Ischia in Italy
Facts, travel tips and tourist information.
|Population:||More than 60.000|
|Region:||Campania (Bay of Naples)|
|Country code:|| 00 39 (if calling Italy).|
Ischia is an island in the Bay of Naples. From east to west it is approximately 10 km, and north to south about 7 km. The centre of the island is mountainous, and there is a volcano that hasn't erupted since 1301. The underground is volcanic, and hot springs have made Ischia famous for its thermal baths. It is a lush and fertile island and deserves the name l'Isola Verde - The green Island.
Ischia is not as crowded with tourists as Capri, its southern neighbour, but it is a popular holiday destination for Italians and (maybe surprisingly) Germans. The thermal baths are famous for curing almost anything except maybe my hay fever.
In my Ischia travelogue I write more about our impressions and what happened during our stay in May 2009.
How to get to Ischia?
You take a ferry from Naples. Some German tour companies sell package tours, but most tourists are on their own.
We bought plane tickets to Naples and went by ferry. In Ischia we had rented an apartment through a bureau, and that worked fine.
There are many ferries to Ischia from Naples and several shipping companies. At the page Municipality of Ischia you can search and find timetables and prices. Hydrofoils are the fastest and most expensive. A one-way ticket for a hydrofoil costs about 17 euro, and going by an "old fashioned" ferry costs about 10 (in 2009).
The crossing takes about an hour by hydrofoil and half an hour more with an ordinary ferry. Most ferries leave from Molo Beverello, Mergellina or Porta Massa.
Most of the ferries go to Ischia Porto. Some stop by the small island of Procida, so be careful that you don't get off too early! Know the expected duration of the crossing or ask if in doubt. The harbour in Ischia Porto is an old volcanic crater, where they have blasted a passage to the open sea.
Some ferries go to Casamicciola Terme on Ischia's north coast. Of course that is convenient if you are staying in Casamicciola Terme, but otherwise it takes but 10 minutes by bus from Ischia Porto.
As mentioned there are several shipping companies e.g. Medmar, Caremar and Alilauro. You can search their home pages, but Municipality of Ischia gives a much better overview.
From Ischia you can also go to Capri, Procida, Pozzuoli and Sorrento.
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When you disembark in Ischia Porto there are many taxis waiting in a line. There are also micro taxis - a kind of scooter with 3 wheels and a platform.
Public transportation with buses and coaches works very well in Ischia. The small number 7 goes between Ischia Porto and Ischia Ponte every 10 to 15 minutes, and coaches go around the island at frequent intervals.
The CD (Circum Destra) coach goes clockwise, and the CS (Circum Sinistra) goes the other way round. They leave every half hour or so, so you can easily get off at some point, look around and get on the next coach.
A bus ticket valid for 90 minutes costs (in 2009) 1.2 euro, but you can also buy tickets that are valid for 3 or more days. We bought 3-day tickets at 8 euro a piece.
You can buy tickets in tobacco kiosks ("Tabacchi"), and it must be stamped once, when you enter the first time. Like everywhere in Italy you'll be fined heavily, if you don't have a valid ticket.
There are plenty of cars on the island, and considering the efficient public transportation system it really makes no sense to bring or rent a car. However I may be biased on this point, not having a car myself.
The weather in Ischia
The climate in Ischia is subtropical with hot summers and mild winters. July and August can be very hot with temperatures over 40 degrees C.
Most Italians have their summer holidays in August, and the price for accommodation reflects this. For instance the rent for our apartment in May was less than half of the rent in August.
Where to stay?
Ischia Porto is Ischia's main city and today it has grown and become almost one with its southern neighbour, Ischia Ponte. There are beaches no matter where you stay, but Forio on the west coast probably attracts most tourists.
Casamicciola Terme and Lacco Ameno on the north coast are old and pretty towns renowned for their thermal baths. On the south coast lies the small and picturesque Sant'Angelo. It used to be a fishing village, and there is still some fishing. It is a beautiful place, but my impression is that it is now a tourist trap with high prices.
If beaches are important for you, you can find descriptions of the island's beaches at Wikitravel. It also has some information about thermal baths. Many hotels have their own thermal baths.
There are many hotels, but you can also rent an apartment. Apartments are typically rented from Saturday to Saturday. We stayed at Posidonia Residence in Ischia Porto and liked it.
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The sight of sights is definitely the old castle, Castello Aragonese. It is built on a small rock just off the coast in Ischia Ponte. You get to the castle via a 220 metres long stone bridge.
In 2009 a ticket cost 10 euro, and a visit is highly recommended. It is an exiting and beautiful place with some spectacular views. I have written about the castle and our visit at Castello Aragonese in Ischia Ponte, and there are also pictures. The castle's homepage is (still) in Italian only.
We didn't visit, but I have heard that there is a very beautiful garden in Forio, La Mortella. Outdoor concerts are arranged here.
Lacco Ameno has an archaeological museum, Museo Archeologico di Pithecusae, with artefacts dating back to when the Greeks colonized the island.
In Ischia Ponte is the "Museum of the Sea", Museo del Mare. It is mostly about Ischia and the sea, fishing and more. It is an interesting little museum, where you sense that things have been collected with passion. The museum's homepage is in Italian only, but there are photos of many artefacts.
Finally the island by itself is a sight: lush, green and beautiful.
Restaurants and eating out
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Where tourists go, restaurants grow. Shamefully I must admit that we dined the same place every night at Ristorante Ciro in Via Roma 33, Ischia Ponte. The place had many Italian guests, and that usually assures quality. We are usually more adventurous, but this time we were content. On our last evening there was a new menu card, and some prices had gone up considerably.
Except for Ciro's we only had one lunch at a restaurant: at Ristorante Ciccio in the main street of Ischia Ponte near the castle. It was fine, and the waiter (proprietor?) spoke excellent English.
There are several restaurants side by side by the harbour in Ischia Porto. Many serve seafood, and Italians love seafood, but generally it is quite expensive. You can have pizza almost everywhere, and the price range is typically 4 - 6 euro, so eating out will not necessarily make you poor.
As mentioned earlier there are many German tourists in Ischia, and the menu is usually written in Italian, German and English.
Service is usually included at restaurants, and the Italians aren't generous with tips. It is quite normal to pay a round figure, if you are satisfied with the service, and at bars there is usually a plate for small tips.
As far as I know it is quite safe to drink tap water everywhere in Italy. Well water at a farm may be another matter. Italians often drink bottled water, but that is more a question about taste and culture.
I thought the water in Ischia tasted okay, but maybe that was because of the view. After our visit I have read that Ischia has no fresh water, but gets it from the mainland through a pipeline.
At a bar in Naples I had an espresso, and the waiter poured a glass of cold water from a tap saying "Aqua d'Ischia". Maybe the trip through the pipeline and back to the mainland adds freshness and flavour?
Links and literature
We brought a Danish guidebook about Southern Italy, and of course there are other books out there, but I have no recommendations in particular.
I didn't find that many websites about Ischia, or more accurately: I didn't find that many sites with different and interesting content. Most pages seem to write more or less the same, and in my opinion Wikitravel covers most of it pretty well. It also describes the island's beaches and thermal baths.
Travelogues or trip reports worth reading (more than just pictures) are not easy to find either. One of the few I came across was Green Integer Blog. Considering the many German tourists one could search for German homepages, but I haven't done that yet.
In my travelogue, Ischia 2009, you can read about our impressions, and there are pictures too.
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Updated November 1st, 2009