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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!