Mountainous Ischia is the largest island in the Bay of Naples. At its center is the long-dormant volcano Mount Epomeo, whose verdant slopes are dotted with picturesque towns and planted with a patchwork of vineyards. As a result of geothermic activity, the island is renowned for its many spas and hot springs. With 20 miles of scenic coastline alternating between sandy beaches and rugged bluffs, Ischia is ideal for hiking, swimming and boating. Whether you are looking for a relaxing beach destination, an intimate spa retreat or a wine-tasting tour, this charming island offers a wonderful alternative to the more frenetic and fashion-conscious Capri.
The Delights of Giardini La Mortella
While it might be hard to tear yourself away from the comforts of Ischia’s resort hotels, it would be a shame to miss the delights of Giardini La Mortella (Via Francesco Calise 45, Forio d’Ischia). This extraordinary garden was designed for English composer Sir William Walton in 1956 by landscape artist Russell Page. A museum dedicated to Walton’s life and work hosts the William Walton Foundation. And a theater provides a venue for weekend concerts and master classes, as well as a program for composers from Harvard University. Open from April through October.
Splendid Views From Ischia Ponte
On the island’s northeast coast, Ischia Ponte retains something of the air of an old fishing village. The town looks out onto the looming Castello Aragonese, which occupies its own islet reached via a small causeway. With an attractive natural harbor, this was the site of the first Greek settlement and was further fortified in the 15th century by Alfonso of Aragon. From the top of the castle (there is an elevator), you will have splendid views of the island and the sea.
Wines Unique to Ischia
About 150 acres of vineyards remain on Ischia. Look for white wines made from Biancolella and/or Forastera, two grape varieties grown almost exclusively on the island. Casa d’Ambra is one of the best wineries.
Roll, Camera, Action!
The island has served as a setting for numerous films, appearing, for example, in the barge scene of “Cleopatra” and as a stand-in for the fictional town of Mongibello in “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”