Italy has over 350 sea-islands amidst its warm Mediterranean waters. Glitzy Capri, seductive Sicily and the beautiful beaches of Sardinia often bask in the limelight, with tourists flocking to their shores, but lesser known Ischia has recently been grabbing people's attention.
Rising out of the Gulf of Naples, this laidback island is full of charming fishing villages, Roman history, tree-clad hillsides, chestnut forests and, being a volcanic outcrop from Mount Vesuvius, an abundance of mineralrich hot springs to soak in. The beaches are also a lot better than most along this rugged coastal area of Italy, and many of the island’s spa resorts have direct beach access.
You may recognise some of the quaint towns and coastal scenery from the silver screen Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s romance first blossomed on the island whilst on location there filming Cleopatra’ and Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon sipped Campari and soda in Ischia Porto, whilst filming scenes for The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Visiting one of the public thermal gardens is a must and Negombo Thermal Gardens at San Montano Bay in Lacco Ameno is one of the best. You can pay for a day pass and enjoy the extensive gardens and thermal pools, as well as a sea-water pool which overlooks the San Montano beach. Many of the public thermal pools don’t allow children under 16yrs, so bear this in mind if you’re travelling with a young family.
Our hotel recommendation: The nearby exclusive Garden Villas Resort offers easy access to the Negombo Thermal Gardens. It is set amidst its own beautiful gardens and also offers thermal spa treatments and yoga activities for the full island spa experience.
Castello Aragonese, the Medieval castle perched on a volcanic, rocky inlet close to the atmospheric old town of Ischia Porto, is the most impressive historical monument on the island. The original fortress dates from 474 BC but most of the existing castle was built in the 14th Century and the elegant Ponte Aragonese connects it to the mainland. A lift or a gentle stroll along a series of paths will take you up to the Castello through the lush gardens and a myriad of historic buildings dating from the 11th to 18th Century. It’s well worth a day trip. Stop off for a bit of Italian boutique shopping, cocktails and dinner in one of the many cafes and bars in the pretty old port on your way home.
Our hotel recommendation: Grand Hotel Excelsior is a majestic 19th Century villa located near to Ischia Porto with stunning views out over the Gulf of Naples and a lovely private beach which is completed secluded. Mules no longer hoist suitcases up the steep hills of the exquisitely picturesque whitewashed fishing town of Sant’ Angelo but it still retains much of its old-world charm. Easily reached by bus, taxi or car, traffic is stopped outside the town in a dedicated parking area, leaving you to meander through its cobbled lanes by foot. Fisherman’s houses now snuggle up alongside chic boutiques, gelaterias and ceramic shops and if you head to the fashionable Piazzetta Ottorino Troia, near the harbour, you can enjoy some of the best seafood on the island.
Our hotel recommendation: Hotel Miramare is a rustic little property with a traditional feel in keeping with the town. Rooms are all different in design and every-one is sea facing. You feel like you’re floating on water when you step out onto your balcony.
With twice-weekly short flights from Newcastle to Naples and a 40-minute hydrofoil ride, Ischia is easy to reach and can be combined with a stay at another resort along the Amalfi coast for a longer 10 or 14-night twin-centre holiday. Whether you come for the spas, the scenery or just the sunshine, it’s a delightful destination if you fancy a slice of La Dolce Vita this summer.