Ischia is the biggest island in the bay of Naples. And is considered by those in the know to be the most beautiful, (though Capri is considerably more famous). Italians flock to the island for its volcanically-driven thermal spas and as well as its beaches and food.
Ischia — historically called Pitecusae — was colonized in turn by Greeks, Syrausansa, Romans, Saracens, Turks, and Aragonese; all of whom were interested in its excellent strategic position as well as its therapeutic hot-spring waters and of course its attractive landscape. The result of all this back-and-forth 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 sometimes been used as a cinematic stand-in for the Island of Capri.
Ischia's climate is at its most comfortable for the traveller from April to October, however the weather in Ischia is always changeable and visitors should expect both sunshine and rain — whatever the season. Summer, the main season, combines long daylight hours with lengthy evenings. Winter can be bitterly cold, with short daylight hours.
Flora and fauna
Also called the "Green Island" by locals, Ischia has a hot and dry summer and mild winters along with a pronounced fertility which is a result of having almost entirely volcanic soil. These factors allow Mediterranean plants to thrive all over the island an 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-like and agave plants with 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.
Ischia mud originates from the geologic evolution of the island that many hydrovolcanic eruptions and earthquakes changed the features of the soil. On the hills and up to the Epomeo top, there are some openings into the soil, covered by spontaneous vegetation and rocky deposits: thy are deep and narrow gorges sloping down toward the sea. As it concerns waters and muds, they are all “thermal” or “hypertermal” i.e. they are at the same time hot or very hot and very rich in minerals content. In spite of their diversity, as it can be seen from the description below, all the muds have some standard features: Sodium, Chlorine, Potassium and Calcium content, Sulphur in the form of sulphates and sulphides content. According to the presence of some of these substances, different waters and mud are recommended for different treatments. There is also a document edited by the Italian Ministry of Health concerning the updates on waters and muds suitable for therapeutic treatments and illness and diseases which can be treated. According to this list, disease which can be treated by spring waters and muds are: rheumatical deseases such as arthrosis; respiratory deseases; dermatological deseases such as psoriasis, atopical dermatitis, eczema (except for exudative bladdery forms), chronic seborrhea; gynecological diseases such as pelvis tissue sclerosis; deseases of the gastroenteric apparatus such as gastroenteric or bilious dyspepsia, intestinal desorders associated with constipation.
Cavascura and Olmitello Thermal water
On an excursion around Sant’Angelo you can penetrate on to the footpaths that take you onto the hilltops. One of these is a footpath that goes to the thermal springs of Cavascura and Olmitello. Leaving the square of Sant’Angelo you can reach the Fumarole beach by taxi boat. Here, leave the beach behind you and on your right walk on a footpath 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 every type of plant life, 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 Cava Olmitello. Here making way through the bushes that take you back to when the world was a simple place, calm with only the croaking of frogs, you reach the antique establishment of Olmitello, sadly to say in disuse.
While Italian is the native language on the island, most people working in the tourism industry speak at least one other language.
There isn't an airport on the island. From the airport of Naples International Airport it is possible to reach by taxi two harbours (Beverello and Mergellina) of Naples in 20-30 minutes; there is also a airbus line, which connects directly with the harbour of Napoli Beverello.
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 far 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 far from the highway.
There are no direct trains to Ischia. There are four available railway stations to reach one of the harbours of Naples:
08:00 (to Alilauro) (weekdays) 09:35 (to Alilauro) (except Saturdays - via Ischia) 10:30 (to Alilauro) (via Ischia) 14:35 (to Alilauro) 17:00 (To Alilauro)
It is comfortable to take a taxi in order to reach the harbour from the rail station or airport, in this case take a look at the "Fix prices table" that any taxi driver must show in his car i.e. from the rail station Centrale to the Beverello harbour the fix total price is now 9.50 EUR, not per person, nothing more, or from airport to habour of Beverello fix total price is 15 Euro
The quite good public bus service connects the various urban centres of the island through frequent journeys, most of them having their terminus in the town of Ischia Porto close to the harbour. The fare for a single journey (valid 90 minutes) is € 1.20, but is also possible to purchase tickets with a longer validity at cheap prices. These tickets can be bought at very numerous shops (notably newsstands, bars, travel agencies and tobacconist's).
Half day roundtrip to all 6 communities of Ischia with stops at the most beautiful sightseeing stops of the islands. price Euro 11.
Villas, Parks and Museums
Ischia springs are known since remote times and are many importants to therapeutic features by many Italian and foreign scientists, starting from 1300. Hot and boiling waters are used in baths and thermal gardens; there are as well small springs on some beaches and streams of spouting hot water gushing into the sea as well as steam spouts with gases gushing from cracks in the soil (fumaroles). Fumaroles can be observed on the slopes of the Epomeo, particularly in 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 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 infiltration of sea and rain water. According to many scientists’ opinion location and features of the springs are affected by the combination of the above mentioned factors. The most ancient springs are those of Casamicciola, consacrated to the god Apollo, those of Lacco Ameno consacrated to Hercules, those of Citara in Forio consacrated to Venus Citarea, and those of Barano consacrated to Nitrodi Nymps.===Churches===
There is a tiny white-washed church is located 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.
One of the many things that make Ischia such a place to visit is the variety of events on offer throughout the country every month of the year as musical events and festivals, to the handicrafts markets in the historical center and sports events. In spring and summer, the various villages on Ischia organize several events: most of them are linked to 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:
Trip of Island by Boat
An around trip of the island of Ischia by boat permits to see the coast-line that otherwise is not visibile. Boat Tour living from Forio, Ischia, Sant'Angelo, Lacco Ameno and Casamicciola. If leaving from the port of Sant’Angelo, sailing westwards you can see the Elephants Grotto then in front of you there is a deep inlet in parts low and sandy and in others high and rocky which continue until you reach Punto Chiarito, passing the beaches of Cava Ruffano, Cava Grado and the Green Grotto. At Punto Chiarito there is the bay of Sorgeto with its hot water and muds. Then the coast-line becomes very high, deeply articulated, there are rockfaces, precipices, recesses and promontories: Capo Negro, Punta Pilaro, Chianare Spadaia with its rocks like the Boat Rock, until you reach Capo Imperatore where there is the lighthouse. At first the coast-line is high and steep, then it drops and there is the long and winding beach of Citara. Then it rises softly towards Punta Soccorso and Forio. Passing the coast-line is low and sandy opening onto the beach or San Francesco, which laps the offshoots of Monte Caruso. Here the coast-line is high bare rockfaced, jutting out, curving inwards before arriving at Punta Caruso and Punta Cornacchia. Between Punta Cornacchia and the offshoots of Monte Vico, with its point of the same name, there is the delightful beach of San Montano, Lacco Ameno. Lacco Ameno is noted for its characteristical rock of tufo, shaped like a mushroom. Along the coast there are the houses of Casamicciola Terme. A little farther along there is Punta Scrofa with the English beach, then the bay of Ischia Porto. Past Punto Molino formed from the lava flow of the Arso, there is the Pescatori beach, from here you can admire the island with its castle and the Aragonese bridge. After the bridge there is an inlet here is the Cartaromana beach. In the middle of the sea the rocks of Sant’Anna emerge, and going southwards is Punta Pisciazza. The section of the coast that concludes the southern side of the island is high, rocky and marked by the promontori jutting out of Punta Lume, Punta Parate and Punta San Pancrazio. On this side of the coast there is the Mago grotto and other grottos. From Punta San Pancrazio the coast-line continues high for a few kilometers until Capo Grosso: This stretch of coast-line is commonly known as The Scarrupata. After another small stretch of coast-line there is the beach of Maronti, where the small island of Sant’Angelo can be seen, which was the starting point of the round trip of the island.
A Trip to Monte Epomeo
Arrived to Fontana following by foot or by riding a mule you can reach the peak, which is about 800 metres above sea level. Monte Epomeo is an enormous rock of tufa, in which rooms of an ex hermit and a church which is dedicated to San Nicola (recently restored) have been excavated into it. During the day the view is marvellous, from its peak you can see the whole island of Ischia, Capri and the bay of Naples. At night you can see the town of Forio in a candid light, like an oriental city with the stars slowly fading into the sea, and dawn slowly breaking with its famous green ray.
Many of Ischia best dance clubs are in Forio and Ischia Porto
In every built up area of the island there are streets where you can go exciting shopping for craftsman ships, agricultural local products. The Boutiques, that sell the Famous brand clothes, mark the shopping route:
In Ischia you can go to Via Roma, Corso Vittoria Colonna, or to Borgo di Ischia Ponte, a very nice place full of artisans, shops, restaurants and jewelers.
In Casamicciola, the main streets for shopping are the Seafront and the adjoining Marina Square
In Lacco Ameno the seafront has been very famous since the fifties, nowadays called Corso Rizzoli, that comes out at Piazza Santa Restituta, the place where the inhabitants meet each other.
In Forio, thanks to the expanse of the town territory, there are a lot of possibilities for shopping. Here we only mention the very long main street that crosses the whole city territory.
In Serrara Fontana, do not miss Sant’Angelo, the sea area of the town, for hopping and social life.
In Barano the center of commercial life is the square that faces the wonderful beach of Maronti.
Ceramics making and decorating is a ancient art. This tradition has been handed on during centuries, developing new techniques and producing objects of different use. Ceramics include objects dedicated to two main categories: objects for domestic use, such as dishes, pots, small decorative sculptures, and objects for the building industry such as tiles for paving, roofing tiles, pipes, bath tubs and so on. Terracotta is made of common clay and presents many iron impurities. Assyrians, Babylonians and Egyptians used to dry in the sun this kind of products. If it is baked in oven, it will become dark red, assuming the particular colour known as terra-cotta, varying in intensity as the consequence of its chemical composition. It is suitable to be covered by glassy glazes which make it bright, smooth and not porous. It is usually painted and decorated in different ways. On the Island the main example of ceramics production is represented by the old workshop Mennella in Casamicciola or Taki in Forio: the workshop as well as a large exhibition of products are accessible to visitors. All around there are small pottery workshops.
It is not possible to know if it is because of that mountain that climbs towards the sky giving the idea of an island-not-island, or because of the misture of land and sea that Ischia has kept that primitive and wild feeling that now meets modernity . For all this reasons this island is a priceless place, especially for the taste. It is an land island. Staring from the rabbit, always cooked in terracotta baking-pan with a clove of garlic, wine, little tomatoes, lard and local spices: poor ingredients for an old and very savoury dish.
Indivisible from the ischitanian rabbit is this very savoury main course that is served with the very simple but very rich rabbit sauce. In latest years the pit rabbit became like a totem for the island. The rabbit is bred after the old manner. It lives its natural state: wild, in woods and mountains, and grows up (as for many centuries) in pits and only feeds with wild grass.
Snails are picked along the dry walls (parracine) and in woods. They are cooked in the traditional way with wild grass, especially in the internal par of the island.
An appetizer or main course (if served with mozzarella cheese), Ischitanian Caponata directly originates from the typical insalata cafona (peasant salad). The peasant used to eat it for lunch, in the countryside, during the working time. Nowadays there are many recipes, the oldest one combines little tomatoes, onion, stale bread or freselle, salad and wild grass.
Fish in Ischia does not betray. There are many ways to buy it fresh, directly in fish-shops or at the paranza(trawler) when fishermen come back from the sea after the beating. Typical of the island are macaroni with sea food, linguine with sea-urchins and different species of local fish served in many ways: marinated, cooked in the oven, with spaghetti. The paranza fry is very famous: a lot of fried little fish of different species depending on what fishermen found. Usually they bring basses white breams, giltheads, little tuna, crayfish, calamari, squids and langoustes that enrich the menu of restaurants and agritourisms.
Some passionately fond, produce honey made from bees wax, citrus fruits or flowers. The local honey has a consistence and a taste very different from the others.
There is a town between Barano and Serrara Fontana called buonopane (good bread). Here they have been making bread for centuries. Cooked only in wood ovens it is kneaded with the crisc’to a natural yeast of acid mother paste. The bread is still kneaded by hand, and its smell in the morning is stirring. All over the island. All over the island there are ovens making bread.
The rural culture is confirmed by the cultivation of many kinds of vegetables, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, courgettes, artichokes and garden rockets.
The legume are very good: lentils, chicklings, beans (they have curious and unusual varieties called pipers –purple red colored- and fascists - with black nuances).
The volcanic soil favours the growth of tomatoes. They are picked up in clusters and twisted to create the typical pendolikept in dry and fresh place.
Of course you'll also find all of the regional specialties (such as the origianl Mozzarella cheese) from Campania served on the island.
Restaurants and winebar
On the Island of Ischia, the viticulture has millenarian origins. The cultivation technique is like the Greek traditional one. In fact, it is different from that one used in the middle of Italy and in the rest of the Campania province. From the coasts to the steep mountain slopes is where the vine is cultivated on proper terraced fields. Here is a list of the most famous and diffused kinds of grapes, all cultivated in the island from about 300 years ago: White Grapes - Biancolella, Forastera, and Arilla S. Lunardo; Red Grapes – Guarnaccia and Pedirosso o Pere e Palummo.
Bed and Breakfast
Ischia is generally a safe place, even for women travelling alone. As in any big city, it is better if you don't look like a tourist: don't exhibit your camera or camcorder to all and sundry, and keep your money in a safe place. Police are also generally friendly if not always helpful. Carabinieri (black uniform) are military police, and Polizia (blue and grey uniform) are civilians, but they both do essentially the same thing and are equally good, or bad. Guardia di Finanza (the grey uniformed ones) do customs work. If you are robbed, try to find a police station and report it. This is essential to establishing a secure travel insurance claim.
In an emergency, call 113 (police) or 118 (medical first aid). Carry the address of your embassy or consulate.
From Forio’s Port there are daily trips to the following destinations.