Natural thermal springs, pampering spas and a stunning coastline have all played their part in attracting royalty and celebrities to the island of Ischia over the years but delve deeper and you’ll find a wonderful natural beauty: ancient villages, vast expanses of terraced vineyards and a lush green interior.
These are some of our ‘must-sees’ on the island:
Back to nature: The volcanic Mount Epomeo is a high point in every sense of the word: take the footpath from the main piazza at Serrara Fontana, through woods of holm oak and chestnut trees, then climb to the peak via a narrow path carved out of the rocks.
The ‘Epomeo in Sella’ riding school offers an alternative ascent, via horseback, but however you get there, your prize at the summit is breathtaking views across the Bay of Naples, Vesuvius and the neighbouring islands of Capri, Ponza and Procida.
Sights and sounds: Back in the ‘50’s, the town of Forio was the island’s top cultural hot spot, regularly frequented by literary giants such as Auden and Pablo Neruda and the big showbiz names of Visconti, Liz Taylor, Richard Burton and Vivien Leigh.
Today, you can wander through the tiny streets of its historical centre, visit churches and towers and explore the wonderful La Mortella Gardens, established by the composer William Walton and regularly listed as one of Europe’s most beautiful gardens.
Don’t miss the Castello Aragonese, built in 1438 by Alfonso of Aragon, and connected to the island by a bridge.
Originally a castle, palace and monastery, today there are planted gardens and an olive grove within the medieval gardens and you can still explore around the castle walls, via antique archways and tiny courtyards.
Top spot on the island in the evening is La Riva Destra which has some of the best bars and restaurants on the island.
Head for the family-run ‘I Ricci’ restaurant, right on the water’s edge, for the best ‘antipasti’ on the island and the sheer pleasure of sitting back and enjoying the view while owner, Luciana, plans your menu.
Bathing beauties: With 37 kms of coastline, you’re never too far from a beach. The Spiaggia dei Maronti offers 3 kms of sand, good swimming and a natural thermal spring at Cava Scura. Other good beaches include the Spiaggia Citara and the Spiaggia degli Inglesi.
Wines and wineries: Having identified the island’s wonderful fertile volcanic soil, Ischia was the Greeks’ first foray into viticulture, resulting in today’s production of around one million bottles annually.
The island’s white wines are exceptional, many made from the Biancalello grape which is exclusive to Ischia and grows best on the slopes of Mount Epomeo.
Several wineries offer tastings such as the Perrazzo winery (www.perrazzo.it) which has its own shop in Ischia Porto and the Pietratorchia winery (www.pietratorcia.it) which has ‘cantine’ offering tastings in Forio.
Hot pools: Thermal pools, saunas, Turkish baths, tropical vegetation and manicured private beaches are all part of Ischia’s thermal park experience.
With as many as 30 thermal pools (Negombo) of varying temperatures, these thermal gardens are the ultimate chill-out zone.
Rise to the challenge of a few laps in an Olympic-sized pool, treat yourself to a thermal massage or sweat it out in a rock sauna, all features of the Castiglione thermal gardens.