Ischia: A paradise-like day trip from Naples

Ischia: A paradise-like day trip from Naples

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Visiting Naples and want to get out of the city for the day? In the glistening Bay of Naples, three islands beckon: film set–ready Procida, chic Capri and sublime Ischia, the largest and most diverse in terms of its geography. For our perfect day in the sun, let’s set sail to Ischia.

Getting there

Ferries depart Naples and Pozzuoli year-round, and a one-way journey takes about an hour and a quarter. Leave the car at home—from Easter until September, only residents are allowed to transport their vehicles. Plan to leave at the crack of dawn, for the day awaiting you is a busy one! Riding the ferry as opposed to the hydrofoil takes longer by a few minutes but offers substantial savings. For times and tickets, visit the websites of the companies Medmar, Alilauro or Caremar.

An introduction to the Green Island

Ischia has gone by many names throughout its history. The ancient Greeks knew it as “Pithecusae,” or monkey island. Classical poets referred to it as Arime or Inarime, the land of fire. The name Ischia was first recorded in 813 A.D., when Pope Leone III petitioned Charlemagne for assistance in repelling an enemy set on invading the island.

This volcanic island offers some truly unique landscapes: a horseshoe-shaped harbor, thermal pools, steaming fumaroles, natural springs and the Fungo, a mushroom-shaped outcropping just off the coast. The work of human hands can be seen in the ancient defensive towers called turritas, several unique parks and the terraced vineyards dotting the slopes of Mount Epemeo. With such diversity and beauty, it’s a small wonder the island welcomes some six million visitors annually.

Get your bearings

While Ischia has enough sights to keep a visitor content over for days on end, today’s journey is meant to be an introduction to the best of the island. For travel between major landmarks, rent a bicycle, plan to do your fair share of walking or simply ride the frequent local buses operated by EAVBUS. A ticket valid to ride the island’s buses throughout the day will set you back about 4.50 euros.

The must-see sights

Disembarking from your ferry at Ischia Porto, make way to Bar Calise for your morning coffee and croissant. Suitably fueled, walk or board bus number 7 to Ischia Ponte. Here the Castello Aragonese, a 2,500-year-old medieval castle and fortress, seems to rise up from the sea. The stone bridge linking the awe-inspiring structure to the mainland dates back to 1441. For the cost of your 10-euro entry ticket, you can see a nun’s cemetery, chapel, church, wine cellar, torture museum and a crypt that serves as the final resting place of nobility.

After all that walking, it’s time for a soothing soak. Ischia has two paid-entry thermal spas to choose from, both of which operate from April through October. Negombo, near Lacco Ameno, offers mineral pools of varying temperatures set in verdant gardens that retain a wild feel about them. Giardini Poseidon, the larger facility, offers 20 pools, a steam grotto, Japanese soaking tub, beach access and more. Children under the age of 12 cannot enter the thermal area.

Fans of freebies might prefer to indulge in the naturally occurring hot springs. The most famous of these are those found in the Sorgeto, just outside the town of Forio. Find your happy (and warm) place alongside a vent from which mineral waters rise up and mingle with the sea. In the summer months, a nearby café serves drinks to patrons as they laze in the pools—a particularly indulgent experience under the full moon!

With any daylight hours to spare, a trip to the La Mortella (Myrtle) gardens should not be missed. The site represents a labor of love by English composer Sir William Walton and his Argentinian-born wife, Lady Susana Walton. What was once a stone quarry was transformed into a tropical garden paradise brimming with vividly colored flowers, lush plants and fragrant herbs. Classical music concerts are staged here regularly throughout the warm months of the year.

A fond farewell to paradise

Before returning to the port from which you’ll catch the ferry back to the mainland, take advantage of La Mortella’s location on the island’s west coast with a stroll through Forio. Ischia’s largest town is full of artists’ studios and quirky boutiques, the perfect place for upscale souvenir shopping. Just before the sun dips below the horizon, make way to the Chiesa del Soccorso to catch one of the island’s most gorgeous sunsets. There, make a vow to return to this beautiful, tranquil island as soon as fate should favor you to do so.

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