Basking Under the Mediterranean Sun in Ischia
In this article we’ll give you a list of the best things to do in Ischia that you don’t want to miss. Before we dive in on what to do and see, let’s talk about the wonderful island of Ischia. With its sunny shores, colourful villages, ancient castles, and natural thermal springs offers visitors plenty of ways to soak up la dolce vita Italiana. Located in Italy’s Bay of Naples, this gem of an island beckons with all sorts of adventures. From exploring enchanting gardens and sampling delicious wine to sailing azure seas and getting pampered at a spa, Ischia caters to all interests.
Top Things To Do in Ischia our List
Discover the Castles of Ischia
Several impressive castles punctuate Ischia’s coastline. The iconic Castle Aragonese stands on its own rocky islet just offshore. A sprawling complex today, it started in 474 BC as a simple fortress. Climb up to enjoy wandering its series of soaring ramparts, chapels and majestic courtyards. Marvel at the vaulted armor hall and the huge water cistern, along with admiring sublime views across the harbor.
A Castle Through the Ages
Over the centuries, the Castello Aragonese has seen it all. It’s been a conqueror’s prize, a wedding venue for the high and mighty, and even felt the heat of English bombs in 1809. Despite periods of neglect, it’s come back stronger, flaunting churches, convents, prisons, lush gardens, and so much more.
Why Castello Aragonese Matters
The Castello Aragonese isn’t just a pile of old rocks. It’s a living, breathing chapter of history. Its unique architecture and rich past make it a must-study for history buffs and a landmark that tells the story of a region that’s as beautiful as it is historic. The Castello Aragonese it’s a testament to human ingenuity and resilience, standing proud through the ages.
Michelangelo or Guevara Tower
The Michelangelo or Guevara Tower, or as the locals call it, the Torre di S. Anna. This tower isn’t just a structure; it’s a piece of history that stands proudly amidst the lush greenery close to the stunning “Scogli di S. Anna” (The Saint Anna rocks). Imagine this: a many-towered house built on Ischia’s eastern coast, offering a breathtaking view of the Castello. This isn’t any ordinary castle we’re talking about; it’s a marvel dating back to the 2nd century A.D., fortified to its glory by Alfonso d’Aragona in 1433.
The Guevara Legacy
Now, let’s delve into the tower’s origins. It was the 16th century when the Guevara family, Dukes of Bovino, decided to mark their legacy. Right next to the sea, in the panoramic bay of Cartaromana, they constructed what we see today as a testament to their name and status. Overlooking Ischia Ponte and the grand Castello Aragonese, this tower initially rose from its foundations towards the end of the 1400s, likely under the watchful eye of Don Juan De Guevara. Picture a tower with a square base, once guarded by high walls, standing tall and proud.
Visist the Mount Epomeo
Soaring over Ischia stands Mount Epomeo, the island’s highest peak at nearly 800 meters. Taking the hike up rewards with sublime panoramas over the entire island and Bay of Naples. Walk along old mule tracks through vineyards and forests. Stop to picnic under olive and chestnut trees, pausing to appreciate the sweeping vistas of terracotta rooftops dotted with church steeples down below. The energetic can climb all the way to the peak to glimpse Capri island shimmering on the horizon.
Back down at the base lies the peaceful town of Fontana, home to several lovely gardens as well as the 15th century Torre di Guevara watchtower. The tower defended the coastline back when pirate raids were common. Today its ramparts provide photogenic views over vineyards to the sea beyond.
Soak in the Island’s Natural Hot Springs
Ischia’s volcanic origins bless it with over 100 thermal springs. Take a dip in the sea-facing Poseidon Thermal Gardens, where terraced pools are filled with mineral-rich waters perfect for relaxing tired muscles. Or head to beachside Parco Termale Negombo for a circuit of soothing thermal pools in lush gardens threaded with waterfalls.
For spa treatments, head to historic Terme & Tuffi Cavascura. Soak in the old Roman baths carved into volcanic stone or book a massage. Then explore the ancient Euboea cliffside settlement ruins nearby, which include an ancient Greek tunnel sauna. Or opt for a treatment at the exclusive five-star Miramare Sea Resort and Spa in Sant’Angelo village. A trip to any of the thermal spas or gardens in Ischia is a must do activity.
Discover the Gardens of La Mortella
Plant lovers shouldn’t miss the magnificent tropical gardens of La Mortella. Designed by British composer William Walton, this paradise of exotic flora covers over 22 acres of hillside. Wind along shady paths through palm groves, bamboo tunnels and flower filled terraces. Water features like cascading fountains and streams add to the tranquility factor. And classical music wafting through the air enhances the whole ambiance.
The lower section dazzles as flowers bloom everywhere amidst tropical trees and ponds filled with water lilies. Higher up find cactus gardens, rare trees like Canary palms and Brazilian coleus, and delightful sea views. Allow at least two hours to fully explore all the nooks and hidden corners. Cool off afterwards at the excellent garden café or restaurant.
Take a Boat Tour
One of the best ways to explore the island is by taking a boat tour. You can rent a boat or join a guided tour and explore the coastline of Ischia. You can visit hidden coves, swim in the crystal-clear waters, and enjoy the stunning views of the island.
Active types can also opt to kayak along the coastline or try their hand at sailing. Rent boats in Forio, Sant’Angelo or the small fishing village of Campagnano to access more deserted stretches of shoreline. Here coastal cliffs plunge dramatically into an aquamarine sea that serves up delightful swimming.
Explore the Beaches
Ischia is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Italy. The island has a variety of beaches, from sandy to rocky, and from secluded coves to bustling resorts.
Here are some of the top beaches in Ischia:
- Spiaggia dei Maronti – One of the longest beaches on the island at over 3km. It has fine gray volcanic sand and stunning views. Good for walking, relaxing, and water sports.
- Baia di Sorgeto – A small bay with thermal hot springs right on the beach that you can bathe in. The waters are said to have therapeutic properties.
- Spiaggia dei Pescatori – A picturesque coved beach surrounded by rocky cliffs near the fishing village of Sant’Angelo. The water is crystal clear.
- Baia di San Montano – Located on the south coast, it has a mix of both pebbles and sandy areas with calm, clear blue waters perfect for snorkeling and swimming.
- Maronti Beach – A long stretch of fine pebble beach on the southern side of the island with views of Stromboli volcano in the distance. Great for sunbathing.
- Citara Beach – A beautiful wide bay popular for its black volcanic sand and beautiful turquoise waters. Good beach clubs and cafes are located right on the beach.
Some of the best features of beaches in Ischia are the volcanic black sand, thermal waters, picturesque coves and sweeping views of the surrounding Tyrrhenian Sea and islands.
Visit the Church of Soccorso
The Church of Soccorso is a beautiful church located in Forio. The church was built in the 14th century and is known for its stunning architecture and beautiful frescoes. You can take a guided tour of the church and learn about its history and significance.
Now, the church we see today wasn’t always as grand. Originally, it was just a simple structure with a nave and an apse. The church has transformed over the centuries. In 1791, a Crucifix chapel was added, giving it a new layer of spiritual depth. And then, in 1854, they added this soaring dome, making it a sight to behold. Artists like Vianelli, Duclair, and Ledoux captured its beauty in their nineteenth-century drawings.
The church is dedicated to Santa Maria della Neve, it stands as a beacon of hope and faith. Its white façade and architectural design make it a landmark that’s hard to miss in the town center. After an earthquake in 1883, the dome had to be rebuilt, but they kept it modest, a humble reminder of nature’s power.
The Church of Soccorso is more than just a church; it’s a testament to the rich history and evolving architectural styles of Ischia. From its humble beginnings as a 14th-century monastery to its present status as a cherished historical site, this church has seen it all. It’s not just a building; it’s a storybook of history, art, and faith, standing proudly against the test of time.
Unwind at a Local Winery
Ischia’s rich volcanic soils yield some of southern Italy’s finest wines. The island counts over 20 vineyards producing crisp whites and full-bodied reds. Most welcome visitors for tours, tastings and purchasing. For a memorable experience, book one of the al fresco dining options many also offer. Lingering over a long lunch on a scenic terrace seems fitting when in Ischia.
Leading wineries like Casa D’Ambra, Villa Antonio, Pietratorcia and Cenatiempo provide exceptional table wines. Try the Biancolella white, combining floral and citrus flavors. And for reds, the ruby-hued Piedirosso offers ripe fruit with hints of spice.
Food to Try in Ischia
Coniglio all’Ischitana: This is a famous Ischian dish made with rabbit, cooked in a rich tomato sauce with herbs and spices. It’s a must-try for meat lovers.
Sarde a Beccafico: Stuffed sardines cooked with breadcrumbs, pine nuts, and raisins, creating a unique blend of flavours.
Spaghetti with Ragu di Mare: Ischia is known for its seafood, and this dish features fresh seafood cooked in a savoury tomato sauce, served with spaghetti.
Risotto all’Ischitana: A flavorful risotto dish prepared with tomatoes, saffron, and a variety of seafood.
Rucolino Liqueur: Don’t forget to try Rucolino, a traditional liqueur made from arugula leaves, which is unique to Ischia.
How To Get To Ischia
Getting to Ischia involves a few steps but is quite straightforward. Here’s a guide on how to reach Ischia:
- Fly to Naples: The closest major airport to Ischia is Naples International Airport (Aeroporto di Napoli-Capodichino). Many international and domestic flights land here. Once you arrive in Naples, you will need to get to the port to catch a ferry to Ischia.
- Travel to the Port of Naples: From the Naples airport, you have several options to reach the Port of Naples (Porto di Napoli), where ferries to Ischia depart.
- By Taxi: The quickest but more expensive option. Taxis are available outside the airport.
- By Bus: The Alibus shuttle runs from the airport to the port. It’s a cheaper option and takes about 20-30 minutes.
- Choose Your Ferry: There are two main types of ferries from Naples to Ischia:
- Ferries (Traghetti): Larger and slower, but can carry vehicles. The journey takes about 1.5 hours.
- Hydrofoils (Aliscafi): Faster but more expensive, and only carry passengers. The journey takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Select Departure Point: Ferries to Ischia depart from different piers in Naples. Most common are:
- Molo Beverello: Mostly hydrofoils depart from here.
- Porta di Massa: This is where most of the larger ferries that can transport cars depart from.
- Book Your Ticket: You can buy tickets online in advance or directly at the port. During peak season and holidays, it’s advisable to book in advance.
- Arrive in Ischia: Ferries arrive at one of the main ports in Ischia – Ischia Porto, Casamicciola Terme, or Forio. Choose your arrival port based on where your accommodation is located on the island.
- Transport on Ischia: Once on the island, there are buses, taxis services available to get you to your final destination.
Remember to check the ferry schedules in advance as they can vary based on the season, and always allow extra time for any potential delays, especially during the peak tourist season.
Where To Stay in Ischia
I have selected some of the best places to stay in Ischia in my opinion with great reviews, always add your own research while looking for places to stay that suits your budget and expectation. I am giving you a starting point on your seach for the perfect accomodation in Ischia.
This is my list of the best places to stay in Ishia:
Best Luxury Hotels
The island of Ischia, is a treasure trove of experiences that blend history, nature, and the quintessential Italian way of life. From the historical grandeur of the Castello Aragonese and Michelangelo Tower to the natural beauty of Mount Epomeo and the thermal springs, Ischia invites visitors to immerse themselves in a world where the past and present converge seamlessly. The island’s beaches offer a diverse range of settings, from the thermal waters at Baia di Sorgeto to the volcanic sands of Citara Beach, each providing a unique backdrop for relaxation and exploration.
The Church of Soccorso and the magnificent gardens of La Mortella are testaments to Ischia’s rich cultural heritage, offering insights into the island’s artistic and spiritual journey through the ages. For wine enthusiasts, the vineyards of Ischia present an opportunity to indulge in the local flavors and aromas, with wines that are as enchanting as the island itself.
Gastronomically, Ischia is a haven for food lovers, with dishes like Coniglio all’Ischitana and Spaghetti with Ragu di Mare showcasing the island’s culinary prowess. Each meal is a celebration of local ingredients and traditional recipes, making dining in Ischia a memorable part of the journey.
Ischia, with its array of activities and sights, caters to every type of traveler. Whether seeking adventure, relaxation, historical exploration, or culinary delights, this enchanting island promises an unforgettable experience that embodies the essence of la dolce vita. As the Mediterranean sun sets on Ischia, it leaves behind a trail of golden memories, beckoning travelers to return to its shores time and again.