Dining out Ischia_Villa Italy

Ischia Cuisine: Our favourite restaurants

Campania is a region renowned for its deliciously unpretentious cuisine. The traditional diet combines farm produced and agricultural ingredients, with fruits of the sea. Gifted with a rich and fertile soil: tomatoes, aubergine, peppers, garlic and herbs are all staple ingredients to traditional dishes. And heavenly aromatic fruits grow in abundance throughout the countryside.

Neapolitan pizza prepared with the finest Campania wheat flour and Mozzarella di Bufala DOP, is nothing less than a work of culinary art. And the region’s mellow extra virgin olive oil drizzled over Focaccia bread is one of life’s simple pleasures, as are two of my favourite regional dishes, parmigiana di melanzane (aubergine/ eggplant parmesan bake) and spaghetti alla puttanesca (spaghetti whore’s style!).

Ischia might be cut off from mainland Campania, but it’s gastronomy and restaurant choice is no less gratifying, boasting traditional dishes that have been honed to perfection over the centuries. Coniglio all’Ischitana (Ischian Rabbit Stew), local seafood and pizza jostle for prime place on the menu, and only on Ischia will you find the ancient traditional of cucina delle  fumarole (cooking on the island’s hot springs) still prevalent today.

If you are looking for an Italian foodie destination, Ischia will not disappoint. Combine Campania and Neapolitan cuisine with the most elegant and laid-back of islands. What more could one ask for?

Some of our favourite restaurants are listed below. We’d love you to send us your favourites and we’ll add them to the list!

Il Delfino

Il Delfino is a fourth destination restaurant located beachside in Lacco Ameno with gorgeous views from the terrace across the beach to the marina. The chef uses only the best quality ingredients to prepare the dishes on the European-biased menu. Speciality of the house is Spaghetti alle Vongole. Or choose from fresh fish of the day, pasta and more.

Corso Angelo Rizzoli, 116
80076 Lacco Ameno (NA)
Tel. +39 081 900252
More info on Il Delfino

spaghetti vongole_Ischia_Villa Italy

Il Saturnino

Il Saturnino in Forio is an institution on Ischia. Serving Michelin standard cuisine, the menu is seasonal and the wine list excellent. You can’t visit Ischia without eating here. We especially love the appetizers, such as raw yellowtail with basmati rice, anchovy pie with cianfottina zucchini and eggplant, and the stuffed squids with shrimps.

Via Marina sul porto –
Forio d’Ischia, Ischia, NA,
Tel. +39 081 998296
Il Saturnino website



Wine producers, Pietratorcia, have two restaurants on Ischia. One set amongst the vineyards of Panza, and the other in the coastal town of Forio. The restaurant is small, and personal, so make sure you book a table. The cuisine is distinctly Ischian and Mediterranean, with ingredients strictly from Ischia and Campania. Traditional Ischian rabbit stew is a menu staple, fresh fish and seafood, Gragnano pasta and vegetables from giardino di Pietratorcia (straight from their market garden). And of course the wine list is exceptional. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner from April through to November.

Via Provinciale Panza, 401
Località Cuotto
Tel. +39 081 90 72 32
Pietratorcia website


Umberto a Mare

Frequently featured in the Top 10 Restaurants in Italy with Views, Umberto a Mare offers an exquisite dining experience with simply some of the most breathtaking views on the island. The terrace houses just 10 tables with views to the sea, but both dining rooms also have window views. The menu is highly priced, but worth it. The menu changes daily, showcasing creative cuisine, inspired by traditional Ischian dishes.

Via Soccorso, 2
80075 – Forio d’Ischia
Tel. +39081997171
Umberto a Mare website


Neapolitan pizza_Ischia Villa ItalyBella Napoli

The best pizza on the island! Bella Napoli is situated in Forio’s historical centre. Cooked in a wood fired oven, their pizzas are leavened and prepared according to the great Neapolitan pizza maestros. The atmosphere is fun and upbeat, just as a pizza restaurant should be.

Via Marina, 18
80075 Forio d’Ischia
Tel. +39 081 986392
Bella Napoli website


Il Limoneto da Ciccio

A traditional pizzeria situated in the heart of Forio, also serving a good selection of fresh fish and pasta dishes. Family-run Il Limoneto is very popular with locals and has a nice relaxed atmosphere. The dining room is cheerfully decorated, or sit outside in the restaurant garden.

Via Baiola, 94, 80075 Forio
Tel. +39 081 333 2009
More info on Il Limoneto de Ciccio


Il Bracconiere

Set on Mount Epomeo in Serrara Fontana, Il Bracconiere is the place to try the famous Coniglio all’ischitana (Ischian rabbit), but make sure you order in advance when you book your table. The menu offers mainly meat dishes, a welcome change for the coastal seafood, pasta and pizza specialities. And the views are spectacular. Another must visit restaurant on Ischia.

Via Falanga, 1, Serrara Fontana
Tel +39 081 999436
More info on Il Bracconiere

Da Mario

Beachside restaurant Da Mario’s in Maronti, serves delicious food in a relaxing environment. Fronted by a private beach, you can make a day of it and hire a sun lounger, or head over especially to sample the food, or an evening aperitif. The seafood pasta is especially good, as is the Bruschetta. Of all the restaurants in Maronti, Da Mario’s is our favourite.

Spiaggia dei Maronti
80070, Barano d’Ischia
Tel. +39 081 990 394
More Info on Da Mario

Il Giardino Eden

Il Giardino Eden, the Garden of Eden, is situated in Cartaromana Bay. The restaurant forms part of the Eden Hotel & Spa and affords wonderful views to the Castello Aragonese. The setting is very romantic; a lovely spot for dinner on a summer’s evening. You can catch the shuttle boat over, which makes the whole experience even better. The menu is fish biased, but there are pasta and vegetarian options available.

Via Nuova Cartaromana, 62, Ischia
Tel. +39 081 985015
Il Giardino Eden website


La vigna di Alberto

This charming restaurant is off the beaten track, which makes the experience even more delightful. Set amongst the vineyards in Fiaiano, La vigna di Alberto brings authentic cuisine to modern Ischia. The dishes are deeply rooted in local tradition and history. The atmosphere and decor is welcoming, and there is a lovely garden where you can enjoy views to Ischia Porto. The homemade pasta dishes are simply divine.

Via G. Garibaldi, 57 – Fiaiano – Barano d’Ischia
Tel. +39 081 901193
More info on La vigna di Alberto

La Scarrupata

Set between Ischia Porto and Maronti beach, La Scarrupata can only be reached by boat, making it a popular eatery for yacht owners. Also known as La Pace, the menu is influenced by fish and seafood, although pasta and meat dishes also feature and are equally as tempting. The setting in the bay is delightful and the atmosphere unhurried. If you wish to stay longer, there are sun loungers down by the shore, where you can chill out after lunch and watch the world go by.

Spiaggia Della Scarrupata, Barano d’Ischia
Tel. +39 368 489 084

Forte dei Marmi_Apuan Coast_Villa Italy

Tuscany for your next Italian beach escape? Here’s why…

When one thinks of Tuscany it’s normally of rolling hills and picturesque villages, the fabulous cities of Florence, Pisa and Siena; a region rich in artistic and gastronomical heritage. So much art, so much history, it’s easy to forget that Tuscany also has a whole lot going for it down on the coast.

Boasting one of Italy’s most spectacular and diverse coastlines, the Tuscan coast stretches for 250 miles, shifting from stripy deck chair chic, to swathes of unspoilt dunes, and the rocky bays and coves where languid yachts drop anchor and bask in the crystalline waters of the Mediterranean, under the warm Italian sun.

It doesn’t get much better than a Tuscany beach holiday, and if you need more convincing, we’ve rolled everything Tuscany has to offer into one trip, and voila we present the perfect Italian beach holiday.

Versatile Versilia

Affectionately known as the Tuscan Riviera, the coastline of Versilia in the northwestern corner of Lucca, is popular with fashionistas, captains of industry and those looking for a super cool summer beach hangout. The coast attracts visitors for its golden sandy beaches, and calm seas, nightlife and boutique shopping. And there’s plenty of all of that in the quintessentially Italian town of Forte dei Marmi.

Forte dei Marmi is also an excellent base for those who want to explore the rest of the Versilia region during their stay. The town provides the perfect Tuscan holiday base, combining beach chic with the opportunity to explore the highlights of Tuscany’s culturally rich interior. Florence, the birthplace of the renaissance movement is just 90 minutes drive, and in no time at all you could be gazing at the leaning tower of Pisa, or wandering the ancient streets of Lucca, both are under 40 minutes away by car.

If you don’t want to stray too far from home, there is plenty to see and do along the coast. The town of Pietrasanta might only be 15 minutes drive from Forte dei Marmi, but the town is a world apart from the glitz of the coast. Known as the Little Athens of Italy, Pietrasanta is a charming medieval town, set between the Apuan Alps and the Mediterranean sea. Since the 12th century artists have come from far and wide, originally inspired by the Versilia artistic marble-working tradition, this is where Michelangelo learnt his trade.

Viareggio, Tuscany

The coast of Versilia also has a history steeped in art and culture, the main seaside resort of Viareggio dates back to the 13th century, and was the original port city, with an old fort that protected the Versilia region from marauders. Four centuries later and the old port town developed into a fashionable tourist destination thanks to Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, Paolina Borghese. The town is also celebrated for its artistic heritage, and for one of the world’s most colourful and spectacular carnivals.

The Apuan Coast

Sandwiched between the Apuan Alps and the Mediterranean, the Apuan coastline is the favoured destination for those seeking the ultimate Italian beach vacation.

To the northern end of the Apuan coastline, the landscape shifts dramatically from overhanging cliffs, which dip down to the azure sea, to wide stretches of sand. The views are breathtaking: a panorama of mountains and Mediterranean, dotted with seaside villages and traditional Tuscan villas. High class resorts aside, the Apuan coastline is also rich in the culture and traditions of Tuscany.

The beach resort town of Forte dei Marmi is one of the highlights in this symbiosis of Mediterranean charm. It is one of the most exclusive holiday destinations in Italy, which means you’ll be rubbing shoulders with VIPs, movie actors, fashion royalty; maybe even an opera singer or two…

Tuscan Hill Towns & Countryside

Piazza Anfiteatro, Lucca

Piazza Anfiteatro, Lucca

It’s easy to fill up your holiday with beach, art, architecture and culture when you travel to Tuscany, but we highly recommend you take a day or two to explore Tuscany’s interior, with its medieval villages surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Set amongst undulating hills and Cypress forests.

If you are staying in Forte dei Marmi take your pick and visit any of these beautiful Tuscan hill towns in under two hours:

Calci (50 mins)

Poor Calci had no choice but be caught up in the medieval wars between Florence and Siena, being strategically in between the two. Lying at the foot of Monti Pisani, the farming commune of Calci is a peaceful town, surrounded by terraces of olive groves and overlooked by Monte Serra. On a clear day you can see to Pisa and the islands of the Tuscan archipelago.

Orrido di Botri (1hr)

Set in a nature reserve of extreme beauty, Orrido di Botri is a canyon gorge that has been carved out of the limestone landscape over many centuries. The scenery is spectacular, walk along the dry riverbed from Ponte a Gaio, along to the gorge itself.

Barga_Tuscany_Villa Italy

Barga (1hr20)

How to describe Barga ? Renaissance architecture and Florentine Duomo backed by snowy Alpine hills with a twist.

The twist? Scottish red phone boxes and fish and chip festivals!

Photo of Barga.

Lucca (31 minutes)

Visit Lucca just to marvel at the encircling Renaissance stone bulwark, the best preserved example in all of Tuscany. The walls are covered in Cypress and Eucalyptus trees, and capped in greenery, making it entirely walkable.

Fosdinovo (43 mins)

In the heart of the Apuan Alps, lies the charming town of Fosdinovo. There is so much to love about Fosdinovo: spectacular views to the Tyrrhenian Sea, charming trattorias, serving

Tuscan cuisine

Tagliatelle Tartufo

Stop the press! There is no such thing as Italian cuisine. Each Italian region has its own cuisine, its own emblematic dishes, and here in Tuscany, the accent is on rustic fare, Cucina Povera (poor/peasant cooking). ‘Poor’ in name, but so rich and flavourful. Simple ingredients and inexpensive local ingredients make the most hearty of stews, soups and pasta dishes.

Ok, we admit that there are certain dishes that are enjoyed all over Italy. In Tuscany, as in many other regions, meals might commence with antipasto of cured meats, or a simple platter of cured meats (affettati misti); another popular starter is crostini di fegato – finely sliced toast with liver pate.

Delicious Ribollita

In Italy, soup isn’t always a starter, in the cooler months, it can also be served as a healthy and hearty main course. Try ribollita – a typical vegetable and bread soup, Pappa al Pomodoro, a delicious tomato soup, or zuppa di fagioli (Cannellini bean soup).

In fact it’s unusual to find a menu without Cannellini beans in Tuscany. The Tuscans are affectionately known as mangiafagioli (bean eaters). Fagioli con salsiccia is one such dish, made with Cannellini beans and Tuscan sausage. Divino!

Don’t worry if you are a #pastaphile. There are plenty of delicious pasta dishes on the local menus. Tagliatelle al tartufo (above), pasta covered with truffle sauce is one of the region’s prized pasta dishes.

Tuscany Festivals

Carnevale di Viareggio

When in Tuscany, it would be rude not to seek out one of the region’s many festivals that take place throughout the year. You might even want to plan your trip around one, as the festivals of Tuscany are a highlight for many towns, some dating back to medieval times.

If you come alive in a carnival atmosphere, head to the Viareggio Carnevale (above), which takes place in February and March. The carnival is world renown for its massive paper maché floats, which are designed and built each year.

One of our favourites is the Palio di Siena, or Il Palio. A horse race that takes place twice a year, 2nd July and 16th August, in Siena’s Piazza del Campo. Each year ten riders, representing 10 of the city’s wards of the city, ride bareback in Piazza del Campo.

Just 25 minutes from Forte dei Marmi is Torre del Lago, home of the annual Puccini Opera Festival, which takes place through July and August. One of the most important dates on the opera calendar, over 40,000 opera enthusiasts visit the festival each year.

The Bravio delle Botti, a barrel-rolling festival, takes place in Montepulciano during the last week of August.

If you are craving a beach holiday. Italy and the Tuscan coast beckon. Villa Monti di Luna, in Forte dei Marmi is the perfect luxury vacation base from which to explore the best of Italian art, culture and cucina Toscana.  

Pantelleria_Travel Guide_Villa Italy

Travel guide to Pantelleria: Five Reasons to Visit

Pantelleria_Travel Guide_Villa Italy

The island of Pantelleria is situated in the Strait of Sicily, between Sicily and Tunisia. While it remains pleasantly undiscovered by international tourists, it has all the trumps for making a great holiday destination. But let’s keep that between ourselves.

The volcanic outcrop can best be described as a melting lava pot of Arab and Italian culture. The petrified landscape is tamed by terraced slopes of vineyards, caper bushes, thermal mud pools and ancient Dammusi.

Here are five reasons why Pantelleria should be the number one destination on your Italian bucket list.

Afro Italian Gastronomy

Caponata_Pantelleria cuisine_Villa Italy

Despite being an Italian island, Pantelleria is fiercely proud of its Arab roots, and there is no great proof than in Pantesco cuisine. On the threshold of Africa: it’s closer to Tunisia than to Italy; the North African influence is evident. Ingredients, such as couscous, honey, spices and dried fruit, play an important role in the island’s dishes. Fused with the staple ingredients of the island: capers (reputed to be the best in Italy, if not in the world), olives, aubergine (eggplant), tomatoes and olive oil, this Afro Italian cuisine is distinctive and delicious.

Contrary to archetypical island custom, Pantelleria doesn’t have a big fishing tradition, so most fish is imported from the mainland. Typically one can expect to find octopus, lobster, sardines, bream, shellfish, tuna and mackerel on a Pantesco menu. Fish is typically served baked with tomatoes and capers, or lightly fried.

Capers with salt_Pantelleria_Villa ItalyOf course pasta is on the menu, and one of the favourite local pasta dishes is Pantesco Pesto. No parmesan is used in this version, instead capers, tomatoes, herbs, olive oil, and almonds are combined together and served with pasta, or on top of Bruschetta. Or try the Ravioli Armari, a pasta stuffed with Tumma (a local cheese) and mint leaves.

Gelato (ice cream) from Pantelleria has one main ingredient missing: the cream. It’s as cool and light as the wind that sweeps across the island. But if you like your sweets to taste sweet, then we recommend a Kiss Pantesco. No, you don’t have to kiss a local (unless you want to of course!). A Kiss Pantesco is a typical sweet pastry from Pantelleria; two deliciously thick and crispy pancakes sandwich a filling of ricotta, chocolate chips and cinnamon, topped with a dusting of icing sugar. Divino!

Wine from Pantelleria

Pantelleria wine_Villa Italy

Like so many regions of Italy, Pantelleria is famous for its wines. The island is home to some of Europe’s most southerly located vineyards. Legend has it that the Goddess Tanit wanted to attract the attend of Apollo. She turned to Venus, the Goddess of Love, for advice. She advised Tanit to scale Olympus pretending to be a cupbearer, and offer him a cup of golden Ambrosia. Instead she took a cup of the fermented Pantesco wine, and Venus fell in love.

There are over 300 small growers in Pantelleria, which shows the importance of the production, for such a small island. Passito di Pantelleria and Moscato di Pantelleria are two varieties of wine that have been granted the DOCG (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita) status, which denotes Italian wines of the highest quality.

The Passito di Pantelleria is produced from wind-dried grapes grown on the island, a variety of wine that was immortalized by the ancient gods, and has since been revered by wine critics around the world. The production itself uses age-old methods; the vines are very low bush, planted on small terraces bordered by dry-built lava stone walls. The resulting wine has a honeyed sweetness, with hints of orange.

Moscato di Pantelleria (Pantesco Moscatel) has been produced on the island since the beginning of records, using the Zibibbo grape variety. The wine is one of Sicily’s principal wines, typically drunk on the feast day of St Martin, April 13th.

The Dammusi (architecture)

Corte Pantesca_Dammusi_Pantelleria_Villa Italy

The island of Pantelleria has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The first inhabitants were extremely adept at construction, their unique methods and architectonic skills were quite diverse and forward thinking for the era, which can be seen amongst the prehistoric ruins that pepper the island.

The Dammusi are traditional Pantesco homes built from the natural stone of the island. They were first constructed during the Arab occupation during the 10th century, they have been architectural icons of the island. A dammuso has a cubic base and is finished with a dome shaped roof, which collects rainwater. The name Dammuso has its origin in the Italian word ‘dammusi’ which means vault.

Corte Pantesca 1 & 2 are traditional Dammusi lovingly restored into exquisite guests retreats. Each sleeping up to four guests.

Benikulà CaveGrotta di Benikula cave_Pantelleria_Villa Italy

Benikulà Cave (the dry bathing) shelters a natural sauna, one of the best known dry-baths in the world. This natural phenomenon derives from the island’s volcanic activity. Fashioned only by mother nature, this is an encounter not to be missed when visiting Pantelleria. Inside the cave visitors sit on large lava stones, whilst the subterranean steam vapours relax mind and body. The deeper you go into the cave, the hotter the vapours.

A trip to Benikulà Cave is best experienced early morning, or at sunset, when the views to the valley are stunning. The Benikulà Cave can be found on the ridge of the Montagna Grande, just a short walk away from the hamlet of Siba.

The Mirror of Venus

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Specchio di Venere (Mirror of Venus) is a natural rainwater lake formed from an old crater. If it looks familiar it’s because it’s been the location for many a fashion shoot: Madonna herself was even photographed covered in the therapeutic Fango mud. The lake itself is formed from an ancient caldera which produces the thermal springs. To one side of the lakes these springs create a gurgling mud bath. Here the Fango and algae have extremely restorative effects for your skin. Bathers, old and young, can be found revelling in the delicious, warm mud.

These are five perfect reasons to visit Pantelleria, but let me add a sixth: anonymity. This peaceful island hasn’t yet been touched by mainstream tourism, and long may it stay that way. Arriving on Pantelleria you immediately sense that this is the destination where your stresses will be carried off with the wind, and where nobody is going to mess with your happy karma.

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Take the plunge: The best swimming and diving spots on Pantelleria

Pantelleria is not for those looking for a traditional beach holiday. The volcanic island situated off the coast of Sicily is distinctly lacking in beaches. Instead the impressive coastline is shaped by marine grottos and rocky bluffs which meet the cobalt waters and shelter hidden coves and caves.

It’s an idyllic location to let your cares float away in the natural swimming pools and thermal waters, sunbath on black lava plateau, and dive the crystalline waters through ancient shipwrecks and the rich marine life.

Pantelleria offers that rejuvenation fix that everyone needs at least once in their life.


Swimming on Pantelleria

Laghetto delle Ondine

This natural saltwater pool is located in Punta Spadilla, to the east of Pantelleria. Due to its exceptional location, Laghetto delle Ondine has become one of the symbolic landmarks and ‘must see’ spots on the island.

Favourite experience: Even when the sea is rough you can swim in the light waves of the Laghetto delle Ondine. And when the wind blows in from the north the choppy waves break around the pool, and the contrast is sublime!

Arco dell’Elefante

Elephant's arch_Pantelleria_Villa Italy

Picture perfect Arco dell’Elefante

Arco dell’Elefante (Arch of the Elephant) is the ultimate picture postcard of Pantelleria. The spectacular rock formation arches over the sea forming the contour of an elephant dipping its trunk into the water. And there is a lot more to the Arco dell’Elefante than just a photo opp. Closeby is one of the most popular swimming spots on Pantelleria. A sheltered natural harbour, a wonderful afternoon sun trap; perfect for when the wind picks. This is also one of the few swimming spots on the island where you can eat lunch. Head to Le Cale for a fabulous breakfast, brunch or lunch.

Favourite experience: Kayaking to Arco dell’Elefante for an afternoon dip.

Nika Grotto

When planning your trip to Pantelleria, make sure to organise a trip to Nika Grotto. What is exceptional about this cave is the hot spring water which rises up through the shallows. It’s healing waters flow into the shallows at a temperature of 40 degrees. Nikka Grotto is only accessed by boat, which can be rented from the whitewashed village of Scauri.

Nika Cave is located on the south-west coast, a few kilometres from the Grotto di Sataria (Cave Sataria), where legend has it that Odysseus and Calypso used to eat their love encounters. Nowadays, its waters are renowned for relieving the symptoms of rheumatism and arthritis.

Favourite experience: As the day cools off, and the sun goes down, the warm thermal waters of Nikka Grotto are the perfect place for a warming swim.

Cala Levante and Cala Tramontana

Cala Levante and neighbouring Cala Tramontana are one of the best places to watch the sunrise on Pantelleria, and they are pretty good spots for swimming and diving. From here you can take in the wonderful view to the Arco dell’Elefante. There is a small rocky beach backed by lava formations and green hills, and the sea a piercing blue and crystalline-like. A man-made sun terrace has also been built above the beach, the perfect place to sunbathe and enjoy the views.

Favourite experience: Cooling off in the crystalline waters.

Cala Gadir

Cala Gadir_Thermal springs_Pantelleria_Villa Italy

Cala Gadir tidal pool

Cala Gadir is a very special place. Giorgio Armani has a home here. Perhaps he fell in love with the perfect design of mother nature. At Cala Gadir you can soak in the tidal pool, or in one of several natural hot thermal pools. There is also a lovely sun deck to chill out on, and several restaurants around the pretty harbour area.

Favourite experience: Finding you’ve got the tidal pool all to yourself. Enjoy it while you can!


Diving off Pantelleria

Balata dei Turchi

The bay of Balata dei Turchi (above photo) can be found at the southernmost reach of Pantelleria. The landscape is remarkable. Solidified lava flows down to sea surrounded by soaring cliffs of up to 300 metres above sea level. Even getting to Balata dei Turchi is an adventure. The dusty roads are whipped up by the wind, but the trip is worth it to enjoy the stunning scenery, and of course the diving.

The word Balata comes from the Arabic word balàt, meaning a stone slab that forms a platform gently sloping into the sea. One of the most popular diving spots on Pantelleria, you’ll start your dive by jumping into the sea to the left of the lava platform. The depth is around 4-5 metres. The waters are crystalline and there is an abundance of marine life to view. Contact Aquasub Diving School for more information.

Favourite experience: Sunbathing on the lava rocks after a refreshing dive.

Cala Tramontana

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Cala Tramontana

In the pretty bay of Cala Tramontana there is a hidden shipwreck. The wreck of a modern Libyan fishing boat can be found on a sandy plateau at a depth of 18 metres. Diving around the shipwreck is allowed, but care must be taken, as there are still many fishing nets tangled around the boat. There are many other wonderful archaeological relics on the seabed, such as ceramic fragments, amphoras of both Ancient Greek and Punic origin, and lithic anchors. It’s said that between Cala Tramontana and neighbouring Cala Levante, there are more ancient wrecks to be found.

Get in touch with the Cala Levante diving school to arrange a diving trip to the wreck.

Favourite experience: An easy and impressive dive. Great for beginners.

Cala Gadir

Cala Gadir is a UNESCO world heritage site, and to dive here you must be accompanied by a certified guide. Highlights of the dive include 3rd Century BC and 2nd Century AD anchors, amphoras, ceramics and wooden fragments of ancient wrecks. Navigating this medium difficulty dive is easy as there is a rope leading you through this underwater archeological museum. Contact Dive-X to book a guided dive tour of Cala Gadir.

Favourite experience: Diving through history

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Ischia Travel Guide: Five Reasons to Visit

There are countless reasons why smart travellers choose Ischia (EES-kee’ah) for a holiday. Italophiles, beach lovers, wellness enthusiasts, and foodies. Or those just looking for space and freedom away from the perspiring crowds of Naples and Capri. All are catered for on glorious Ischia.

In fact, the longer you stay on this isola verde (green island) in southern Italy, the more it grows on you. Just like the green tuff rock that dominates the landscape and gives the island its nickname. So, when we were asked to pick our top five reasons to visit Ischia, we had a hard time choosing.

Our love of Ischia goes far beyond the spiaggie (Ischia beaches), thermal springs and higgledy piggledy streets of Forio. It’s the quirkiness and contrast of the landscape; the enchantment of the tiny hamlets of Monte Epomeo – untouched by modernisation, and sunsets over Sant’Angelo, where starry eyed lovers forget the world around them and focus on the beauty of the moment. It’s the fact that when the tourists all go home, Ischia remains an island full of vitality and a joie de vivre.

Still, if we have to choose some great reasons to visit Ischia, here are five good places to start…

Thermal Springs

Ischia Reasons to Visit- Thermal Springs_Villa Italy

Ischia’s volcanic origins have sired over 100 thermal springs and given Ischia the reputation as Europe’s premier thermal destination. Over 100 hot springs bubble up from the gases that bubble away under the surface, produced by the island’s volcanic activity.

There are natural thermal springs located all over the island, and spa parks where you can enjoy the thermal waters in a relaxing environment, with a host of treatments thrown in. From the scorching sands of the Fumaroles of Sant’Angelo, to the luxurious Poseidon Thermal Gardens, Ischia’s largest thermal park.

For more information on the thermal springs and parks gardens of Ischia, read our full article.

Castello Aragonese

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Castello Aragonese is one of Ischia’s most important attractions. The 15th century castle sits majestically atop an islet, accessed via the Ponte Aragonese from Ischia Ponte. Think St Michael’s Mount with bluer sea and skies!

The original Angevin fortress was built in 474 BC, and was rebuilt in the 1400s by King Alfonso of Aragon. You can easily while away a morning exploring the castle inside and out. There is an entrance fee paid as the base of the compound.

Wind your way up through the luscious gardens, passing the ruins of the Cattedrale dell’Assunta, destroyed under British fire in the 18th century, until you reach the main buildings of the complex. The 11th crypt with 14th century frescoes still intact and the Carcere Borbonico, a fascinating yet sombre prison, are particularly interesting.

Italian foodie heaven

The sea and mountainscapes of Ischia produce some truly flavoursome dishes. Travellers looking for an Italian foodie experience will feel like they’ve died and gone to heaven. In fact it’s almost impossible to eat a lousy meal in Ischia. This is Campania after all!

Simple, yet elegant rustic fayre from the mountains. Ischia’s signature dish dates back centuries; Coniglio all’Ischitana (Ischian Rabbit Stew) is rich in flavour, low in calories. Wild rabbits have inhabited Ischia’s mountainous countryside for centuries, and this dish sums up the region perfectly. For a taste of Ischia’s classic rabbit dish head to Il bracconiere in Serrara Fontana. Set atop the 789 metre high Mount Epomeo, the views are spectacular and the ambience easygoing. Take your time and enjoy.

Set in the Gulf of Naples, fishing is a grand tradition on Ischia and Procida, influencing much of the island’s coastal gastronomy. Menus depend on what the catch of the day is, with gamberi rossi (red prawns), cuttlefish and octopus, are typically caught in the local waters, and the mouthwatering clams, come all the way from… Naples.

Napoli is the home of pizza. And this Neapolitan island does pizza, as it should be. Stay at Torre dell’Aquila and you’ll enjoy made-to-order pizzas baked in our wood fired oven by a local pizzaiolo!

La Mortella Botanic Gardens

Ischia reasons to visit_La Mortella Gardens_Villa Italy

The Giardini La Mortella (La Mortella Botanic Gardens) in Forio, is one of the most captivating gardens you will ever visit. It’s certainly one of, if not, the biggest attraction on Ischia. The allure of La Mortella isn’t just in the beauty of the gardens; it’s the romantic history of its heritage, which visitors feel as they wander through the pastoral grounds.

Once upon a time a British composer, Sir William Walton, fell in love with an Argentinian señora by the name of Susana Valeria Rosa Maria Gil Passo. They married and soon after moved to Ischia. Their love story is told through La Giardini La Mortella. Lady Walton dedicated 50 years to developing the gardens. Today they are open to the public and run by the non-profit cultural organization, Fondazione William Walton La Mortella. A trip to Ischia is not complete without exploring this Idyllic spot.

Heading inland…

Ischia reasons to visit_Mount Epomeo_Villy Italy

If you can tear yourself away from the thermal springs, spiagge (beaches) and the pure enthusiasm of the vibrant coastal region of Ischia. We highly recommend a visit to explore the peaceful countryside and villages on the slopes of Mount Epomeo. From Sant’Angelo upwards, tiny hamlets add a splash of colour to the otherwise pure green hues that dominate Ischia’s interior complexion.

The region of Serrara Fontana is – unsurprisingly – made up of two villages named, Serrara and Fontana. Fontana is the starting point for the walking route up to the top of Mount Epomeo. The ascent takes around 90 minutes and is absolutely worth the exercise. From Fontana you take in the magnificent views over to Capri. There are also some great local restaurants here. Start your walk early, and come back down in time for lunch. Serrara is a tiny village, worth visiting just for its mirador with views to Sant’Angelo and Capri. The surrounding landscape is dominated by terraced vineyards.

To appreciate the island’s volcanic origins head to the hamlet of Noia, from which you can explore the island’s lunaesque landscape. Following the Pizzi di Sant’Andrea Trail (the old mule path), the landscape transforms from native vegetation to incredible lava formations. Sculptured white columns, often referred to as the Pizzi Bianchi (white lace). If you’re feeling energetic, you can follow the route all the way back down to Maronti Bay.

These are just five of the reasons why we love this blissful Italian island. We promise you’ll discover many more when you come visit.

Maronti_Beach_Ischia_Villa Italy

A Guide To Ischia’s Best Beaches

spiaggia pescatori_Ischia beach_Villa Italy

Pescatori Beach, Ischia Ponte

So much perfection in just 17 square miles. The glorious island of Ischia has all the ingredients to concoct a seriously good Italian vacation. The vivid colours of Ischia exude a happy-go-lucky pace you’ll only understand if you’ve grown up on a small island.

The fertile green countryside pockmarked with tufa and strewn with the pink vines of wild-growing Bougainvillea, gracefully dissolves into whitewashed villages and tutti frutti coloured seaside towns. The deep azure blue sky reaches down in greeting to the crystal waters of Ischia’s spiaggias (beaches) and baie (bays).

Beach lovers are spoilt for choice as Ischia’s coastline is formed of golden sandy stretches of beach and twinkling bays; some of the most glorious in the Campania region. The petite island is small enough that you could comfortably visit a different beach every day of a two week vacation.

Villa Italy’s Guide To The Best Beaches on Ischia

Beaches of Ischia Porto & Ischia Ponte

Spiaggia dei Pescatori

Spiaggia dei Pescatori (the fisherman’s beach) is situated close to Ischia Ponte and as the name suggests it’s primarily used by local fisherman to leave their boats on dry land. During the summer months, its also popular with locals and visitors, drawn to Spiaggia dei Pescatori (above photo) for the convivial ambience, lovely views to Procida and the Castello Aragonese, and the many snacks bars and restaurants serving up plates of fried Alici, Spaghetti al Pomodoro or traditional Neapolitan pizza.

Favourite experience: The perfect end to your day on Spiaggia dei Pescatori: saunter into Ischia Ponte (8 minutes walk) for a Gelato alla Stracciatella at Gelateria Ice da Luciano.

Spiaggia di Pagoda

Pagoda Beach shares its location with the iconic venue Blu Jane. A mini boat-shaped disco that has become a popular celebrity hangout and integral part of Ischia’s nightlife: Mick Jagger is said to have visited. Anyway, disco aside; Pagoda Beach is hidden away just a small distance from the harbour of Ischia Porto. It’s one of the smallest beaches on the island, but what it loses on size, it makes up for with beautiful golden sands and an escape from the summer crowds.

Favourite experience: Peace!

Beaches of Forio d’Ischia

Citara Beach _Ischia Beaches_Villa Italy

Citara Beach, Forio

Spiaggia di Citara

Citara Beach is one of the island’s larger beaches. Surrounded by low cliffs, densely covered in vegetation, Citara is situated just outside of Forio town. There is no shortage of facilities and amenities. You can hire sun loungers and parasols, partake in water sports and take your pick from the many beach bars and restaurants.

Citara Beach is also home to the Poseidon Thermal Gardens, and is one of the few beaches on the island that gets the sun all day.

Favourite experience: Stay for sundowners at a beach bar and enjoy the sensational sunsets.

cava dell'isola_Ischia_Villa Italy

Cava dell’Isola

You could say you hang out on, rather than relax on Cava dell’Isola (right), as this beach is frequented by the young and energetic, who prefer their beach days full of volleyball, beach rounders, water sports and snorkelling around the cove, and generally much joviality.

The beach is in walking distance from Forio town, just follow the esplanade along. Or five minutes drive and a shimmy down a steep slope from the road.

Favourite experience: Snorkeling and exploring the rock pools and little caves.

San Francesco_Ischia_Private swim access

Spiaggia San Francesco

San Francesco Beach is the closest beach to Villa Torre dell’Aquila and a favourite spot for families. The fine golden sands shelve gently down to the pristine waters. Towards one end of the beach there are rock pools, which form into natural pools: great for exploring with the kids. And snorkelling at San Francesco is highly recommended.

Favourite experience: Canoeing around the cliffs to explore the caves.
Or perhaps swimming off the private deck from the rocks below Villa Torre dell’Aquila (above). Book your stay.

Beaches of Barano d’Ischia

Spiaggia dei Maronti

A three kilometer slender stretch of gleaming sand shelves down to the aquamarine waters at Maronti Beach. This popular beach lies just a short distance from Sant’Angelo and the views to the town are amazing. It’s also home to the Cavascura Natural Springs and caves.

Maronti_Beach_Ischia_Villa Italy

Maronti Beach, Barano d’Ischia

There are free and paid-for zones on Maronti Beach, and access is via water taxi from Sant’Angelo or take a bus or taxi direct and navigate the steep path down to the beach.

Favourite experience: A lazy morning of sun and swim followed by some pore cleansing and relaxation time in the Cavascura caves.

Beaches of Sant’Angelo

Spiaggia delle Fumarole

Step carefully on the sands of Le Fumarole beach, as hot vapours escape from the volcanic basin below. In some parts the sand temperature can reach up to 150º degrees. However, a visit to Le Fumarole is not to be missed, where else can you sunbathe, cure your ailments and cook your lunch on the sand?

Le Fumarole is also the location for the Aphrodite Thermal Gardens. Is there a beach in Ischia that doesn’t have a thermal theme? Hardly. Take the coastal path down from the pretty village of Sant’Angelo, and enjoy the spectacular views on the way.

Favourite experience: Warm sand between your toes and an evening picnic spread out on a blanket under a starry night sky.

Baia di Sorgeto

Bigger is not better in Ischia, as teeny tiny Baia di Sorgeto proves. The warm thermal waters and vapours bubble up through the rocks. Sit back in this natural sauna and feel the reviving power of Ischia’s thermal waters. Reach Baia di Sorgeto via 300 steps down from the village of Panza, or by water taxi from chic Sant’Angelo.

Favourite experience: An evening dip in the thermal waters.

Beaches of Lacco Ameno

Baia di San Montano

Blue hues dominate the enchanting San Montano Bay: cyan skies, turquoise waters and uniformed royal blue parasols line up along the pristine sands. Situated just outside of Lacco Ameno, this is a great beach spot for families with children, with calm seas and good amenities, and certainly one of the prettiest bays on the island.

Favourite experience: Indulge in a visit to the Negombo Spa Park situated above the beach.

Lacco Ameno beach_Ischia_Villa Italy

Spiaggia Litoranea, Lacco Ameno

Spiaggia Litoranea

Soft golden sands, wonderful views and the pretty town and harbour of Lacco Ameno, make Litoranea Beach one of the most picturesque on Ischia.

Favourite experience: People-watching on the beach followed by some boutique shopping in Lacco Ameno.

Salt luxury thermal pool_Ischia_Villa Italy

Soak Up Ischia’s Natural Hot Springs

Sulphuric springs and sunshine are two of the quintessential attractions of Ischia, the largest Neapolitan island on an archipelago sitting at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples.

Locals and visitors have been taking advantage of the curative powers of Ischia’s thermal waters and mud (fango) since as far back as 700BC. Over the centuries the waters have been so highly regarded that temples were built to worship the waters; physicians studied the restorative qualities of the water, and famous visitors alighted at Ischia to heal wounds, diseases and ailments.

if relax and rejuvenation are high on your vacation wish list, we recommend a trip to Ischia, where you may luxuriate in the island’s natural hot springs and thermal gardens.

A volcanic hot tub

The island of Ischia is volcanic, resulting in rich, fertile land, which produces some of the most amazing wines, including Bianco Spumante. A sparkling wine, as lively as is the local hot springs. Seismic movement over the years has created some fascinating rock formations along the coastline. The surrounding seas are healthy and clean, and are a habitat for seven species of whale and dolphin.

Hubble, bubble

There are so many remarkable health benefits associated with bathing in sulphuric waters. You’ll quickly get used to the smell, often referred to as rotten eggs. The benefits far outweigh the smell. A soak in the springs is said to increase your blood flow, circulation, speed up your metabolism, and help with the absorption of essential minerals.

So, where are the springs, and which are the best ones to visit? Tear yourself away from the Aragonese castle, the gardens at La Mortella and the beach. Roll up your towel, let’s explore the best hot springs and soothing sulphuric waters of Ischia.

salt water pool _Thermal Gardens_Ischia_Villa Italy

Hot Springs and Thermal Parks

There are open hot springs, and there are thermal parks, the latter combines the thermal waters, together with amenities such as special treatments, and landscaped gardens. The category of springs are generally grouped according to the mineral content, it’s said that various minerals are more or less suitable for particular ailments, but in general all of them  offer positive health benefits, especially the easing of joint pain, the reason why most visitors seek them out. It’s also a fun day, and you can become part of the strange tribe of grey people – covered head to toe in cleansing and clarifying ‘Fango’ or, simply, mud!

Sorgeto Hot Springs

Sorgeto is the most well known of all of the hot spring locations, close to Panza in Forio, and is both free and always open, so you can take a night-trip if you want and bathe under a cloak of starry sky. Even if it’s cold outside, once you’re under the water there’s a steady heat, a little like a hot bath that never cools down. It’s reached by climbing down onto a little beach, where you can bathe in individual rock pools. These are heated to bubbling consistency by the natural volcanic action.


At Citara beach, you can also avail of the properties of the hot springs for free, this time the natural sea water mixes with the thermal water, making pockets of warm, salted water perfect for floating  – and relaxing. It’s a little like those saline floatation tanks at expensive spa resorts – except it’s free!

Poseidon thermal garden Ischia_Villa Italy

And if you want to indulge in a little more luxury, head across to the Poseidon Thermal Gardens, also located in the beautiful bay of Citara. The thermal wellness centre boasts no less than 22 different swimming pools, each with its own temperature – from icy cold to baking hot. The waters here are naturally fed through from the hot springs and visitors can treat themselves to hydrotherapy treatments, Kneipp pools, natural saunas, sea-water pools, or why not just relax on a sun bed with a good book in the beautiful Ischia sunshine?

Cartaromana Beach

If you’ve decided on a day’s sightseeing, and Castello Aragonese is on your list, you could include a stop off at closeby Cartaromana Beach, where you’ll find small pockets of thermal waters, which you may avail of whilst using the sturdy cliff face as a backrest. Every so often you can brace yourself for a swim in the chilier sea, and return again to the warm and relaxing thermal waters to take the chill off.

Ischia Natural Hot Springs_Villa ItalyCavascura Natural Springs

On the southwestern coast of Ischia, is the wine producing region of Barano d’Ischia. Aside from a visit to the region’s vineyards, it’s recommend to visit the golden sands of Moranti Beach, where you find the grottos of Cavascura. The caves act as a natural sauna created by the steam which escapes from the thermal depths below. Interspersed with dips in the sea, it’s an interesting experience, not for the faint-hearted but certainly improves circulation!

Nitrodi Natural Springs

Barano is home to not one, but two natural spring sites. Dating back to Roman times, the natural springs of Nitrodi are a natural phenomena visited by devotees from far and wide. The ancient origins of this wellness complex only add to the incredible experience of the thermal waters themselves. So curative are the waters of Nitrodi, their therapeutic properties were recognised by Italy’s Department of Health in 2003. Visitors suffering from varicose veins, burns, and skin conditions, such as eczema, acne, psoriasis and neurodermatitis, are said to especially benefit from Nitrodi’s water.

Nitrodi combines the natural springs with aromatherapy gardens and therapeutic infusions which combined make for a full day’s indulgence. Soothing from the inside out!

The Fumaroles of Sant’Angelo

The scorched and dry sands of Le Fumarole Beach, which in some parts can reach up to 100-150 degrees celsius, are evidence of the volcanic basin below. The thermal vapours emitted through the sand are said to treat many diseases, and can even cook a chicken or shellfish whilst you relax!

Le Fumarole Beach is located in gorgeous Sant’Angelo, one of the most laid-back and least touristy destinations in Ischia. It’s worth exploring the rest of Sant’Angelo during your visit.

Hydrothermal Negombo Gardens

negombo beach Ischia_Villa Italy

The Hydrothermal Negombo Gardens is situated in San Montano Bay in Lacco Ameno. Aside from the thermal gardens, it’s a stunning beautiful place to visit. To visit the gardens you pay an entrance fee; the price dependent on whether you wish a full day or half day pass, and it’s open from April to October.

There are a dozen types of swimming pools and baths, each heating to varying temperatures. Including an impressive 33 metre sea water pool with fabulous views and a Japanese labyrinth pool said to highly improve circulation. Visitors are welcome to use the private beach area, and a visit wouldn’t be complete without savouring the fine cuisine at Trattoria Casa Colonica. Situated in Negombo Thermal Gardens, it’s one the best restaurants on Ischia.

Ischia town from castello aragonese_Villa Italy

Sublime Italy: Ahhh…. Ischia!

Ischia town from castello aragonese_Villa Italy

Ischia town taken from Castello Aragonese

Situated in the Gulf of Naples, just one hour’s ferry ride from the swagger and hullabaloo of Naples city, lies the ethereal garden paradise of Ischia. At only 17 square miles the volcanic island is small, yet flawless.

If you want to holiday like the Italians, check in at Ischia. Whilst the throng of summer tourists flock to neighbouring Capri, those in-the-know are soaking up the quintessential charm of this fragrant island.

There are many facets to Ischia’s charm, but one of the main attractions is its languid approach to tourism. Although the Napolitanos have been visiting Ischia for decades, this is a community that lives, works and breathes the island, 365 days a year. Admittedly, some of the larger towns, such as Ischia Porto, Ischia Ponte and Casamicciola Terme thrive on the steady hum of tourists that frequent the island during the summer months. On Ischia, you can always find somewhere to escape the crowds.

The rocky outcrop would satisfy even the most demanding of tourist. In just 17 square miles Ischia boasts sublime beaches, crystalline bays, spectacular scenery and bubbling thermal springs. Complemented by beautiful people, mouthwatering gastronomy, and an exuberant nightlife. And lest we forget the many historical treasures that tell of Ischia’s rich past.

Let’s take a tour of Ischia’s highlights

Fortezza Ischia_Castello Aragonese

Castello Aragonese

Step off the ferry or hydrofoil in Ischia Porto and your senses are pervaded by the sights and smells of authentic Italy. Ischia’s capital is divided into the two districts of Ischia Porto & Ischia Ponte.

Port town it maybe, but Ischia Porto is also a popular tourist destination for those who appreciate a faster paced vacation. The hustle and bustle of everyday life is interspersed with five star hotels, designer shopping, fine dining and a exuberant nightlife. Head to the Riva Destra neighbourhood for the best bars and restaurants.

Ischia Ponte is home to the arresting Castello Aragonese, Ischia’s iconic Medieval citadel. The castle keeps a noble watch over Ischia Ponte, and a trip to the island wouldn’t be complete without visiting Castello Aragonese. Access is via a bridge that links from Ischia Porto, and aside from discovering the island’s great history, one can also marvel at the fabulous views to the protected islands of Vivara and Procida.

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Beautiful Procida

The islands are connected by a bridge. Whilst Vivara is an uninhabited natural reserve; its only building an old hunting lodge built by the Duke De Guevara in 1681. Procida is rich in architectural and artistic heritage. Pretty coloured dwellings are dotted around the island. Legend has it that they were once fisherman’s cottages, painted different colours so the fishermen could see their home whilst out at sea fishing. The three kilometre coastline of the two islands are rich in marine life, rare plants and migratory. A visit is not to be missed.

There are several good beaches, or spiaggia, in and around Ischia Porto and Ponte: San Pietro, Pagoda Beach, Fisherman’s Beach (Spiaggia dei Pescatori), and Cartaromana Beach to name a few.

three wheels car Ischia vacation_villa italy

The best stop for a soak

Further along the northern coastline is the town of Casamicciola . The spa (Terme) town is a favoured destination for Napolitanos who travel direct on the ferry or hydrofoil, or for the privileged, on their private yacht into the luxury marina. The happy-go-lucky feel in this pretty town makes for a perfect place to sit at a roadside cafe and watch the world go by. Around Casamicciola there are several gorgeous villages to visit: Perrone, Castiglione, Piazza Bagni, La Rita, La Sentinella and Piazza Maio.

One of the most pleasurable experiences to enjoy on Ischia is a visit to one the island’s natural springs or thermal spas. There are several excellent locations to enjoy this therapeutic activity, and Casamicciola is home to two of the best thermal spas on the island – Castiglione Thermal Park and O Vagnitiello Thermal Park.

Fascinating Forio

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Street life in Forio

Sitting on the slopes of Ischia’s 780 metre Monte Epomeo is Forio. The island’s second largest town is awash with charisma and vitality. A canvas of lush green hills wash down to the beautiful turquoise sea. Splashes of colour break up the natural hues, as the town’s colourful old buildings, street markets and port breath fun and laughter into the canvas.

It’s hard not to be charmed by Forio. Home to two of the island’s best beaches: San Francesco and Citara; to the ancient and beautiful Chiesa del Soccorso (Navigator Church), and the Poseidon Thermal Gardens, where visitors can bathe in no less than 22 swimming and bathing pools, sourced from the bubbling hot springs that derive from the island’s volcanic activity.

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Villa Torre dell’Aquila, Forio

Nestled into the lush countryside of Forio on the road up to our exclusive vacation residence, Villa Torre dell’Aquila, is the sublime Giardini della Mortella (La Mortella Gardens). Belonging to the estate of British composer William Walton, the Mediterranean and subtropical gardens are widely acclaimed to be the most beautiful in Italy. People come to Ischia just to visit Giardini della Mortella.

Originally designed by landscape architect Russell Page, the gardens were a declaration of love between William and his Argentinian wife, Susana Walton, who then nurtured the garden for over 50 years. It’s hard not to fall in love with Ischia once you’ve visited this magical and very special oasis.

An experience not to be missed is admiring the sunset from Forio Point. It’s said the setting sun creates a strange optical illusion, and it’s where the fisherman’s wives used to wait for their husbands to sail in. For amorous couples it’s a wonderful spot for a proposal!

Chic and laid-back, if you are looking for pure escapism, we recommend a visit to the unspoilt fishing village of Sant’Angelo. Only accessible by foot, the gorgeous village has remained relatively untouched by tourism. Frequented only by savvy travellers, definitely not for day trippers, Sant’Angelo is nestled in a beautiful bay, hemmed in by just the cyan sea and sky. 

And mamma mia the food!

Zuppetta di Cozze_Villa italy Ischia

Zuppetta di Cozze

It’s said you should never have to endure a bad meal in Ischia. The cuisine is sooo good, whether you choose simple and rustic, or elegant and expensive. There are plenty of great restaurants, many affording the most spectacular views the island has to offer. Fish restaurants are aplenty, and of course being an island, the fish is fresh and delicious.

You mustn’t go home without trying coniglio all’ischitana, a traditional rabbit dish from Ischia. And of course the pizza, well we are off the coast of Naples, birthplace of pizza! There are so many great pizzerias across the island, and the mozzarella…. buonissimo!

beach forte dei marmi_Villa Italy

Exclusive Italy: Forte dei Marmi

beach forte dei marmi_Villa Italy

Well heeled Italians flock to Forte dei Marmi on the Tuscan coast for their summer holidays. The resort is fast becoming the luxury travel destination for European and Russian tourists. Here’s why.

Gorgeous beaches, handsome villas, luxury shopping, safe environment and the stunning Apuan Alps as a backdrop. The most chic resort on the Versilia Riviera exudes laid-back elegance, attracting the crème de la crème of business and industry, for which the town represents a place to enjoy some downtime with their families.

Glamour aside, there is a long-standing love affair between Forte dei Marmi and the aristocrats of art and culture. From Michelangelo to Puccini, Henry Moore to Aldous Huxley, this has been the summer residence of choice for many artists, composers and writers for centuries. In fact Forte dei Marmi is bang on trend whatever century we happen to be in.

It was Michelangelo that first brought attention to the area back in the early 16th century, when Forte dei Marmi was primarily just a small village with a port that was used to ship the white marble of Carrara to destinations far and wide. The materia prima was used to sculpt many of the artist’s renowned works, including David. He was pivotal in creating the Via del Marmo, the route that linked Carrara to the port and became smitten with the town.

Jump forward to the 21st century. Sunshine glitters off the Tyrrhenian Sea and bounces off the white Carrara marble of the town’s sculptures. Happy people wander through the historic centre: past classic-style villas – perhaps owned by Giorgio Armani or Andrea Bocelli (yes, both have residences here); past the exclusive boutiques where luxury shoppers max out on their platinum credit cards; past deliciously expensive restaurants and family-friendly trattorias, through the pretty piazzas and cobbled passageways that lead to the 18th century fort, that gives Forte dei Marmi (marble fort) its name.

beach huts_bagni forte dei marmi_villa italy

Scooters zip in and out of cruising Bentleys, and families pedal through town and along the promenade, as life blissfully passes by without a care in the world!

During the high season months – from May through to September – locals and visitors head to the exquisite golden sand beaches, which stretch for seven kilometres along the coast of Forte dei Marmi. The town’s beach is segregated into Bagnis, family-run beach restaurants, which extend to offer services to attend to your every whim.

Monti di luna_villa italy_Forte dei Marmi

Villa Monti di Luna

Each Bagni has a row of tendas (beach huts), which stand to attention along the back of the beach. The pastel shade huts lend a certain vintage charm to the scene. Sunbeds, parasols and striped canopies are also for hire, and of course there is a beach restaurant serving up local specials, cocktails and refreshments. Heading to a bagni makes for a perfectly sophisticated and very proper day on the beach.

Forte dei Marmi is an excellent beach vacation destination for families. The beaches are patrolled by lifeguards, and the golden sands gently shelve down to the calm sea. Our exquisite villa, Monti di Luna, is situated just 10 minutes walk from the bagni Arturo and a minutes’ walk from Tennis Club Milano.

Late afternoons or early evenings are best spent strolling along the charming promenade and across the pontile (long pier). A handmade gelato for company, as the sun sets and the air is laden with the salty scent of the sea. Protocol in Forte dei Marmi is to enjoy an aperitivo before dinner. A glass of wine or cocktail, accompanied by a stuzzichino – a little appetizer to whet one’s tastes buds before heading off for some spaghetti con le arselle or a grigliata mista di pesce.  Buon appetito!

It’s not mandatory to explore Tuscany during your vacation. Forte dei Marmi is a beach vacation resort and there is plenty enough to do in town, with the shopping, the beach clubs, the eating and drinking, and of course hanging out with the cool Italian scene. But if one should decide to take a day out of town, there’ll be spoilt for choice.

Pier pontile Forte dei Marmi_villa italy

In day trip distance is the Renaissance town of Lucca, or Pietrasanta (“città d’arte”), with its delightful ancient art quarter, which plays host to open-air art exhibitions and is home to many fine art galleries; the UNESCO World Heritage site of Pisa, and the fabulous five seaside villages of the Cinque Terre in Liguria. Or head to the interior to explore the beauty of the Apuan Alps. The region is dotted with walking and hiking paths, which will take you far away from the glamour of Forte dei Marmi and into ancient woodlands.

Why not follow in the footsteps of the great Michelangelo if you are heading into the Apuan Alps. Following the marble road (via del marmo) that leads from Carrara to Colonnata, where you can wander at marble cathedrals that shine with their own light, bridges suspended in the void where the imposing marble railway passed and a colossal mountain, which chunk by chunk is disappearing.

Forte dei Marmi is elegant without the fuss, chic without the snob, as only the Italians know how. It’s effortless and wonderful, and somehow manages to deliver whether you’re part of the jet set, or simply a family looking to experience an Italian riviera vacation.

Pantelleria_Venus Mirror_Vacation Rental

Secluded Italy: The Best of Pantelleria

Pantelleria_Venus Mirror_Vacation Rental

If you consider yourself a vacation trailblazer, the Sicilian island of Pantelleria should be on your bucket list. The ‘black pearl of the Mediterranean’; so named for its unpolished volcanic landscape and glittering coastline is the destination choice for those Italian a-listers who don’t want to see and be seen.

Lying south of the western-most tip of Sicily, Pantelleria is closer to Tunisia and the African continent, than to the Italian mainland. The marriage of influences have beautifully shaped the island’s gastronomy, culture and architecture. Making Pantelleria a singular and exceptional Italian vacation destination.

The island puts on no airs and graces. This is pure organic territory with no swagger or conservatives attached. The windswept landscape is sculpted in lava-stone, strewn with vineyards, which produce the delicious sweet Passito and Moscato wines, and the caper bushes, which harvest the finest capers in the world.

No swagger or conservatives…

The climate is typically Mediterranean with a wind-swept twist. In fact its name derives from the Arabic, Bint-al Rion – Daughter of the Wind. Visitors soon acclimatize to the blustering winds that sweep across the island, leaving the unforgettable aroma of crashing waves, citrus and wood fires in the air; and cooling down the the hazy heat of the summer months.

Pantelleria coastline

Pantelleria isn’t for beach addicts, but is pure bliss for the thalassophile. Forget golden sandy beaches, shelving down to calm seas. The beauty of this tiny outcrop lies in the ruggedness of its coastline: swimming off the rocks into turquoise seas from the tiny marine alcoves  and secluded coves that are dotted around the island. Or taking a dip in one of the island’s natural rock pools.

In fact, there is only one beach to be found on Pantelleria. The muddy shore of Specchio di Venere (the Venus Mirror: a volcanic lake set in the heart of the island. The lake brims with rainwater, which has a wonderful habit of changing hues dependent on the weather; from emerald, to turquoise, to a deep ocean blue that you lose yourself in.

A curative and therapeutic experience

And we are not talking any old mud here. This is Fango, a clay derived from the thermo springs produced by the island’s volcanic minerals. It’s highly sought-after as a curative and therapeutic treatment, so body mask yourself in it and then swim it off in the lake. I promise the experience will leave you energised and with skin as smooth as silk.

Specchio di Venere_Pantelleria_smallIn fact, Specchio di Venere is just one of the island’s therapeutic ‘hot’ spots. The Favare are tiny grottos and crevices set on the side of the island’s tallest mountain, Montagna Grande. They act as steam emissions, ejecting vapour jets, which can reach up to 100ºC. The deep red of the surrounding rock face is fashioned by the sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid emissions, which are also ejected on occasion.

To reach The Favare, you need to hike through the island’s stunning nature reserve. Rich in flora and fauna all year-round and blanketed with flowers during the spring and summer months. Don’t forget your camera, as the hike affords incredible views to the surrounding countryside and Mediterranean Sea.

Dammuso living

A unique feature of Pantelleria is the Dammuso dwellings. Traditional lava-stone homes crowned with white domed rooftops. The thick whitewashed walls keep the baking heat out during the summer months and keep the interiors warm during the winter. Many traditional Dammuso have been stylishly renovated for both visitors and for the comfort of year-round residents.

Corte Pantesca_Villa Pantelleria

Villas such as Corte Pantesca have retained many original features, such as fountains and rainwater cisterns, adding contemporary comforts and luxuries for guests’ enjoyment.

A gastronomy infused with Arabic influences

Over centuries, both Italian and African ingredients and flavours have been lovingly added to the local cuisine of Pantelleria, creating a delicious and eclectic gastronomy. Arabic influences have been introduced in the creation of a delicious CousCous dish, Sciakisciuka – a rich courgette stew, and in desserts infused with almonds and spices.

Sweet wine PantelleriaEven the famous Passito di Pantelleria dessert wine has Arabic origins. Produced with Zibibbo grapes, originally imported by Arabs. The vineyards of Pantelleria are characterized by their terrace landscapes, which are enclosed by muretti a secco (literally translated as dry walls), which form unique shapes around the island.

Lest we forget that we are just off the Sicilian coastline, it would be rude not to indulge in Italian specialities, such as ricotta and mint ravioli or pesto pantesco, and of course anything with capers.

Pantelleria is a place for discovery. For discovering the beauty in simplicity and a slow pace. How nature can restore our energy and zest for life. And good food and wine enjoyed with family and friends will make for a lifetime of memories.

The island will never be saturated by tourism, the locals wouldn’t allow it. But they will share their island with those who appreciate that the better things in life don’t always come with a name tag. Just don’t tell your friends…