Sonntag, 3. August 2014

La Dolce Vita - Ischia Part I

Ischia Porto from above
Ciao everybody,

as I already mentioned in my last post I spent two wonderful weeks in Ischia in the Bay of Naples. And wow, there is actually a lot to discover on this beautiful South Italian island! Therefore I decided to dedicate the two upcoming posts to this wonderful place with its turquoise sea, the mediterranean vegetation and hot springs that partly spring up directly into the ocean. :)
The first post will deal with Ischia in general and which sights we explored there and the second one with topics such as accomodation, transport, shopping and most important: FOOD. ;)

Things to know about Ischia

Ischia from the ferry
With 46 square kilometres Ischia is the biggest island in the Bay of Naples before Capri and Procida. The island is of volcanic origin and until today hot water fumeroles raise to the surface, in some places directly into the sea. The volcanic origin is also the reason for Ischia's rich biodiversity. The highest elevation is the Monte Epomeo with 789 m. It can also be crest with the help of mules if anybody is interested. :)
Ischia is divided into six different communities (Ischia (with Ischia Porto and Ischia Ponte), Casamicciola Terme, Lacco Ameno, Forio, Serrara Fontana and Bario d'Ischia). Each of those has its own mayor and in total there live about 60.000 people on the island (although I guess it's a lot more in summer ;) ).

Sights & Events

One of the main attractions on Ischia is definitely the Castello Aragonese in Ischia Ponte which exists in its current form since 1441. The castle flourished especially in the 16th century when it hosted more than 1800 families, an abbey, a bishop's see, the ruler and his family, many important rennaissance artists as guests as well as a kind of eccentric bunch of Clarissines who entombed their fellow sisters in a seated position in a special chamber and prayed there every day until the dead bodies had completely putrefied. Brrr...
However, the Castello is a really impressive building and definitely worth a visit! Just a tip: Don't go there in the midday heat - we did that and it was not our best idea...;)

Castello Aragonese
If you come to Ischia in July you definitely shouldn't miss la Festa di Sant' Anna which takes place on July 26th in front of the Castello. The main attraction of the event is the judging of specially built floats. They are built by the different Ischian communities and represent themes which are somehow related to the island and its history. After the judging of the boats there is a firework and in the end the Castello gets symbolically wrapped in flames with the help of Bengal lights. This is really an impressive sight!!

Festa di Sant' Anna
Concerning sights my absolute favourite were the Giardini La Mortella, the botanical garden of British composer Sir William Walton and his wife Susana near Forio. This beautiful and grand garden (designed by British garden architect Russell Page) with its great and colourful variety of plants from all over the world is an oasis of peace and contemplation where you can stroll around for hours without getting bored. In the centre of the garden you'll also find a lovely little tea house where you can enjoy a cup of tea and indulge in super tasty Torta Caprese. Lovers of classical music can also come in the evening and enjoy one of the concerts which are regulary offered throughout the summer.

Drinking tea at Giardini La Mortella
If you are a movie fan you shouldn't miss out on the Villa Colombaia, the former mansion of Italian director Luchino Visconti. It's well hidden in the woods and not too easy to find but it's a nice small film museum and still worth a visit especially if the weather is not as good as it could be.
In July there also takes place the Ischia Global Fest, an international movie festival. One of the festival venues is the Albergo della Regina Isabella, a very fancy hotel in Lacco Ameno, where the movies are shown outdoors next to the sea. Not all of the movies, that are shown there, are open to the public, but the ones that are, are all shown in original language with English and Italian subtitles and the venue is definitely worth a visit. 

Movie screen next to the sea at Albergo della Regina Isabella
Another museum which is supposed to be interesting (also we didn't go there) is the Museo Archeologico Pithecusa, an archaeological museum in the Villa Arbusto in Lacco Ameno.
Apart from these sights you should definitely check out all of Ischia's communities, which I mentioned above plus the little and car-free fischermen's village Sant' Angelo.
In any case you should ever get bored in Ischia (which won't happen) you can always visit one of the neighbouring islands Procida and Capri or make a trip to Naples or the Amalfi coast.

Beaches and Thermal Parks
In terms of water Ischia has many beautiful beaches all around the islands! The longest one is called Maronti and located in the South of the island. Our favourite was the Spiaggia degli Inglesi, a small beach with black sand in Ischia Porto which you will only find if an actual Ischian inhabitant describes you the way, so make sure to make some Italian friends... ;) 
What I also recommend is a visit of la Baia di Sorgeto. That's a lovely small bay near Forio where hot thermal water springs directly into the sea. The thermal water mixes immediately with the sea water: the nearer you are to the spring the warmer the water, the farer the colder.

La Baia di Sorgeto
If that is too much nature for some of you, you can also check out one of the many thermal parks on the island. We went to Castiglione Thermal Park near our B&B twice and really loved it there but of course there are many more, such as the well-known Poseidon Giardini Terme.

Hope you got a little wanderlust! :)

Have a great evening,

All images by Stefanie Reichl

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