Popularly called the Emerald Island, Ischia is covered in pine groves with sparkling waters gently crashing into its beaches. If just that isn’t enough to get you here, the island promises that its thermal spas will cure you of any disease.
Formed due to a volcano explosion, the island of Ischia is situated in the Gulf of Gaeta and according to Greek mythology, is the home of Typhoeus (Typhon), the creator of volcanoes and father of Cerberus, the three-headed canine guarding of the gateway to Hades.
The island’s most conspicuous natural wonder is the volcano, Monte Epomeo, that sits in the center of 47 sq. km island. The volcano worried the Greek colonists who settled here in the 8th century B.C. It last erupted in the 14th century but its peak is dead now. The island’s thermal springs are heated by Monte Epomeo.
The erupting volcano kept travelers off the island for a very long time, but there have been some eminent personalities who’ve come here for the solace and peace the tourist-free island offered. Henrik Ibsen is one such visitor who came here to complete Peer Gynt. Its popularity soared when wealthy Italians built a string of hotels here in the 1950s. Ever since, tourists have flocked the island in ferry-loads to enjoy its sandy beaches, health spas and excellent red and white wines produced in the local vineyards.
Ischia Porto, on the eastern coast, is the largest community on the island. This circular town is built on a crater. It is also the island's main port of call. Found on the western coast, Forio is the liveliest town on the island. Many bars line the street. Lacco Ameno, Casamicciola Terme, Serrara Fontana and Barano d'Ischia are the other communities of the island.
Hydrofoils and ferries ply between Naples and Ischia. They make several trips a day depending on the season. The hydrofoil ride costs €10.50 one-way. The ferry takes twice as long but costs only €5.50. To take your car along with you on the ferry will cost €35 each way.
Alternately, you can also take a hydrofoil from Sorrento. These also run several times a day and cost 13€ each way. However, there are no ferry services from Sorrento.
The tourist information center is in Porto d'Ischia, at Corso Vittoria Colonna 108. It is open between 9am and noon and between 2pm and 5pm. It is closed on Sunday.
Most residents live in Ischia Porto which has also most of the hotels. The habour was guarded by the Castello Aragonese in the olden days. The poet Vittoria Colonnal lived in the castle. He was also Michelangelo’s confidant. There are references to a fortress from 474 BC. The fortress though of no use today has become the symbol of Ischia. A narrow bridge connected it to Ponte d'Ischia, the oldest part of town. The privately owned fortress charges and entry fee of €8. It's open from 9:30 to 5 pm from February to October.
Il Fungo, or the mushroom, is a rock that juts out of the water. It is the most beautiful natural wonder of Lacco Ameno. This region is the most expensive part of the island and is home to one of the best spas. This spa is world renowned and draws people from all corners of the earth.
Forio stands on the west coast of Ischia and is a short drive from Lacco Ameno This region has been a favourite with artists who come here to work in peace and quite. The areas finest wines are produced here.
Located on the southernmost tip of the island, Sant'Angelo, is the most beautiful part of the island. It is mainly a fishing village. It is connected to the rest of Ischia by a lava-and-sand bridge 91 m long. If you plan to visit this village be prepared to walk quite a distance as driving into the town is practically impossible. It is definitely worth the effort as the Sant’Angelo beach is the best on the island.