In Naples, where pizza dough is assembled by angels and tomato paste sourced from an enchanted spring, nothing can ever go wrong. If anything, it only gets better. Hop on the next ferry or hydrofoil to the Green Island with a wild volcanic heart: Ischia. It won’t be long before you’re greeted by a platoon of taxis and Vespas lined up by the harbor. Old ladies strolling by with bags full of eggplants and gulls playing hit and run in the sky disclose the sweet, sweet stay ahead.
Lying at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples, Ischia is a tucked away oasis whose epithet comes from the myriad chunks of green turf cobwebbing the island. On sunny days, you can take long walks along straight-dropping volcanic cliffs – but don’t despair, beaches here are some of the less rocky on the Amalfi Coast. Mile long vineyards swarm the island, its highest peaks dotted with cellars. Here, wine is a serious business. It always has been.
Because this exceptionally verdant island has some 103 springs, you won’t have any troubles finding thermal cures and spa treatments – perhaps after having indulged in the island’s wine – within the corner of your eye. Move over, Bath. Ischia is said to be the oldest thermal destination in the world. The Greek folks attributed supernatural powers to the waters and vapors that gushed out of the Earth. They would spend hours wallowing in these holy waters to heal spirit, mind and war wounds. Trying period at work? You’ve come to the right place, babe!
Luckily for you, we have rounded up some so-good-that-they-must-be-checked-out places for a solid gold stay.
Mezzatorre Hotel – The latest addition to the Pellicano family (and where most of our retirement fantasies take place). On the northwest tip of Ischia, where Mezzatorre stands proud, lies a glorious green hideaway conceived by hospitality Goddess Marie Louise Scio. A seven hectare park, clay tennis court shaded by green trees and healing pools housed in a 16th century tower. Swimming across the hotel’s secluded bay will make you reassess your theory of Promised Land.
Address: Mezzatorre, 80075 Forio D’Ischia
Il Saturnino Forio –Opened by an American fellow and his Islander wife in the 40s, this seaside no-frills restaurant has been a stronghold of simple cuisine made with local, seasonal ingredients ever since. Not surprisingly at all, it came to become a rendez-vouz for artists such as film director Luchino Visconti and local musician Ugo Calise, who would entertain guests with his guitar and Neapolitan serenades. After all, great minds have demanding taste buds.
Address: Via Soprascaro, 17 (Zona Via Marina del Porto), 80075 Forio NA
Dani Maison – Chef Nico Di Costanzo hit the jackpot when he decided to turn his family home into a Michelin starred restaurant. Garden and cuisine share an unblemished taste for dazzling details and matchless care. Requirements to be on the menu are kind of strict, in that only local products and fresh fish are taken on board. Grab a seat at the kitchen’s table to attend the show in the front row.
Via Montetignuso, 4, 80077 Ischia NA
Trattoria Da Peppina – Long-established country traditions from the island are met by a fairytale setting looking out onto the Citara Bay. Roof made of shoots from nearby vineyards and romantic candlelit tables will make every other dining experience appear run-of-the-mill. Get lost in a maze of cold cut appetizers and rabbit bucatini in this meat-only gem of a restaurant.
Address: Via Montecorvo, 42, 80075 Forio
La Vigna di Alberto – This precious restaurant serving traditional dishes from the Island will put your commitment to the test. Reservations are out-of-bounds and, should you feel adventurous enough to go on and try your luck, well, best luck to your GPS. Only those who truly love and know Ischia will succeed in such a task. Those will be the ones telling tales of a skimpy path stained with leaves, tiny branches, lemons leading to a magical moonlit place. If you’re one of the lucky ones, go for the pasta and potatoes or radicchio risotto.
Address: Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 57, 80070 Barano D’ischia
Madonna di Zaro – Since 1994 twice a month this bucolic Virgin Mary has been having a heart-to-heart with two local ladies with particularly developed listening skills. By now revelations have doubled the number of our prints. She is also said to have foreseen the 11 September attacks to the Twin Towers.
Address: Via Francesco Calise Operaio Foriano, 153, 80075
Giardini la Mortella – Lady Walton had the greenest green fingers of the last century. When she moved here from England with her husband, she had an architect build a graceful garden of Eden. A one-of-a-kind locus amenus where exotic plants, stone fountains, pools and ponds come together to convert even the most skeptical of nature enemies. The upper part of the garden houses the famous Crocodile Waterfall and a meditation room. We’re looking at you, yoga freaks.
Address: Via Francesco Calise Operaio Foriano, 45, 80075 Forio
Castello Aragonese – Where Vittoria Colonna, socialite and among the first women poets in history, dwelled after she married. Here she wrote a bunch of tear-jerking sonnets for her beloved late husband. Here many literate and highly sharp beaus would come visit her, and spend many jolly hours with her best pal Michelangelo. Ischia’s most popular stronghold is open every day of the year from 9 till sunset.
Giardini di Ravino – A marvelously majestic garden jam-packed with creeks and rivulets this is. Succulents of all shapes and sizes seem to be competing for the visitor’s attention, not knowing that the much-coveted prize will go to them all. While grandiose water lilies, thoughtful-looking in palms and iridescent hydrangeas chat their days away. At lunchtime, stop at the garden’s cute little restaurant and ask for a plate of lemon spaghetti. Chef Michelina is said to have golden hands.
Address: Via Provinciale Panza, 140b, 80075 Forio
Spiaggia di Sant’Angelo di Ischia – A dreamy little stretch of beach with crystal clear water and sandy depths. Uber colorful beach umbrellas and darling family run shops will have you feel the Dolce Vita feels. Looks like you’re going to be in the postcard this time!
Address: Via Sant’Angelo, 80070 Sant’Angelo
Ceramiche Mennella – These guys have been in the pottery business for 500 years. From the same clay in your mud baths some of the most harmonious Italian pottery is born: grim-looking shepherds, seemingly innocent suns, carved floral plates and tea sets. And if all the stars happen to be aligned, you might find yourself taking part in a complimentary workshop.
Address: Via Salvatore Girardi, 47, 80074 Casamicciola Terme
Vivai Cosentino – Flower heaven! A flower needs no word, a garden in a hymn to life. Mr. Cosentino, famously known as “the poet”, can give you every useful advice for flowers, plants, gardens.
Strada Statale 270 Km. 28, 80074 Casamicciola Terme
Monti Artigianato – For three generations the Catuogno family has been handcrafting and selling straw goodies for the beach: bags, hats, baskets and centerpieces for your beloved gran.
Address: Corso Angelo Rizzoli, 40, 80076 Lacco Ameno