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…
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 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
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.
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.