Just back from the most dreamy press trip to Ischia, Italy with my dear friend Beatrice.
I say dreamy as earlier this year I dragged my Hubby to Capri and never gave Ischia a second thought. However, after spending a solid three days on the island I now feel like I have fallen in love with Ischia. It is almost 5 times bigger than Capri and I felt as though I never saw another tourist the whole 3 days. Saying that, on the boat I met an English couple who said they thought it was very crowded. Also confessing to having spent their entire visit down by the Port. Ischia is an island that needs to be discovered with it’s many facets. Get your walking shoes and swimsuit ready!
We were shown around by Andrea di Meglio, vice president of the local hotel association and owner of her own hotel on the island. Like this we really got to experience Ischia from the point of view of a local. We soon learnt that even the most seemingly ordinary thing/place in Ischia has a hidden secret behind it.
My biggest tip for any visit to Ischia would be to take the time to talk to the locals and hear their stories. Hospitality is truly one fabulous feature of the island. I loved finding out that when you go hiking you are most likely to end up trespassing on someones property. Instead of asking you to leave, they will probably invite you to share a glass of local wine with them!
Last but not least Ischia is an island you can visit the whole year round. You can even swim in the sea 12 months of the year thanks to the hot thermal waters which go right down to the sea in some spots. In many places the waters even look like the Maldives.
Keep on reading for more about “Ischia – The Ultimate Travel Guide”.
Ischia – The Insider Travel Guide
Ischia is a mere 1.5 hours by plane from Zurich to Naples, a short taxi ride to the harbour and then another hour by boat.
There are various boat options but best is to take the cheapest option of ferry. Not due to the price but because then you can sit outside and really enjoy the ride like an extension to your vacation. The high speed boat is only marginally faster and a much bumpier ride, inside only.
You don’t need to necessarily book the ferry in advance. It’s super easy to get tickets in the ferry terminal and the schedule changes continuously due to current weather conditions. As a guideline our ferry cost EUR 14 each way. Beware of websites selling tickets for much more.
The Coolest Hotels:
Here are 3 top tips for varying budgets. Each hotel has something very special about it…
Lighthouse Punta Imperatore
We spent the first night at the Lighthouse Punta Imperatore which has only just been opened after a two year renovation.
Getting there was an adventure as half way there we had to change from Taxi to a slimmer TukTuk style car. Even then half way up the unsealed road to the lighthouse our very talented driver had to reverse to make way for… not a car, but a scooter!
Once there the porter grabbed our bags and ran off with them down the 120 stairs to the lighthouse. Half way down we caught up to him and noticed our bags had gone! “Where are our bags?” Beatrice anxiously asks, only to be pointed to a zip line and see our bags wrapped in white plastic whizzing down at super speed.
The scenery walking down is mesmerising – this has to be one of the most romantic places in the world!
Small preview of my room with fabulous views over the ocean from both the bedroom and bathroom.
There are only 4 rooms in the lighthouse so be sure to book in advance. Also note one room has no view so if a view is important to you, do request it.
After a beautiful apero on the lighthouse rooftop, it was time for dinner in the restaurant Luci. Named after Lucia who lived in the lighthouse with her husband and 7 children. One day he died at sea and they wanted to replace her with a new male lighthouse keeper. However she refused and after much struggle was finally allowed to remain lighthouse keeper herself. Also making her the first female lighthouse keeper in Italy, if not the whole world. An incredible story which took place in the 1930’s!
… more pictures at the lighthouse. One of which might be AI – smile.
Mezzatorre Hotel & Thermal Spa
Mezzatorre Hotel & Thermal Spa is said to be Ischia’s most stylish destination. Beatrice and I certainly enjoyed our stay and couldn’t get enough of photographing the hotel grounds.
It seemed as though each time we stepped out of our room there was a different light that needed capturing.
My room was a superior with beautiful sea views from the balcony:
Even after a rainy night we were able to rush down to the pool and take pretty pictures.
First thing though was always to have a ride in the TukTuk.
Having breakfast whilst watching the waves crashing on the rocks beneath was a brilliant way to start the day.
All in all Mezzatorre Hotel & Thermal Spa is a fantastic hotel with attentive staff, amazing views over the Gulf of Naples, private cove and thermal spas. There is even a so called “Think Tank”, which really makes for the perfect place to propose to a loved one – smile.
Member of the Leading Hotels of the World.
We didn’t stay in Villa Ravino but were given a private tour through several rooms. Each room is self catering and good value for money. There is also a small spa area available for guests.
My secret tip would be room number 9 – newly renovated with pretty sea views.
Inspiring fact: The Villa Ravino complex has been built up over many years. There were no bank credits available and so the family had to always wait for money to come in before the next extension could be built. Proving patience and perseverance really do pay off.
A gardeners delight – guests have free access to the Ravino botanical garden, adjacent to the residence. More about these gardens further down.
Top Tips for What to Do:
We spent a fabulous morning aboard the Oceanomare Delphis on a mission to sight some dolphins. Mission accomplished!
There was even a sound tracking machine on board which we could use to hear the dolphins and track how far away they are.
Oceanomare Delphis is a non profit organisation consisting of experts and enthusiasts who want to work for the conservation of cetaceans in the Mediterranean Sea.
It is part of an eco tourism project. In addition to supporting by going on board for a morning, you can also opt to take part in the research and live on board whilst learning all about dolphins and other cetaceans around Ischia. More information here.
Do a Mini Pottery Course
This is where I begin by telling you that Ischia has a great Greek background dating back to 770BC when the island was inhabited by colonisers from the Greek island of Euboea. Along with the Greek people came the tradition of pottery. Also today when you go around the island you see many colourful pottery shops.
One of the most famous is Keramos d’Ischia and Beatrice and I were lucky enough to be invited by Gaetano De Nigris and Nello Di Leva (owners of the store), for a mini pottery course.
Of course Beatrice cheated and used her best Italian to charm for help. Personally I still think my fish looks better. I am sure you do too – it really sticks out in the picture above – smile.
Keramos d’Ischia Via Giovanni Castellaccio 93 80075 Forio (NA) +39 081 333 0142
Sant’Angelo is also nicknamed the “Capri” of Ischia because of the super pretty shops. Fortunately our tour guide decided to show us this area only briefly at night so both Beatrice and I were not lead to spending temptation.
During the day this is also a great area for hiking or visiting the “Thermal Park & Spa Aphrodite Apollon”
Fun fact: Ischia is particularly loved by the Germans and each year Angela Merkel stays in Sant’Angelo.
Visit the Antiche Terme Belliazzi
Fun fact – Ischia is the place with the most thermal waters in the whole of Europe. In the Roman times poor sick people from Naples were sent to the terms in Ischia for recovery. A type of social project set up by the wealthy for the poor.
The Antiche Terme Belliazzi are the oldest and most famous on Ischia. Built on top of the historic Gurgitelle spring – pictured on the right below.
A trip to the Antiche Terme Belliazzi is not for sissy’s but certainly has its effect.
It all starts with a short doctor consultation during which the right treatment for you is decided. Later it’s a matter of walking down very old marble clad hallways to your treatment room. Most treatments start with a warm fungi pack – the rest is tailor picked. Mine involved a 20 minute swim in a mineral pool all to myself followed by a special facial massage.
What I will say is that I had been suffering from a sore shoulder and my pain really did go away afterwards. We also heard of many other similar stories.
Wine Tasting & Lunch with a View at Tommasone Vineyard
The Tommasone Vineyard is one of the oldest family run vineyards on Ischia and has been operating for over 150 years now. Starting with Pietro Monti in 1870. The vineyard has continued to be passed down through generations and is currently run by Lucia Monti and her husband Giuseppe, whom she met whilst studying viticulture and oenology in Germany. Lucia is the only female winemaker in the whole island of Ischia.
Tommasone has 16.5 hectares of vineyards wherein they cultivate native grapes such as Biancolella and Forestera for the white wines and Per’e Palummo or Piedirosso, Guarnaccia and Aglianico for the red wines.
We learnt all about an experiment they are currently undergoing by ageing 250 bottles of sparkling wine 40m under water in the ocean. Here the temperature is stable at 11° and the bottles are subjected to 6 bars of pressure to help the ageing.
The experiment is not such an easy ask as the last time they went to check on the bottles it took 2 hours to find them.
Both lunch and the wine tasting was incredibly delicious – I consider this an absolute must for any trip to Ischia. My favourite wine was the red which comes in that beautiful ceramic bottle pictured top left above.
Fun fact: 2 million bottles of wine are produced each year on Ischia and currently it is all drunk within Italy.
Visit the Ravino Gardens
If you know anything about me, you’ll know I really love my garden. Hence I’m having a bit of a zen moment before I find out more about the wonderful story behind Ravino Gardens.
Meet Peppino D’Ambr and his son above. Peppino, originally a sailer, started in the 1960’s to collect plants and seeds from all over the world. Now over 60 years later and 50 years dedicated to his dream, exists the wonderful Ravino Gardens. One of the biggest and widest succulent plant collections in Europe!
A true inspiration, showing once again how hard work and passion really does make dreams come true. It is super nice to see that Peppino’s son is carrying on maintaining his father’s passion and life work.
Be sure to stop at the garden cafe and have a homemade cactus juice – seriously delicious!
Insider Dinner Tips:
The Lighthouse Punta Imperatoe
Apero on the rooftop of Lighthouse Punta Imperatore remains one of my favourite experiences.
2. Romantic Resort & Spa
Romantic Resort & Spa is a lovely four star family run resort with huge thermal area, including 13 pools and a fabulous kitchen. See what we ate above.
3. Ristorante Pizzeria Corso
Ristorante Pizzeria Corso is considered by the locals as being the best Pizzeria on Ischia. I had to include the price list. Anyone living in Switzerland will know why!
I still have a few things left on my personal Ischia list such as visiting the castle , hiking and swimming in the ocean where there are thermal temperatures. This means I must come back and truly believe Ischia deserves to be on everyone’s bucket list!
A huge thanks to Andrea di Meglio, (vice president of the local hotel association) for showing us around and all the lovely stories.
Also thank youth Italia.it for the invitation and supporting the trip.
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