Ischia is the largest island in the bay of Naples ( Italy ) and is considered by many to be the most beautiful, (though Capri is considerably more famous).
The island is a 10 km from east to west and 7 km north to south. It has a coastline of 34 km and covers an area of 46.3 km2. It has a permanent population of approximately 58,000. Up to 6 million tourists (principally from the Italian mainland and Germany) flock to the island for its volcanic thermal spas and as well for its beaches and food.
Cities : There are several towns along the island’s coast. 1 Barano. A hilly, mostly residential area. 2 Casamicciola. In the middle of the northern side of Ischia island, between the towns of Ischia and Lacco Ameno. The name comes from “Casa Nizola” (Nizola’s House) a Roman matron who could not walk anymore and who recovered by dipping her legs into the warm water of a stream flowing near her house. The new centre is on the seashore, the most attractive beauties of Casamicciola are on the hills around. On the Sentinella, where the beautiful panoramic view make us understand why the European high society chose Casamicciola as holidays destination, there is the Bourbonic Geophysical Observatory. On the border dividing from the municipality of Ischia, on Monte Rotaro, there are the Bosco del Castiglione (Castle’s Wood) on the side facing the sea, and the Bosco della Maddalena (Magdalene’s Wood) on the side towards inland. The latter is 45 hectares wide and occupies the whole Fondo d’Oglio between Monte Rotaro and Monte Cretaio.
3 Forio. Biggest city fo the island, lying on the west coast, with a handful of interesting sites.
Ischia: The largest city (often confusing name for tourists). It has two centers:
4 Ischia Porto. The commercial center of the island, named after the main port. edit
5 Ischia Ponte. “Ponte” means “bridge” in Italian. It is named for the area surrounding and including the footbridge that was constructed to connect the Castello Aragonese with the island.
6 Lacco Ameno.
7 Serrara-Fontana. A commune that is home to the highest point on the island, Mount Epomeo, as well as the popular holiday port village of Sant’Angelo and the mountain villages of Serrara and Fontana. Walks through Ischia’s gardens and parks and beach-hopping around the island are possible from here. Beverages and food can be obtained e.g. nearby the Fontana bus stop/main piazza
Understand : Ischia — historically called Pitecusae — was colonized in turn by the Greeks, Syrausansa, Romans, Saracens, Turks, and Aragonese; all of whom were interested in its excellent strategic position, its therapeutic hot-spring waters, and its attractive landscape. The result of all this varied history can be seen in the ruins of various outposts, towers, and “tufa” rock shelters hidden all over the island. More recently Ischia has become a frequent backdrop for Italian and American movies such as Vacanze ad Ischia, Appuntamento ad Ischia, and The Talented Mr.Ripley. The island has also been used as a cinematic stand-in for the Island of Capri.
Climate : The best time for the traveler to visit Ischia is from April to October, however, the weather in Ischia is always changing and visitors should expect both sunshine and rain — whatever the season. Summer, the main tourist season, combines long, hot days with lengthy evenings. Winter can be bitterly cold and wet, with short daylight hours. Flora and fauna : Also called the “Green Island”, Ischia enjoys hot and dry summers and mild winters along with a pronounced fertility which is a result of having almost an entirely volcanic soil. These factors allow Mediterranean plants to thrive all over the island, and sub-tropical and tropical species to successfully occupy niches in the warmest areas. On the southern side of the island, the continuous exposure to direct sunlight favors tropical and desert vegetation which is mainly represented by palms, cactus’ and agave plants with Mediterranean trees hiding in the shade of inlets and bends. On the northern side of the island in the shade cast by Mount Epomeo, you’ll find chestnut trees, as well as typical Mediterranean trees such as the holm oak, cypress, and cork trees as well as cultivated almond trees, vines, and olive trees.
Cavascura and Olmitello Thermal water : While traveling around Sant’Angelo there are several footpaths that can take you up the hilltops. One of these is a footpath that goes to the thermal springs of Cavascura and Olmitello. To get there, take a taxi boat from the square of Sant’Angelo to the Fumarole beach. Here, with the beach behind you, take the footpath from the right side of the beach which is flanked by oleander trees. The first stretch is steep, with a few houses on both sides, then it levels out and there are Mediterranean bushes and a variety of plants such as figs, capers, prickly pears, etc. On the right, there is a view of the Maronti beach.
Passing under a natural arch, turn right to reach the beach. Here is the entrance to Cavascura. There are all types of typical restaurants and at the back of the canyon are the antique thermal springs of Cavascura. Going back, climbing the steps through the vine yards, you will arrive at the antique establishment of Cava Olmitello, which sadly to say is in disuse. Here, as you make your way through the bushes, with only the croaking of frogs, you can imagine yourself traveling back in time when the world was a much simpler place. Talk : While Italian is the native language on the island, most people working in the tourism industry speak at least one other language, with German and English being the most widely spoken second languages. It should also be noted that the island of Ischia also has its own dialect of Italian, which can make it difficult for visitors to understand at times.
Access : Coordinates: 40.731204, 13.895721 / By boat : From the coast, e.g. connections from one of the Naples harbours or Pozzuoli (not really cheaper nor faster than from Naples), are available. Arriving from islands (Capri, Procida) is common too. Summarized timetables are available e.g. here, but be prepared for small delays (even 1/2h). Port in 1 Ischia Port is most commonly used, but 2 Casamiciolla and 3 Forio are also available. By plane : The closest airport is in Naples – Naples International Airport. Easiest way to reach harbor from there is either Alibus or taxi. By car : From Rome (A1) – From Bari (A16) – From Salerno (A30). It is better to follow the road markings for the Tangenziale (bypass) (exit No. 12) and to go on towards Pozzuoli. Then go out at the Via Campana (exit No. 12) and go on towards the Harbour of Pozzuoli (ferries only), which is about 4 km away. You can also reach the harbour of Naples Beverello (both ferries and hydrofoils). You don’t have to turn into the Tangenziale, but to follow the road markings for the Zona Portuale (Harbour area) and, after the exit, to go on for the harbour, which is about 5 km from the highway.
By train : There are four railway stations that are close to one of the harbours of Naples and Pozzuoli: Naples Campi Flegrei. From this station it is easy to reach the harbor of Mergellina by taxi, bus, tram or underground. Mergellina is approximately 3 km away from the railway station.
Naples Mergellina. This station is more or less 200 m far from the harbor of Mergellina.
Naples Centrale or Naples Piazza Garibaldi. Both stations enable you to have an immediate access to Piazza Garibaldi, which is located around 4 km from the harbour of Naples Beverello and easily reachable by taxi, tram or bus.
Pozzuoli. The Cumana railline operates from Montesanto in Naples and follows the coastline for approximately 20 km before ending in Torregaveta (Bacoli). To reach the Pozzuoli harbour you get off at the stop for Pozzuoli. The harbour is five minute walk away.
Tips : Taxis in Naples to the boats : It is easy to take a taxi from the rail station or airport to the harbour. In this case take a look at the “Fixed prices table” that any taxi driver must show in his car. Taxi drivers will often try to get tourists to pay more than necessary for the short ride from central station to the port, so be sure to either bargain or ask for the fixed price (prezzo fisso). For example, from the rail station Centrale to the Beverello harbour the fixed price is €9.50 for the taxi, not per person, nothing more (though they may not allow more than four people in a taxi at a time). From the airport to the harbour of Beverello the fixed total price is €15.
Getting off the boat in Ischia : When taking many of the ferries from Naples to Ischia, pay close attention when disembarking. Many people make the mistake of getting off the boat, and disembark at the island of Procida instead of Ischia. It is recommended that visitors ask the people working on the boat if the boat stops at Procida. Also, be sure to pay attention to which port you get off at, even if you are at the island of Ischia. The ferry from Pozzuoli directly to Ischia Porto : Boats make stops at several ports. If you do not have a specific city in mind, the largest hub of activity and the largest port is called “Ischia Porto” (this port city is often called simply “Ischia”, although this can be confusing as it is also the name of the island as a whole). You can find transportation to other parts of the island, tourist information, and food and shelter there, if all else fails.
- Villas, parks and museums :
- Museo Luchino Visconti (Villa La Colombaia). The villa, which is surrounded by a superb park, was the residence of the movie director Luchino Visconti. It is now the seat of a cultural institution dedicated to Visconti, which is involved in promoting cultural activities such as music, cinema, theatre, art exhibitions, work-shops, and cinema reviews. There is a museum dedicated to Luchino Visconti as well. The villa and the park are accessible to public visits.
- Giardini la Mortella (La Mortella Gardens) (San Francesco).
- La Mortella Gardens – Forio d’Ischia This park is at Forio d’Ischia and used to be the property of the English composer William Walton, who lived in the Villa next door with his Argentinian wife, Susanna. The composer, arrived on the island in 1946, planting wonderful tropical and Mediterranean plants, some of which have now reached amazing proportions.
- Giardini Ravino (Citara Bay). Botanical Garden with one of the richest collection of cacti and succulents cultivated outdoors in Europe. The garden, along with the mature areas around Villa Ravino, is the result of 50 years of great passion and loving work of Captain Giuseppe d’Ambra, the owner of the Villa. The exotic trees include palms, olive, lemon and orange, surprising scenery and rare and precious botanical specimens. Giardini Ravino is at Forio d’Ischia. A rich collection of cacti and succulents cultivated outdoors, constantly enriched with new species from all over the world and embellished with the extraordinary presents of the Woolemi Pine, the most sensational discovery of the century.
- Il Torrione. Since at least the 9th century many towers were constructed along Ischia coastline to provide warning and to defend the island from raids by pirates. One of those tower, called “Torrione” still exists. This tower is in Forio, near the harbour. It was built in 1480, and has two floors: the ground floor has no access from outside and was used as for storing weapons and munitions, and a rain-water tank; on the upper floor, there was accommodation for the garrison (about 10 people) led by a “torriere” that had the task of quickly sighting of any enemy ships and sounding the alarm. On the top, there was a terrace provided for four cannons. Historians notice that many similar towers were built in Forio until the 18th century, however although many of them were now used as private residences of noble families. Sixteen similar fortresses have been counted between 1480 and 1700, plus five more towers built in the district of Panza, some with a squared base and others with a circular base. Many of these towers are still standing and are mainly private residences. The “Torrione”, after it had been restored, became a municipal Museum (on the lower floor) while the upper floor was the home of the artist Giovanni Maltese from Forio and is now an art gallery hosting his pictures and sculptures collection.
- The Soccorso’s Church. This church is devoted to “Santa Maria della neve” (Saint Maria of the snow), and was built on a steep promontory from which it takes its name. As with the “Torrione” tower, it is the symbol of the town of Forio and it is one of the most original architectural structures on the island. The Soccorso was founded as an Augustinian convent in about 1350 but it was suppressed in 1653, with its present form going back to 1864. The church is accessible by 20 steps of piperno, which leads to a small atrium with five crosses of pipernio. This church is world famous not only for its location but also for its singular facade, which is white and adorned by precious 700 majolicas representing saints and scenes of the Passion of Christ. The Soccorso’s style is very original, it reassumes some architectures as Greek-Byzantine, Moorish and Mediterranean in harmonic shapes. The inside is very interesting because of the many types of volta. In the left chapel there is a thaumaturgical cross, a sculpture of Catalan inspiration, surely made on the 16th century. Close to this cross there are two marble medals, that were found in a medieval sarcophagus that was found in the castel of the antique cathedral of Ischia. This church retains various artifacts such as a shovel made by Cesare Calise that represents Saint Augustine, and a small basin of pipernio dated from the 9-10th century. On 5 May 2002, during his Pastoral Visit, Pope John Paul II met with many young people in a square adjacent to the church of Our Lady Help of Christians.
- Castello Aragonese (The Castle). One of the most striking monuments on the island. It stands on a small island near Ischia Ponte and is reached by crossing a stone bridge. The castle is about 113 meters high and the climb can be made on an old mule track or by using a modern elevator that was installed in the seventies. The castle was built in 1441 by Alfonso D’Aragona on top of the ruins of an old fort that dated back to 474 BC. This fortified castle was used to protect Ischia’s population from pirate attacks. One of the exhibits in the castle is dedicated to various forms of medieval torture.
- Guevara Tower. The tower represents as well as Castello Aragonese one of the best known symbols of the island. It is called Guevara or Michelangelo’s Tower and is in front of the Castle, and is surrounded by a lawn and facing the Sant’Anna rocks. The tower was rebuilt over the ruins of an earlier ancient fortress: it is likely one of the defence towers built from the 15th century to protect the Castle and the coast against enemy attacks. The tower derives its name from the Dukes of Guevara who were the owners since 1800. Its second name derives from a legend that] Michelangelo, who was a friend of the poet] Vittoria Colonna, stayed in the tower when he was visiting the island. The tower is nowadays used as arts exhibition centre.
- Villa Arbusto. The villa was built in 1785 by Don Carlo Acquaviva, Duke of Atri, in the same place where a farm called “dell’arbusto” (“arbusto” means “ shrub”, in this case the reference is to a particular plant growing in the garden surrounding the building) existed. Over the years the villa had many owners, until 1952, when it was purchased by the publisher and movie producer Angelo Rizzoli who sponsored the reconstruction of the ancient thermal bath, the construction of some large hotels and the restoration of Piazza Restituta in Lacco Ameno’s main piazza.
- Pithecusae Archaeological Museum at the main building of Villa Arbusto. In the Museum there are many archaeological findings dating back from the Prehistory to the Romans Age. On the ground floor there is the a Geological section, which shows how the presence of the volcano affected life on the island. Some findings made of clay and stone dating to the Neolithic, have been retrieved at Cilento, nearby the Ischia cemetery. a village dating back from the middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age has been discovered on the hill of Castiglione, in Casamicciola. In the museum are also exposed series of funerary objects from the Necropolis at San Montano bay, used as burial place for about 1000 years.
- The Angelo Rizzoli Museum contains a picture gallery about Angelo Rizzoli’s stay on the island. He used to stay in Lacco Ameno where he promoted the restructuring of the ancient Santa Restituta baths and sponsored the construction of a series of large luxury hotels which in the 1950s and 1960s were the much-loved destination for cinema stars and international jet-setters (in the 1950s and 1960s).
- Villa La Colombaia (in Lacco Ameno). The Villa, surrounded by a superb park, was the residence of the movie director Luchino Visconti. It is now the seat of the cultural institution dedicated to Visconti, which is involved in cultural activities promotion such as music, cinema, theatre, art exhibitions, work-shops, cinema reviews. A museum dedicated to Luchino Visconti will be open soon. The villa and the park are accessible for public visits.
- Thermal springs : Ischia’s thermal springs have been renowned since ancient times and have been tested by many Italian and foreign scientists, for their therapeutic features. The thermal waters are used in baths and thermal gardens, and they can found in small springs on some beaches and streams of spouting that feature hot water gushing into the sea as well as steam spouts (fumaroles) with gases gushing from cracks in the soil. Fumaroles can also be observed on the slopes of the Mount Epomeo, particularly on cold days, or are located into small caves, called “stoves”, and idiomatically “sudatori” or “sudaturi” (from the Italian verb meaning “to perspire”) which are used as a kind of sauna in baths and thermal gardens. Springs and spouting steam can be considered as the manifest sign of Ischia’s volcanic origins and of the still persisting volcanic activity. The particular features of the subsoil, due to its structure and chemical composition affect the minerals content and the degree of dilution by sea and rain water. According to many scientists, the location and features of the springs are affected by the combination of the above mentioned factors. The most ancient springs are those of Casamicciola, consecrated to the god Apollo, those of Lacco Ameno consecrated to Hercules, those of Citara in Panza consecrated to Venus Citarea, and those of Barano consecrated to Nitrodi Nymps.
- Churches : Soccorso Church, Forio , As described above, there is a tiny white-washed church in a truly spectacular position: in the square on the Punta del Soccorso in Forio, that looks out onto the crystal clear sea – a typically Mediterranean site of astounding beauty
- Beaches : 1 Chiaia (Forio). A great beach for children. 2 Cava dell’Isola (Forio). the most important beach for young people
- Citara (Panza). This beach is at the foot of Epomeo, and is one of the most popular on the island. The crystal-clear water that laps the beach mixes with the thermal water spas in several points, allowing you to bathe in the sea and reap the benefit of thermal water at the same time. However, much of this beach is prviately owned and the public areas are small and often overcrowded. In this bay there is also the Poseidon Thermal Garden. edit
- Bay of Saint Montano (Lacco Ameno). A bay where the thermal park Negombo is located. This unusual beach, located between Mount Vico and Mount Zaro, is unique compared to the island’s other beaches. The clear sea water is very hot and the water is extremely shallow.
- Cartaromana (Ischia Ponte). This beach is between Castello Aragonese and the Sant’Anna cliffs. The beach also offers one of the best views of the island. Cartaromana is well known for its natural hot thermal water springs that spill out onto the shore, allowing tourists to swim in the sea even during the winter.
6 Marina dei Maronti (Barano). At 3 km, this beach is the largest on Ischia and can be reached by taking a charming panoramic road that starts in Barano and descends towards the sea, or by foot via the picturesque port of Sant’Angelo. Another great way to reach the beach is to take a water taxi (€3 approx) from Sant’Angelo. The beach at Maronti is full of thermal springs, natural spas and fumaroles.
- Spiaggia degli Inglesi. Lovely small beach located in Ischia, suitable for enjoying a peaceful rest, far away from crowds.
- Cava grado. Small cove near Sant’Angelo; hydrovolcanic activity occurs in outpourings of hot water which can be used for relaxing baths. To get here, there is a steeply sloping foot-path starting at Succhivio.
Bagnitiello. Series of sandy beaches along the sea front road, equipped with car parks and bathing establishments
- Sorgeto (in Panza). A shingle small bay, lying at the foot of cliffs covered by agave plants. Here thermal waters gush from springs into the sea. On the hill behind, is an important archaeological site, known as Punta Chiarito, which was where the first Greek colonist planted vines and a hut village.
- Fumarole Beach. This beach is supposed to be the island’s finest. It’s long, wide, clean and not too crowded; it’s also of a dark colour, since it’s of volcanic origin. It can be reached in 30 minutes by taking a footpath from Sant’Angelo, or in a couple of minutes by boat-taxi. There are some fumaroles here, and locals often go there and cook dinner in the sand. The beach is also a popular hangout at night.
- Hot springs : Starting from the 1300s people have come to soak in the soothing hot springs of Ischia. Streams of spouting hot water gushing into the sea as well as steamspouts with gases gushing from cracks in the soil (fumaroles) in caves which are used as a kind of sauna in baths and thermal gardens.Sorgeto Hot Spring Waters located in Forio coastline, whose thermal water gushes out into the sea. You can lounge in the natural pool made by small rocks and stones. Hot water is outpouring into the sea and bubbles can be easily observed among rocks. To get here there is a series of stone steps. The temperature quite high allows to have baths also in winter.
- Poseidon Gardens and natural spas : With reference to its volcanic origins, the hydrothermal heritage of the island of Ischia is one of the richest in the world. The thermo-mineral island springs with their clearly evident “hyperthermability” captured the attention of the ancients right from the beginning. It is therefore hardly surprising that the thermal cures of Ischia date back to the 8th century AD, when the first Greek colonies, originating from Eubea, settled on the island. The curative tradition of Ischia’s springs did not pause throughout time: they passed from the Greek to the Roman period and so on, through the darkest Medieval centuries to the Renaissance period and up to a first rational approach of 18th century medical science to today. Among the areas creating most interest, the zone of Citara, in the municipality of Forio, is undoubtedly the most important and, indeed, in the bay of Citara the famous Thermal Poseidon Gardens were established.
22 pools (thermal, Kneipp, ocean-water) have been installed according to latest technical and medical knowledge. The water – temperature varies from 28°C to 40°C (82°F to 104°F) and the abundance of water means that it is constantly renewed – a totally unique procedure. A Roman sauna and a large private beach is equipped with deck-chairs and beach – umbrellas, various restaurants of which one is situated in a beautiful grotto of local tuff stones and a boutique with a newspaper-kiosk complete this extraordinary establishment. Visitors to the Poseidon Gardens will find a haven of peace and tranquility in a setting of 60,000 m² of ecologically intact gardens and can enjoy an ideal combination of medical cure and relaxing holidays by the sea. This is also a reason why perfectly healthy people who have no need for treatment in the classical sense, benefit greatly from spending some time at the Poseidon Gardens. If you are extremely involved in your work and have hardly any time for compensatory sport or other activities, or if you simply want to prevent future health – problems nothing can be better than the combination of a mild climate, the warming sun, mountains and beaches, thermal springs and the sea. Nothing is better than the mosaic of natural healing as provided in the Poseidon Gardens.
Events : One of the many things that make Ischia such a great place to visit is the variety of events from musical events and festivals to the handicrafts markets in the historical center and sports events. In spring and summer, the various villages organize several events: many of them religious festivals, which are an important part of the island’s tradition and cultural identity. Here follow the events calendar of the Estate Ischitana 2006: Festa della Ndrezzata – April: Easter Monday – The Festa della Ndrezzata is held in the village of Buonopane, near Barano every Easter Monday. The Ndrezzata is a typical island dance. It is a kind of rhythmic, violent and picturesque fight where the dancers are dressed in traditional island costumes and fight each other with wooden swords;
International Festival of Classic Music – May – October Forio: The first edition of the festival International of “Classic” music: a series of concerts that were held in the churches and the basilicas of Forio;
Foreign Film Festival – June: A cinema festival with premieres and retrospective themes dedicated to European films, especially Italian. Ischia, for example, has used as a location of Italian films since the 1950s. These include the films Vacanze a Ischia with Vittorio De Sica, the colossal Cleopatra with Richard Burton and Liz Taylor and the more recent film The Talented Mr Ripley with Matt Damon and Jude Law.
Vinischia – July: An event that is entirely dedicated to food and wine and Campania regional crafts. It has been organized each summer since 1999 at Torre Guevara at Ischia Ponte. Shows, concerts and dances are organized around the exhibitions and the food and wine tasting.
Festa di Sant’Anna – 26 July; The Festa di Sant’Anna in Ischia Porto is held each year in the borough of Ischia. On that occasion, there is a sea parade of figurative boats from the island’s various boroughs and also from Procida, under the Castello Aragonese. The parade ends with a prize-giving ceremony and fireworks. The festival is watched by an enthusiastic public.
Settembre sul Sagarato – August and September; This is a festival held every year since 1988 in the village of Piazzale Battistessa, opposite the Church of San Pietro. The festival lasts for two weeks and is filled with painting exhibitions, parades of traditional costumes, wine tasting, fagiolate (bean stew tasting), concerts and shows. and
Ischia White Night (La notte Bianca a Forio d’ Ischia) 24 December; Museums, churches, shops and restaurant stay open while the Ischia Notte Bianca stages music, dance and theater events.