Ischia is a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea about 20 miles off the coast of Naples, Italy. Ischia is home to the many mineral rich thermal waters, roman ruins on the sea floor, pescatarian delights and the Aragonese Castle. This island was founded by the Greeks around 700 BC, and was used as a trading route to the mainland of Italy. The island was a bustling marketplace for thousands of years, and still flourishes today.
After a very intense couple of weeks traveling and touring, much needed R&R was on the itinerary. We stopped for a few days in Ischia and it was one of the most beautiful islands I have ever seen. We took the ferry from Naples, and it was about an hour and a half or so before we reached Ischia. There’s a high-speed ferry (hydrofoil) that takes about an hour, it’s your choice. You can get tickets online or at the ticket booth in the harbor near Molo Beverello or Calata Porto di Massa in Naples.
Make sure you know which port to disembark from when you reach Ischia because there are a few. If you’re not sure, it’s best to arrive at the main port in Ischia. A word of advice, the boarding is a bit strange, so be sure to print out the correct portion of your ticket ahead of time (if booked online). There is someone that scans your ticket or just looks up your name on their passenger list upon boarding the ferry. We didn’t print out the correct part of our tickets so it was a bit challenging. Also keep in mind that most of the workers don’t speak English, or pretend not to, so you’re at their mercy. Once we figured out we didn’t print out the correct part of our ticket (our bad), they just checked our names on their list and moved on. We wondered why they didn’t just do that in the first place. It was a little stressful, but once we go on the ferry, that was left behind us.
We took the slower ferry and enjoyed the sea views. Once we pulled into the harbor, I was amazed by the hustle and bustle, in a relaxing way, if that is possible. Our hotel was south of the harbor, which was a quick bus or taxi ride (the bus stop was right in front of our hotel). Upon arrival, they upgraded our room to a suite, marble columns, gold leaf everything and a piano! Our view of the Aragonese Castle was exquisite. There were multiple pools, even an indoor mineral pool. We walked down to the water. Surprisingly enough near the sun deck, there was a ramp to walk down into the bathing area, since there was no beach, just all rock! The sea was cold (early June), but I managed to swim out to a small island to sit and get a better view of the castle.
Another really cool amenity at our hotel was the water taxi that brought us near the castle. From our drop off point we were able to walk across a stone bridge that separated the city center from the castle. There was an elevator to take you up to the castle, but we toughed it out and walked.
There is a maze of walkways and buildings near the castle. We toured Chiesa San Pietro a Pantaniello. A small art exhibit across from the Chiesa. And finally, the Aragonese Castle. The castle was built by Hiero I in 474 BC as a fortress. In 326 BC, it was captured by Romans, and then by the Parthenopeans. In 1441 Alfonso V of Aragon built the stone bridge that connected the small island fortress to the rest of Ischia. This stone bridge, with some modern advancements, is still used today.
Plan to spend several hours up at the castle to be able to tour everything, especially the gorgeous grounds.
We walked all along the grounds and were in awe of the fantastic sea views as well as views of Ischia city center.
The next day we ventured out to the mineral baths. We researched a few and decided on Negombo Thermal Gardens in Lacco Ameno. I would define it as a water park for adults. We took a taxi, since the bus didn’t go where we wanted to go. That’s one thing about Ischia, the bus doesn’t go everywhere, so you may need to take a taxi, which isn’t really a big deal because there’s not a lot of fare gouging going on. Negrombo was so cool, we’ve never been to a thermal spring before, so we were thermal virgins. They give you a map, so we plotted out which springs to visit. There are two sides to the park, one with mostly pools, which is on fairly-level ground, then the other side with more of the “attractions.” The attraction side has more hills, stairs and levels. Each side looks out onto the sea. There’s a beautiful beach with sea access, so we took a break in between our thermal treatments to jump the waves. There were some cool springs there. Here are a few that stuck out. One, you walk through a cave as hot mineral water showers on you, once in the cave, you sit in a cove in a heated pool. Another one was small, like a bottomless pit of warm mineral water. You can either tread water or hold onto the sides. There was a hot pool alongside a cold pool, so you can jump in one then the other. This was known to the Romans as a healthy way to get your blood circulating. I’d have to agree. Water therapy itself is supposed to be a miraculous healer. Combine with the volcanic mineral springs, you truly feel amazing afterwards. We spent several hours there, so plan a day of it. You will feel refreshed and rejuvenated. We never felt so good!
At this point we were both starving and went on a quest for the best dining view. We found a gorgeous café on the water that overlooked the Aragonese Castle. It was like something out of a movie. First, the pizza we ordered had clams and mussels, still in their shells. Oh my! Then we had an amazing bottle of wine from the Campania region that complimented our pizza so well. THEN, a man came up to our table and played the accordion for us. That was the most Italian experience I ever had.