Ischia (of Italy) is fantastic for an island escape. Located in the Bay of Naples, and neighbour to busy Capri — this destination is an underrated gem. Ischia is crowd-free, packed with history and close enough to Procida for some lovely island hopping. Take a closer look at Ischia with our in-depth guide.
Swap Capri for Ischia, Italy
In the first century BC, Emperor Augustus looked at the Bay of Naples and decided to give his island of Ischia to Naples in return for Capri. Since then, low-profile Ischia has always been overshadowed by its more famous neighbour.
Capri has attracted an endless number of rich and famous over the years. Meanwhile, Ischia tends to attract a loyal clientele of wellness tourists attracted by its thermal springs and spa hotels.
There's no doubt Capri is beautiful but for a relaxing island holiday, Ischia is a much better bet. Even as the ferry slips into the horseshoe-shaped harbour of Porto, you can see this is a special place.
Towering over the island, Monte Epomeo is Ischia's highest peak. A rugged volcano, now dormant and dense with pine forest, it looks so lush it could almost be in Central America, rather than on a small Mediterranean isle in the Bay of Naples.
Ischia is emphatically Italian
Get off the ferry at Porto and you'll find that everything here is emphatically Italian. Housewives pack local shops, critically squeezing plums and sniffing lemons. While older men hang out in cafés, playing cards and drinking caffè corretto — espresso livened with a shot of grappa.
Ready to experience Italy without the hassle of planning or booking? See our tailor-made trip to the Highlights of Italy. Spend the first few nights in the capital city of Rome before moving down south to Naples. From here, you will discover the Amalfi Coast before heading to Florence. Tuscany and Cinque Terre await and finally - the fashion capital Milan.
Discover the volcanic springs on Ischia
Ischia is known for its 103 volcanic springs which treat a variety of ailments, from rheumatism to gout. Taking the waters is so serious here that the Italian public health service directs patients to Ischia's therapeutic springs.
Book San Montano Resort & Spa for a discreetly luxurious bolt hole with seven pools, and a garden fragrant with lemon, lavender and jasmine where you can enjoy soothing alfresco spa treatments.
Alternatively, nearby Negombo is one of the island’s biggest wellness attractions. Almost like a thermal spa park, it sports 14 pools dotted around grounds dense with jungle-style foliage, exotic blooms and modern sculpture.
Or for a more budget-friendly spa experience, head to Il Sorgeto, near the village of Panza in the scenic southeast of Ischia. Here bubbling, natural rock pools attract locals who come to share a beer and watch the sunset.
Go around the island on the local buses
The best way to get to know Ischia is to catch a local bus which circles the island stopping off at the main towns. The journey is an experience and you can expect to get familiar with other passengers as you all attempt to stay upright in the speeding vehicle.
But if you're lucky and bag a window seat, the views are mesmerising. Bougainvillea drapes sun-bleached houses by the road, gardens pop with cactus and exotic blooms, and vineyards scattered with wild poppies gleam in the sunshine.
Most of the main towns clustered along the north coast are a picturesque mix of faded spa hotels, beachfront trattorias and promenades lined with palm trees worthy of the Caribbean.
But on the south coast, charming Sant’Angelo is the chic corner of Ischia, where whitewashed houses top high cliffs and you can take a water taxi to Spiaggia dei Maronti, the best beach in Ischia.
If you like the sound of Sant'Angelo and want a little Capri-style glamour in your Ischia island adventure, think about staying at the beachfront Hotel Ferdinando Terme.
Go island hopping to Procida
Just a 15-minute ferry ride from Ischia, the pint-sized island of Procida is refreshingly tourist-light (except in August, when Italian holidaymakers pack the sandy beaches).
Visit for the kind of irresistible sights that have you constantly reaching for a camera, like pots brimming with geraniums by the roadside and trees laden with Procida's famous lemons.
Don't miss Marina Corricella. One of the most beautiful places on the island, if not the entire Bay of Naples, it's known for gently faded sugar-almond-coloured houses and a harbour where fishermen still sit and patch nets in the sun.
No surprise that the town represented a 1950s Italian idyll in films like The Talented Mr Ripley and Il Postino. Have lunch at Taverna del Postino which celebrates the latter film and is famous for herb mussels or zeppolins, "small zeppelins".
Should you find yourself in no hurry to catch the ferry back to Ischia, think about staying over for a night or two at La Suite Boutique Hotel. This accommodation has a gorgeous garden and is close to several of Procida's prettiest beaches.
Step back in time in Ischia Ponte
Ischia has a chequered history and in ancient times it was colonised by Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Turks, and Aragonese. You'll find some small museums on the island but the main historic reference point is the magnificent Castello Aragonese.
Sitting on a promontory in Ischia Ponte, this medieval castle is a wonder. Stroll its walkways for sea views, then head indoors for some very intriguing architectural features which will undoubtedly be a first for you.
Chief among these is a little room lined with stone seats. Back in the day, these were occupied by the bodies of dead nuns, propped here so the living sisters could visit them and reflect on the nature of mortality.
After that, you may want to order a Campari at the bar up top in the castle, the views are amazing. Or if you want a more in-depth look at Castello Aragonese, it's included in a day tour of Ischia from Naples.
Head for the hills in Serrana Fontana
No matter where you are in Ischia, you can't escape the 789m high Monte Epomeo volcano. Its summit is about an hour's walk from the village of Fontana, and above the forested slopes, you're rewarded with open views over the Bay of Naples.
If this was Capri, you'd be fighting tourists to get to the top, then queuing for lunch at an overpriced restaurant. But as it's Ischia, you may have the views to yourself and you can eat at family-run La Grotta on the way down.
This charming local restaurant has a view-rich terrace and nearby vineyards are a reminder of Ischia's ancient wine heritage, fertile landscape and lovely, temperate climate.
Head to the beach
In addition to all its other virtues, Ischia also boasts a couple of beautiful beaches. On the south coast, charming Sant’Angelo is the chic corner of Ischia, where whitewashed houses top high cliffs and you can take a water taxi to Spiaggia dei Maronti, the best beach on Ischia.
The other two popular beaches in Ischia are Chiaia Beach and San Montano Beach. Chiaia Beach is popular with visitors primarily for its crystal clear waters, which attract swimmers. All in all, this beach is great for relaxing and leisurely strolls along the coast.
Montano Beach, on the other hand, is considered one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, but it is primarily popular for its thermal baths. The beach is divided into two parts, one of which belongs to Negombo Thermal Gardens and is home to some of the best thermal springs on the island.
This tailor-made trip to Southern Italy is the dream of many. Charming towns to explore on the Amalfi Coast, crystal clear waters around the island of Capri, a heaven for foodies in Naples and surroundings as well as historical sights such as Pompeii are at your fingertips to discover.
Visit Lacco Ameno - the prettiest town in Ischia, Italy
Lacco Ameno is a bright little town, with a beach and spa waters that are said to be the most radioactive in Italy. Located on the north coast, it is synonymous with its mud baths, which are perfect for a winter break. More appealing are the Giardini di Poseidon thermal baths on the south coast, which can be treated as a day spa.
Lacco Ameno is also known for the 10m-tall offshore tufa rock, affectionately nicknamed Il Fungo, and the Museo Archeologico di Pithecusae housed in the eighteenth-century Villa Arbusto just above the centre. The museum’s most celebrated piece is the Coppa di Nestore (Nestor’s Cup), engraved with a light-hearted challenge to the cup mentioned in Homer’s Iliad.
Be amazed by Giardini la Mortella
The stunning garden of La Mortella is one of Ischia’s highlights, created by the English composer William Walton and his Argentinian wife Susana Walton, who lived here until her death in 2010. The Waltons moved to Ischia, then sparsely populated and little known to tourists, in 1949. With the garden designer Russell Page, they created La Mortella from an unpromising volcanic stone quarry.
Paths wind up through the abundant site, which is home to some three hundred rare and exotic plants. Near the entrance is a glasshouse sheltering the world’s largest water lily, while above the glasshouse is a charming terraced tearoom, where the strains of Walton’s music can be heard.
Paths loop through luxuriant foliage to the memorial to Susana Walton. Beyond, the pyramid-shaped rock that holds Walton’s ashes, a cascade guarded by a sculpted crocodile and a pretty Thai pavilion surrounded by heavy-headed purple agapanthus. At the garden’s summit, a belvedere provides superb views across the island.
- For the private beach: Hotel Terme Tritone Resort & Spa
- For stunning sea views: Hotel Nettuno
- For families: Hotel Maronti
- For price and quality: Hotel Torre Sant'Angelo
Where to stay on Ischia Island
Find more accommodation options to stay on Ischia Island.
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