Paone would be the natural bay where Odysseus landed and left his ships before venturing into the cyclops cave.

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Today, these areas still evoke a sense of connection with the mythological past and offer a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in ancient history. 

Not just Greek mythology. In the Roman period, Nisida played a significant role as a place of retreat, hosting Lucius Licinius Lucullus, Marcus Junius Brutus and Cicero among many. 

During the Middle Ages, then, Constantine the Great donated the island to the church of Naples and from the monastery of Nisida started a conversion work by Abbot Hadrian. 

Giovanni Piccolomini, son of Giovanna d’Aragona and later Duke of Amalfi, restructured the castle built in defense of the dethroning attack and helped to transform the area into a place of attraction for nobles and artists. It was during this period that the island also inspired foreign authors, such as Cervantes. 

Then the island passed from hand to hand, from Pietro Borgia (prince of Squillace) to Matteo Capua (prince of Conca) up to Vincenzo Macedonio (marquis of Roggiano). 

In the nineteenth century, the watchtower of Nisida, given the circular shape of the island and the difficult position to reach, was transformed into a penal institution. The goal was to manage prison difficulties, trying to improve the conditions and quality of life of prisoners (among whom there was also the patriot and deputy Carlo Poerio). 

Today, Nisida continues to be an island of great charm and the prison has been transformed into a juvenile rehabilitation center after the end of the Bourbons. 

Nisida, the island that isn’t there 

Almost completely circular and over a hundred meters above sea level, you hear about Nisida as de “the island that there is” and this happens because the islet emerges from the sea at the end of the extension of the hill of Posillipo.

Practically the walkable pier that connects it to the mainland takes away the typical characteristics of an island, making it a peninsula. 

However, its uniqueness is to be far away, despite being close, because of what it hosts: what is on the island of Nisida? The Criminal Institute for Minors that inspired the fiction Mare Fuori by Rai. 

Porto Paone, the lesser known side of the island 

Nisida is divided between the traces of the military garrison and the juvenile prison it houses and for this reason it is almost “forgotten” by those who live on the mainland. This however kept the crescent-shaped islet intact. 

The small island is almost completely circular, except for a portion to the south-west where opens the creek of Porto Paone, probably one of the best preserved pearls. 

Porto Paone corresponds to the ancient caldera of the volcano that gave rise to the Phlegraean islands in the gulf of Pozzuoli (included within the gulf of Naples).


Called “Paone” because of its resemblance to the peacock’s tail, the bay is embraced by imposing cliffs covered with vegetation very difficult to reach. 

Currently in the part of the inlet of Porto Paone there is the juvenile penitentiary with the main part of the building overlooking the south-eastern side of the island.  

How to get to Porto Paone 

The town of Coroglio di Posillipo can be reached by car or public transport, but the island is not open to the public. Why can’t you enter Nisida? The island is home to the juvenile prison.  

The natural inlet has high and rocky shores and a very narrow access in the southern part of the small island of volcanic origin. In addition, a rock rises right in the narrowing. 

In the port there is the prohibition of access and stop in the inlet to any boat, except for military and police naval units. 

Periodically, thanks to the commitment of cultural associations, Nisida can be explored at certain times of the year participating in organized tours.

Copertina: napolilike

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