Ischia, the road less traveled
For those of you out there who want to take the road less traveled, this is the series for you. For every Uffizzi gallery or Amalfi Coast, there is another, less visited cousin.
We’ll start with the beautiful Island of Ischia (EES-kee’ah), the less famous but no less glamorous sister to Capri. There are technically 4 islands in the Gulf of Naples. Capri, Procida, Vivara, and the largest, Ischia. (We say “technically,” because Vivara is a national park and is attached to Procida by a pedestrian bridge.)
Nicknamed l’Isola Verde (the green island), it certainly doesn’t disappoint with its lush beauty. Although one might think that it’s verdant flora is what gave it this moniker, it’s actually named for the green-hued tufa rock that is its foundation. The surrounding water can rival the limpid, cool green, blue, and deep turquoise of Capri.
Ischia has several sandy beaches and a wealth of thermal water spas. In fact, thermal water is what made the island famous to begin with. Fango, or mud enriched with rich volcanic water is a draw for many each year and is what built Ischia’s traditionally German and British tourism. A day pass for these thermal parks averages around 30 euro. Inside you have access to several pools, natural saunas, lounging chairs, beach, and all of the glorious sea views that you can handle. You can of course pay more for massages or other beauty treatments once inside.
If history is your interest, there is a museum housed in Villa Arbusto in the town of Lacco Ameno that displays one of the purported Nestor’s Cups. Displaying one of the first written records using the Greek alphabet, the island is proud to have found this treasure locally. There is also the Castello Aragonese on the eastern side of Ischia, in the town of Ischia Ponte. The castle is built on a steep volcanic rock that is attached to the island by a pedestrian bridge, hence the name of the town. The first fortifications were built in the fifth century B.C., with the majority of what is seen today being comissioned in the mid-fifteenth century. It is a breathtaking site, both to behold from Ischia Ponte as well as from the castle itself.
Ischia is also rich in shopping and great dining. It’s hard to eat a bad meal! There is fresh fish, high fashion, and a bumping nightlife to suit all tastes.
Though this island isn’t tourist-poor, it definitely is not heavily touristed by Americans. The best times to go are May through July, then September and October. August sees a crush of Italian tourists and hotel rates are highest and beach space is limited. Compared to Capri, however, the hotels are quite the steal. You can even find short-term apartment rentals everywhere if you know where to look.
There is nothing not to love about Ischia, it really has something for everyone. It makes for a romantic vacation for two, as well as a family-friendly destination. Getting there is easy. Just take a ferry or hydrofoil from one of two ports in Naples and within 1 hour you will disembark into a paradise few of your American friends have even heard of.