EUROPE

ISCHIA ISLAND DREAMS

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STORY BY RICHARD THIEL   // PHOTOS BY AIMEE COLON

Compared to some of its more famous island neighbors like Capri and Elba, Ischia, which the Italians fondly refer to as their Island of Dreams, is something of a hidden gem, at least to foreigners. Italians know it well, which is hardly surprising given its volcanic beauty and the fact that it’s only about 18 miles west of bustling Naples. (Ferries leave from the port of Naples on the hour during the summer.) Although it measures just six miles east to west and four miles north to south and is very rugged and mountainous, Ischia has much to offer, including a famous castle, many thermal baths, and on a clear day, a stunning view of Mt. Vesuvius.


For such a diminutive island, Ischia offers the tourist a lot to do. Its most popular attractions are the 103 thermal hot springs that dot this volcanic island. For those who want to keep it simple, all that’s necessary for a refreshing respite is a swimsuit and towel. Those with more demanding tastes will find plenty of spas, including the Giardini Poseidon, which offers 12 swimming pools of varying temperatures set in a spectacularly natural setting of flowers and trees.

As for manmade attractions, certainly the most important one is The Castle, which sits atop Ischia Ponte, a rock island. Built by the Syracusans in 474 BC, it has been used over the centuries to defend the island from invaders as diverse as Normans and pirates. Today its principal attraction is a spectacular view of the Porto. For a better appreciation of the island’s history, both archeological and natural, stop by The Museum, which opened in 1999.

If sunbathing is on your agenda, you’ll be happy to learn that despite its rocky character, Ischia offers many fine sand beaches. Certainly one of the best is in the town of Forio. Here you can enjoy the sun and water only steps from cafes and trattorias. The same is true, but on a smaller scale, in the town of Sant’Angelo, which has been described as “the most beautiful place in the world” by many artists who have visited it. And no visit to Ischia would be complete without a trip to the Solfatara volcano, just outside the town of Pozzuoli. Although its last recorded eruption was around 1198, it is still an active site with many fumeroles and steam rising from its many fissures. Writers have described a visit to this area as akin to a trip back into prehistoric times, and rightly so.

But perhaps the island’s greatest draw is its food. Lying on the western edge of the Gulf of Naples and well into the Tyrrhenian Sea, Ischia has an active fishing fleet that keeps its many fine restaurants well supplied with fresh seafood. Many species of fish are available, but if there is a real Ischean delicacy, it is octopus, which is most often served simply—quickly pan fried in extra virgin olive oil and garlic and served with a crisp, earthy white wine from Campania, the region of which Naples is capital.


INSIDER TIPS:
Ischia is a volcanic island and as such attracts visitors who wish to enjoy the health benefits of its hot springs and volcanic mud. There are a number of places on the island where you can take advantage of these natural phenomena, including the nautural hot springs of Sorgeto, or at the thermal parks and gardens such as Poseidon or Negombo.


To Do's:
CASTELLO ARAGONESE
Beautiful castle with amazing architecture and impressive views of Ischia and the bay of Naples.

CHIESA DEL SOCCORSO
Is a small old church in Forio dedicated to sailors and fishermenold, you will enjoy the beautiful marble altars, and antique wooden angels. 

SANT'ANGELO
Picturesque fishing village with beautiful beach area and shops.


The Eats:

Each restaurant on Ischia has its own variation of octopus the signature dish of Italy's southern coast; I sampled the one from Ristorante Peppino close to the center of Sant'Angelo, which overlooks the small port on the northeast coast. It had a slight peppery taste, which the waiter told me resulted from the special olive oil they use. But the differences between variations of this dish are subtle. What makes octopus on Ischia such a treat and so different from any you’ve had anywhere else is that it has been out of the ocean no more than a few hours. It is as fresh as is humanly possible and so is redolent with the taste and the smell of the open ocean. Just like the island.


The Stay:
Ischia is a small island but offers a few levels of acommodations from residences to luxury hotels. My favorite is Tenuda Del Poggio Antico because of its thermal swimming pool and impressive panoramic views of the sea, hills and vineyards.

RISTORANTE PEPPINO
Via Nazario Sauro 26, 80070 Sant'Angelo,
Serrara Fontana P.

P. +39 (0) 081 999 283

TENUDA DEL POGGIO ANTICO
Forio D’ischia - 80075 Ischia
P. +39 081 986123

ISEEIGO Contact Us






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