Up until a month ago I’d never heard of the Italian island of Ischia, nestled just off the coast of Naples, and it seems that I’m not the only one with many people agreeing. Despite being larger than neighboring island Capri it seems to have fallen out of mind and even today the majority of the visitors to Ischia are fellow Italians so it’s the perfect spot for a bit more of a traditional feel.
If you search Ischia online one of the first things which is likely to come up are news of earthquakes due to one which happened on the island earlier this year. The earthquake wasn’t major, most of the houses which did fall were old and to be honest, it wasn’t a surprise and a lot of the island didn’t even feel the quake never mind get affected by it. Despite this, in the 24 hours following the event, thousands of tourists left the island and it was estimated that the island lost over £2 million in the 3 days post-earthquake. The last quake to happen on the island was around 1880 which tells you everything you need to know.
Like many places, Ischia relies heavily on tourism and with just 60-70,000 inhabitants during low-season swelling to over 260,000 in high-season these effects can mean a lot. But if I hadn’t been told about the quake I’d have never even known it happened, the island looks it’s usual quaint, beautiful self. But back to the island itself…..
Ischia as a destination
The Volcanic island is just 10km wide and 7km long so it’s the perfect size for a trip away to explore as you can reach most corners of this island in the same time it would take you to explore a city. While places like the Amalfi Coast get so crowded you can just head across to the quaint island and be greeted by the perfect Italian island. It’s also the perfect spot for day-tripping tourists as it’s easily accessible from Sorrento, Naples, and Capri, although you’ll definitely want more than a day to explore the island.
Things to do in Ischia
As we were guests of the wonderful Imperatore Company we had a schedule pre-planned for us to show us as much of the island as possible, and while it was tightly packed I feel that I know the island so well now. The locals said that most visitors stay on the island for 5-7 days in total which is about right for what there is to do, although if relaxing by the pool/ on the beach is more your thing you might want a bit longer.
The island has natural thermal water which varies in temperature due to the volcanic activity under the surface so spas are a big part of the culture of the island. The naturally hot water can be found in thermal parks such as Poseidon which we visited, or in certain areas of the sea where the temperature can range up to 40 degrees!
Monte Epomeo is the island’s highest peak at around 789 meters high and like many mountains, there are a variety of different walks you can do to reach the summit ranging from a brief 15-20 minutes to some a bit more strenuous (if you’re a bit unfit like me). Our walk took about 2.5 hours but we managed to see the dusty cliffs, the beautiful greenery and old houses and water containers along our route. Carved out of stone at the top is the sweetest little cafe/ restaurant so you can enjoy a well deserved cold drink at the top.
One of the most impressive sites is the island fort of Castello Aragonese which is only joint to the mainland by a man-made bridge created in more recent times. There are actually two small hotels in the castle alongside a family who live within part of the castle grounds (life goals or what?!). From the top you can see a lot of the cute prettily painted fishing villages which lay below and the vineyards which wind up the hills. But one of the best views is from a boat to see the castle in all of its glory.
The food in Ischia
Like most Italian cities there is your fair share of pizza and pasta but for a small island like this seafood is your best bet to get an authentic and well-rounded experience. From prawns and calamari to seabass and tuna you can really taste how fresh everything is with much of it caught and eaten within the day.
Another delicately of the island is rabbit which is prepared with fresh herbs and tomatoes grown exclusively on the island. I wasn’t sure how I’d fair eating this but I have to tell you it was probably the best thing I ate across the four days, so tender and moreish.
As for drink it’s all about the wine which again is pretty much exclusively made on the island. Ischia make their own wine across numerous vineyards sometimes for their own family or restaurant, or sometimes to sell to select shops. But one thing you won’t find is Ischia wine exported to other countries or even mainland Italy. It’s all about exclusivity.
One of the great things about much of what you’ll eat and drink on the island is that it comes locally, everything is so self-sufficient that olive oil and honey is made on site, our hotel made it’s own bread and of course there’s nothing like specially grown local wine.
Getting to Ischia
The easiest way to get to Ischia is to fly into Naples and then take a one hour ferry from the port in Naples to Ischia as the island itself doesn’t have an airport. What with transfers in between the airport and the port I left my house at 1030am for a 2.30pm flight from Gatwick to arrive at my hotel in Ischia at 9.30pm. While it isn’t a super quick journey it is well worth it.
*I went on a press trip to Ischia paid for by Imperatore but all thoughts and opinions are my own