In our last column we landed in Naples and hopped over to Sorrento as a base for our travels. If you’ve already been there and can resist going back, why not choose the Island of Ischia as an alternative destination?
The largest island in the bay of Naples, Ischia lies just north of the more famous Isle of Capri. It shares the same Tyrrhenian Sea waters and balmy Mediterranean climate and in many ways it is every bit as wonderful and more unique.
Like Sorrento, you can reach Ischia with just a short ferry or hydrofoil ride from Naples. And, like Sorrento and Capri, Ischia draws a resort crowd, but people flock here not just for the beaches. Ischia, also called the Green Island for its abundance of Mediterranean plants, is renown for its therapeutic spring waters and mineral rich volcanic mud.
Because this volcanic island is only about 28 square miles 2 and has some 103 springs you won’t need to limit yourself to the enjoyment of just one. You can easily plan to spend time at several of the springs and compare your views while having a meditative soak. Many of the springs are public, so you don’t have to stay in a luxury hotel to enjoy them.
Poseidon, the largest of the public thermal parks, is located on the Bay of Citara on the west side of the island adjacent to the sea. After an ocean swim, you can take your pick of some 20 different thermal pools. Here you can also enjoy gardens, restaurants, and a bar. The upscale Sorriso Thermae Resort & Spa is located about a quarter mile from this beach and hotels.com lists rooms here from $80.
Negombo, a public thermal park located in the island’s smallest town of Lacco Ameno on the north shore, features 10 thermal pools in a mountainside setting with access to a beach and the sea. You can find bargain hotels in Lacco Ameno as well as the luxurious L’albergo della Regina Isabella, a 128- room hotel and spa.
The largest town on the island of Ischia is the town of Ischia. Here you’ll find the Hotel Parco Smeraldo Terme set in a lush subtropical garden with direct access to its own private section of Maronti beach. It also features a thermal water pool overlooking the sea.
In the town of Ischia you’ll be near shopping and the Castello Aragonese, one of the most ancient castles of Italy built on a small island of volcanic rock and connected to the main island. Of the island’s many public beaches Cartaromana is a favorite, not only because it has warm thermal pools where spring water mixes with the sea, but also provides great views of the castle.
Ischia’s coastline is about 21 miles long and a perfect way to spend some of your time on the island is to take a boat trip around it. These popular tours leave from the coastal towns of Forio, Ischia, Sant’Angelo, Lacco Ameno and Casamicciola. The latter towns are where two of the island’s most ancient springs dedicated to Hercules and Apollo, respectively, are located. As with other parts of Italy the relationship between ancient and contemporary often seems like just a blink.
If you choose to stay in Forio the Hotel Mezzatorre Resort & Spa is a 5-star choice situated on a bluff overlooking the sea. It is a small tranquil establishment with only 45 rooms and 12 suites, but the spa has earned it a prestigious reputation
As you well know the point of any scenic boat trip has to be the views and Ischia’s coastline doesn’t disappoint with its sheer variety of vistas from deep sandy inlets to sheer rock faces. You’re sure to spot a place that you’ll want to check out on another outing.
Perhaps that could be a hike to the top of Mt. Epomeo. As the highest point on the island it provides a green backdrop of vegetation including vineyards on its slopes. The path to the top starts at the village of Fontana. Although the volcano is monitored, no eruptions have occurred on Ischia since 1302.
The island is also well known for its food especially fresh seafood dishes and Ristorante Alberto in the town of Ischia is a great choice not only for the menu but also for its wine list of 250 selections and its incredible location on the beach.
For more information check out visitischia.com, ischiaonline.it, hotels.com, italiaevents.com and lonelyplanet.com.
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