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Inside: What makes the island of Ischia the perfect Italian escape, plus all the best things to see and do.
New destinations often cross my radar thanks to well-traveled friends.
In this case, I happen to have a friend who is from the sun-splashed Italian island of Ischia. How fancy is that?
Sandra lives in Washington, DC now but spends several weeks each summer visiting her family on the beautiful island of Ischia.
I couldn’t resist her glamourous tales of summer fun in the Mediterranean sun. So I poured myself an Aperol Spritz and added Ischia to my Italian Bucket List.
And since my husband Dave and I are currently spending two weeks traveling around Italy, this is the perfect time to find out why Ischia has been called Italy’s hottest destination.
Luckily, it is virtually impossible to ferry from our current location in Procida to our next stop in Positano without stopping on Ischia. How convenient.
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What is Ischia known for?
Located in Southern Italy’s Gulf of Naples, the volcanic island of Ischia is famed for its mineral-rich thermal waters.
The island is home to bubbling hot springs, therapeutic spas, dazzling beach resorts, lush gardens, and rolling vineyards. Not to mention one pretty impressive medieval castle built on a rock in 474 BC.
Castles, beaches and spas, you say? Count me in.
How to Get to Ischia by ferry
Ischia is 18 miles from the nearest city on the Italian mainland, Naples. Like Procida, most visitors to the island arrive at the airport in Naples and transfer by ferry.
Ischia is easily accessible by ferry from Naples, Procida, Sorrento, and Capri.
Tip: The best site for checking schedules and booking ferries in Italy is FerryHopper.com
In the summer months, ferries run several times daily between the islands. From Naples, there are two options:
- Regular ferry (travel time about 90 minutes)
- Hydrofoil (travel time about an hour)
There are also a number of companies offering day trips from Naples or Sorrento, like these:
Where to stay on Ischia
The ferry ride from Procida is a short 30 minutes and we arrive to beautiful views of the busy marina in Ischia Porto.
Once off the ferry, we head off on foot in search of our hotel.
Unlike Procida, Ischia definitely draws its share of tourists (though to a lesser extent than nearby Capri). The island has a variety of beach resort areas offering typical Mediterranean resort accommodations.
Ischia’s best hotels
Sandra raved about the fabulous Miramare Castello, a 5-star hotel with sweeping views of the Aragonese Castle and Sorrento Bay. But sadly, it was booked up solid during our stay.
She also suggested her cousin’s favorite hotel, the Mezzatorre Resort & Spa. But it’s located further out in Forio, Ischia’s 2nd largest town.
Ischia Porto’s affordable hotels
For our brief stay, we chose a hotel in Ischia Porto, central to the ferry terminal. And since we’re traveling for a few weeks right now, we needed an affordable option.
We booked the Casthotels Bristol Terme based on a combination of price and location. Unfortunately, when we arrive we realize it isn’t so great. The room is quite sterile with a rather uncomfortable bed.
On a positive note, the AC works well (a big plus on this sweltering summer day) and the location is perfect – just a short walk from the ferry, the beach, and plenty of shops and restaurants. And the price is definitely right. All in all, fine for a one-night stay but I wouldn’t stay longer.
Hotel Tip: We later discover that the Hotel Ulisse is a much better budget option in Ischia Porto. Spectacular castle views for the same rate we paid for zero view. Lesson learned!
Oh well, you can’t win ’em all in the hotel lottery, right? We drop our bags in the room and head out to explore.
With just one full day to see what Ischia has to offer (a woefully inadequate amount of time), we begin with Ischia’s #1 sight, the iconic Castello Aragonese.
From Ischia Porto, we meander along the cobbled main street lined with shops and restaurants until we arrive at the beaches of Ischia Ponte.
We step onto the sands of Fisherman’s Beach and – jackpot! – picture-perfect views of this citadel that has stood for nearly 2,500 years.
Originally built by a tyrant from Sicily, Hiero I, the fortress changed hands between Neopolitan and Roman forces for many years.
In the middle ages, the Aragonese royal family created much of the structure as it stands today including the stone bridge that connects it to the island.
Today, visitors to the castle can enjoy a glimpse into Ischia’s history as well as an interesting (and somewhat disturbing) medieval torture museum and terrific views from the top.
A visit to this island citadel is a must for anyone visiting the island.
Ischia’s Best Hot Springs
With Mt. Vesuvius nearby, Ischia is basically a boiling cauldron of natural hot springs like Sorgeto and Nitrodi, in addition to a number of thermal parks. Most of the island’s top thermal parks include a variety of pools, gardens, spa services, scenic views, and a hotel.
Here are a three of Ischia’s top thermal parks:
1. Negombo Thermal Gardens
Located in Ischia’s Bay of Montano, the Negombo Hydrothermal Park complex offers twelve different pools and baths each heated to a different temperature. Add in a wellness center with a variety of luxurious spa treatments, a private beach area, one of Ischia’s best restaurants, and the attached boutique Hotel Della Baia and you’ll find plenty to see and do at Negombo.
2. Poseidon Thermal Gardens
With a picturesque location in the bay of Citara, the Poseidon Thermal Park is Ischia’s largest. More than 20 thermal pools give visitors a variety of temperatures to choose from and the spa features both holistic and relaxing treatments. Maximize your time at the park with a stay at the nearby Semiramis Hotel de Charme.
3. Castiglione Thermal Park
Located just a short drive from Ischia Porto, the Castiglione Thermal Park has 10 pools, immaculate gardens, and both relaxation and therapeutic spa treatments. The park’s most unique feature is the scenic funicular railway that delivers guests from the entrance to the main park area. Castiglione is also the only thermal park featuring a full-service resort, the Hotel L’ Oasi Castiglione, on property.
Tip: According to Sandra, Negombo is the considered nicest of the thermal parks but the locals prefer Poseidon.
With our visit to Castello Aragonese complete, we head straight to Poseidon for an afternoon of hydrotherapy, Italian style. It’s a terrific way to spend a day and reminds me a bit of our other recent thermal spa experiences in the Azores and Karlovy Vary.
Later, we stroll the beaches between Ischia Ponte and Ischia Porto as the sun begins its descent. Dinner at a seaside trattoria with a spectacular sunset view completes our perfect day on Ischia.
Wrapping up 24 hours on Ischia
I wish we had more time to do this island (and those thermal parks!) justice. It’s obvious from our short stay on Ischia that there is so much more to see and do.
And I can easily see why Ischia has been called one of Italy’s hottest destinations.
Is Ischia better than Capri?
If tourist hoards and cruise ship passengers aren’t your thing, then yes, you will likely find Ischia better than Capri. Of course, I freely admit, Capri is a stunning island. And one place along the Amalfi Coast that simply must be seen.
But for an extended holiday, I much prefer Ischia.
And you certainly can’t beat the views. I mean, how often do you get to sit on a beach and stare at a castle? Or sit in a thermal pool and gaze out at the sea?
Well, if you’re like me…not that often!
Tomorrow, it’s time to say goodbye to lovely Ischia and move to our next stop. Where we’ll find out if we can spend 4 days in the Amalfi Coast without busting the budget (spoiler alert: we do pretty well!).
Next up, Positano!
Looking for more great destinations in Italy? Start here: