Ischia is a volcanic island located around 30km from Naples in Italy and is accessed via a short ferry ride from Naples Beverello. It’s one of my favourite Italian islands and we have visited many times since 2009. It’s fairly big – there are about 60,000 people who live in Ischia and the island has around 34kms of coastline. There are lots of local buses but I would suggest hiring a car or scooter so that you can explore the island in your own time.
If you’ve watched the film ‘The talented Mr Ripley’ with Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow then you will recognise it as it was filmed in Ischia. It’s a great film, by the way! There is a particular scene in the film where they are celebrating the festival of Sant’ Anna and this festival actually takes place every year on 26 July where they build stages on rafts around the island and the castle burns (they light fires around it, it doesn’t *actually burn).
In the film, Jude and Gwyneth’s apartment is in the Castello Aragonese which is now a museum as well as a hotel. The castle has been featured in a few adverts too, most notably the Fiat 500 Cabrio. It was built in 474 BC!
The first time we visited Ischia, we stayed in the hotel in the castle, which is called Il Monastero, as it’s a 16th century former monastery. It’s situated in the old town and this was the view from our window at dusk – simply breath-taking!
Although we’ve not stayed on our other visits (being a former monastery, the room was a bit too basic for us), we have always returned to their restaurant as it is superb! They have an outside restaurant (if the weather is not good, they move you inside) with the most stunning view – see photo above! Apart from the spectacular view, the food is some of the best you will find on the island. I highly recommend the Coniglio All’ Ischitana – a typical dish from Ischia. Coniglio is rabbit in English.
One of our favourite swimming spots is just below the castle, however I highly recommend you buy some cheap diving shoes as it’s quite shallow where you get in and there are quite a few grassy plants, which will tickle your feet! It can be quite slippery getting into the water too… it’s a lovely spot though and not very busy. If there are other people around, they will be locals.
Although the old town is amazing, there are many other parts of Ischia to explore. One of my favourites is Sant’Angelo. It has a paid beach but also a public one.
If you visit Sant’Angelo, I highly recommend lunch at Casa Celestino. Wonderful view and excellent food! Their stairs even have herbs and chillies growing in pots.
I also recommend visiting Lacco Ameno, where you will find the famous Il fungo – basically a rock in the sea that’s shaped like a mushroom.
Lacco Ameno is a stretch of beach with lots of little paid beaches (around €20 per person for the day – includes a sunbed and umbrella). There are also quite a few shops and lots of restaurants serving fresh seafood and delicious pasta.
Ischia also has a really long stretch of beach called Maronti, where again there are lots of paid areas where you get a sunbed and umbrella. However, right at the end they also have a public beach which is completely free.
Natural thermal baths
As Ischia is a volcanic island there are lots of thermal bathes and spas around the island where you can bathe in the hot springs. You have to pay an entrance fee for all apart from one… Sorgeto is completely free although you have to walk down quite a few stairs to get there. It’s totally worth it though! To find it, head to Forio and follow the signs to a small town called Panza.
If you do want to pay to spend the day in a thermal park, I recommend Negombo. As well as 14 thermal pools, you get sunbeds and an umbrella at San Montano beach, which is fabulous! The beach is also free if you want to visit. Whilst the thermal spa is quite pricey, it was definitely worth it.
The different pools in Negombo range in both size and temperature. Some are really hot (34 degrees) and some are cold!
Where to eat
Ischia has many wonderful restaurants. We recommend the restaurant at hotel Il Monastero, Il Giardino Eden, Gardenia Mare, La Lampara in the Miramare e Castello hotel and Umberto a Mare in Forio.
If you want to eat at Il Giardino Eden, you do need to book in advance. We didn’t but the only reason we managed to get a table was because the weather wasn’t very good that day!
A trip to Forio to have lunch at Umberto a Mare is a must! A simply stunning view and fabulous food.
The bruschetta was the best we had ever had – must be because the tomatoes travelled 0 miles as the waitress informed us. The flavour was sublime!
I also love having a swim in the marina in Forio as the water is always lovely and calm. And, although the beach is completely free, it’s never that busy so you’ll have plenty of space to yourself.
Ischia’s marina is the perfect place to have an aperitivo at dusk. The whole stretch is lined with restaurants and a few bars. We always choose an Aperol Spritz (to start!) and sit and just watch the world go by (and imagine owning one of the massive yachts).
On our last trip to Ischia, we discovered Tenuta c’est la vie, which is a hotel and restaurant with a vineyard in the Forio area of the island. It’s where the sun sets so was the perfect place to have an aperitivo.
I highly recommend Ischia for a wonderful, relaxing, delicious holiday. There’s lots to see and do and for an Italian island it’s not that expensive. From Ischia, you can also do day trips by ferry to Positano and Capri too.
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