New destinations often cross my radar thanks to a friend who has visited there. In the case of Ischia, it was a friend who is actually from there! My friend Sandra lives in Washington DC but spends several weeks each summer visiting family on the Italian island of Ischia.
I’ve heard her talk about the place for years and since it was virtually impossible to ferry from Procida to our next stop in Positano without going through Ischia, we decided to spend a night and get a good look at this photogenic Italian island for ourselves.
Known for its mineral-rich thermal waters, the volcanic island of Ischia is home to spa towns, beach resorts, gardens, vineyards and one very impressive castle built on a rock near the island in 474 BC.
Getting to Ischia
Located in Southern Italy’s Gulf of Naples, 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. In the summer months, ferries run several times daily between the islands. From Naples, you have the option of the regular ferry (which takes about 90 minutes) or the hydrofoil (which takes about an hour).
Our ferry ride from Procida was a short 30 minutes and we arrived to beautiful views of the busy marina in Ischia Porto.
Where to stay on Ischia
Once off the ferry, we headed 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 several beach resort areas offering typical European resort accommodations. For our stay, we wanted something central to the ferry terminal since we only had one night to explore.
Sandra raved about the 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 mentioned that her cousin’s favorite hotel is the Mezzatorre Resort & Spa. But it was located in Forio, further away from town than we wanted to be for our short stay.
We ended up choosing the Hotel Bristol Terme based on a combination of price and location. Unfortunately, those were about the only things this hotel had going for it. The wifi never worked (and no one at the front desk seemed to care) and the room was sterile with a rather uncomfortable bed.
On a positive note, the AC worked very well and the location was great – just a short walk from the ferry, the beach and lots of shops and restaurants. And the price was definitely right. All in all, fine for a one-night stay but I wouldn’t have stayed longer.
The walk to the hotel was only about 15 minutes from the ferry terminal and once we had dropped our bags in the room we were ready to get out and make the most of our afternoon on Ischia.
With just one day to see what Ischia had to offer (nowhere near enough time), we headed immediately for the sight I most wanted to see, the iconic Castello Aragonese. From Ischia Porto we meandered along the main street lined with shops and restaurants until we arrived at the beaches of Ischia Ponte.
From Fisherman’s Beach, we had great views of the citadel that has stood for nearly 2,500 years. Originally built by a tyrant from Sicily, Hiero I, the fortress changed hands between the 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 Hot Springs
With Mt. Vesuvius nearby, Ischia is basically a boiling cauldron with lots of natural hot springs like Sorgeto and Nitrodi, in addition to thermal parks. Sandra explained that Negombo was the considered nicest of the thermal parks but the locals prefer Poseidon.
Unfortunately, due to our short stay, we never made it to any of the hot springs but the next time we visit that will be at the top of my list! For the rest of the afternoon we enjoying strolling the various beaches between Ischia Ponte and Ishcia Porto before settling in at a seaside trattoria for dinner and a spectacular sunset.
I wish we’d had more time to do this island justice, it was obvious from our short stay that there was so much more to see. 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?
Correct. Not that often.
But, for now, it was time to say goodbye to Ischia and move to our next stop, the eagerly anticipated Amalfi Coast. Next up, Positano!