"BEAUTIFUL BOYS & GIRLS" Top 5 Page for this destination Ischia by Aang

Ischia Travel Guide: 36 reviews and 95 photos

Beautiful boys and girls, la dolce vita and some of the world's top tourist sites, such as Capri's Villa San Michele, haunting Pompeii, ravishing Ravello, William Walton's tropical garden and the dramatic Aragonese castle: that's your trip to Ischia and the Bay of Naples.

Think of erect volcanoes, grand old hotels, topless beaches, swaying palms, mysterious villas, palatial yachts, and the Mafia.

WHO COMES TO THIS AREA?

Ulysses, Aphrodite, Tiberius, Michelangelo, Elizabeth Taylor, Henrik Ibsen, Garibaldi, Graham Greene, Krupp, Visconti, Gore Vidal.... Tourists these days tend to be well-heeled, retired Germans who like to do a lot of walking. Young folks who love the night life of Ibiza or Benidorm might find this place not to their taste.

LA DOLCE VITA?

In the good old days, Italians may not have had much money, but they knew how to smile and flirt and make friends. According to a recent survey Italians are now the grumpiest people in Europe. ( The international social survey programme collated results from 37 countries. The happiest are the Swiss, of whom only 3.6% are disgruntled. Britain's dissatisfaction figure was 8.5%. Some 27% of Italians are not happy with life and it shows!)

The Mafia? Today, 60% of businesses in the Naples area are alleged to pay protection money to the local mafia, the Camorra.

The good old days? Norman Lewis's book "Naples '44" tells what happened towards the end of World War II. Cholera and malaria were widespread; up to one third of the female population was forced into prostitution to survive.

On my third day in Ischia, the morning newspapers had a story about an explosion in Piazza Garibaldi in Naples, and about alleged corruption by Berlusconi, Andreotti and other politicians. Witnesses against Andreotti say that within the Mafia he is known as Uncle Guilio and that he is linked to certain murders. European Commission president Romano Prodi is alleged to have had links to the KGB, Milosevic and the murder of Aldo Moro.

FLIGHT

I flew with a well known package holiday company in a crowded and rather scruffy plane with little leg room. Naples airport had a Third World feel about it. It took a little while to find the holiday reps at the airport.

HOTEL

A ferry journey of about 45 minutes brought us from Naples to the Island of Ischia where I was staying at the four star Hotel X, located in Ischia's main town. The hotel is one of the most beautiful in the world. Guest rooms are set in a collection of villas within the exotic gardens. The public rooms feature polished marble, terra-cotta floors and the sort of furniture you'd expect to find in an expensive Italian town house.

The basic holiday price for 2 weeks half board was just over £700.

Why so cheap? 1. This was May rather than July. 2. I booked over the internet. 3. The hotel is well inland from the beach and it's a long walk along a busy road to get to the centre of things. Buses can be crowded. 4. My room was very small. 5. There was sometimes a package-holiday feel about the hotel - some rude staff at reception, a wine bill that contained many items I had not ordered, breakfast orange juice that seemed to be out of a packet, unhelpful and unfriendly staff at the hotel's health spa. 6. Some local people seem hostile to tourists, especially the British (thanks to the up to 10,000 civilians killed in Iraq). 7. Traditionally most tourists to Ischia are Germans and the German economy is in trouble. 8. Italy can be expensive for the British tourist. 9. The Bush/Blair/Sharon war on Tourism.

Opposite my hotel was a school with a fair amount of graffiti on its walls. The children seemed better behaved than many in Sheffield or London or Manchester, but they did push off and on the buses.

Don't take travel cheques to Italy. My hotel said that they no longer deal with travel cheques. It cost me 11 Euros to change 200 Euros at a bank. Take a plastic card instead.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO

Ischia is a small hilly island with about half a dozen small towns/villages. It reminds me of some Caribbean islands because of the lush vegetation and steep pointy volcanic hills; but it lacks the joie de vivre of the Caribbean. Ischia can be seen within a week, but, during a second week, ferry boats can take you to Capri, Procida, Sorrento and Naples. From Naples you can visit places like Pompeii. Ischia Town is the best transport centre and is the most suitable place to stay unless you want a very quiet holiday.

ISCHIA TOWN

Ischia Town has an old-fashioned beach area with fishermen's cottages, washing hanging out, and views of the Aragonese castle. If you're lucky you may hear the excellent town band. The visually stunning castle is on a small, steep island reached by a causeway. The castle and its surrounding buildings and gardens provide fabulous views of mountains, bays and boats.

Ischia Town has sections of beach which are free and sections which you pay to enter.

Ischia Town's small, colourful port is usually crammed full of ferry boats and expensive yachts. You could imagine you were on St Lucia.

The main shopping streets of Ischia Town have smart boutiques and smart cafes, including a useful internet cafe (123 Corso Colonna).

The hinterland of Ischia Town has some narrow roads and quiet tracks, villas and wild flowers, a small Roman viaduct, some relatively poor houses and the usual graffiti on houses and schools.

MARONTI BEACH

A number 5 bus will whisk you swiftly from Ischia Town through the middle of the island to its destination which is called Maronti. Maronti is possibly the best BEACH on the island, and is within walking distance of the little town called St Angelo. The number 5 bus leaves from the small bus station at Ischia port and bus tickets can be bought there or at any tobacconist. A ticket which covers 7 days use of local buses costs 15 Euros.

Maronti beach is long and backed by low crumbling cliffs. Pallone is a pleasant beach restaurant, built mainly of wood, which overlooks the action on the beach. For 13 Euros I had sardines, fried potatoes, water and wine. A gentleman in a funny hat, a young woman in a short skirt and a young boy wheeling a baby in a pram, provided my entertainment within the restaurant.

WALTON'S GARDEN

What is Victoria Amazonica? She opens near nightfall. Next day she has changed sex and become male. Victoria Amazonica is a water lily and can be viewed at LA MORTELLA, the huge gardens built on the site of a hillside quarry by composer Sir William Walton and his wife, who both came to live on Ischia in 1949. The world famous gardens contain many hundreds of rare plants and trees and have views of mountains and of the coastal resort of Forio. There is a tearoom where not-very-happy staff serve weak tea. I recommend the wine. In the Walton-museum section there are regular concerts. The gardens are open from April to November on Tuesdays, Thursdays and at weekends, from 9am until 7 pm. To reach La Mortella, I took an expensive 'rip-off' tour arranged by Thomson holidays, using a local tour company. Their bus arrived late and was driven too fast. The much cheaper alternative is to take a local bus - buses number 1 or 2 or CS which depart from Ischia port. Get off the bus just before it reaches the town of Forio.

FORIO

I took a CD bus to the Ischian town of Forio. Why not walk to Forio? The steep narrow S-shaped roads are not always suited to walking.

Forio had deep litter on the beach and some graffiti on walls. The harbour is undistinguished. I walked inland from Forio on little country roads but soon came up against signs saying 'private'. The best feature of Forio is the view of the pink-orange mountain with the white-walled villas and the flowers at its base. Lunch was excellent lentil soup and pasta with tomato sauce in an empty and rather dull restaurant.

CASAMICCIOLA & LACCO AMENO

I walked from Ischia town to the next-door seaside town of Casamicciola which struck me as being a place of road repairs, building works and boring buildings. I walked on to nearby Lacco Ameno and found this had more character: a pleasant church, boutiques, flowers and a friendly street cafe serving bruschetta with tomatoes, wine and Italian ice-cream.

ST ANGELO

Bus 1 or CD or CS take you to St Angelo, which has become a bit un-natural and boutique-ish. It's superficially pretty, with its little harbour and painted houses. But it has a Disney-feel about it.

MOUNT EPOMEO (789 meters)

Take a CD bus to the village of Serraro Fontana. From the main square, follow the signs for the track leading up the mountain.

PROCIDA

At Ischia Port I bought a ticket for the Caremar ferry to the nearby island of Procida. The carabinieri police at Ischia port look menacing in the extreme - mafia dark glasses, tall leather boots. On the ferry I had a drink in the bar and then looked through the pollution haze towards Vesuvius and various islands.

If Capri seems very wealthy, and Ischia seems well-off, then PROCIDA could be said to be relatively poor and scruffy. It is not the interesting scruffiness of some Italian settlements. The main port has bleak tenements and the usual graffiti and road works. The main interest is Marina Corricella, a small harbour within walking distance of Procida's port. A seat in a cafe in Marina Corricella can give you a view of the prison and colourful tenements, while you sup vinegary wine.

  • Last visit to Ischia: May 2003
  • Intro Updated Jul 3, 2003
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