Castello Aragonese in Ischia Ponte
The morning sun is right on our balcony, and it is pretty hot at 7. The birds are thrilled.
Today we want to see Castello Aragonese, the medieval castle in Ischia Ponte, and we get on one of the small buses to Ponte.
The machine for stamping tickets doesn't work. In that case passengers must write date and hour on their tickets. It says so on the ticket, but suddenly we know very little Italian, and I am certain that none of the Italians have a pen.
Castello Aragonese (or Castello d'Aragona) is a medieval castle or fortress built on a small rocky island off the coast of Ischia. It is connected to Ischia by a 220 metres long stone bridge.
The first Greeks fortified the rock, when they arrived in 474 BC, and it has been rebuilt ever since. During the last volcanic eruption in Ischia (the volcano Trippodi) in 1301 the population sought refuge in the castle, and later it developed into a kind of city.
By the end of the 16th century no less than 1892 families lived here, there was a convent and 13 churches. Around 1750, when the threat from pirates diminished, people began to resettle on the main island.
In 1809 the Brits besieged the castle, which at that time was on French hands. The British navy bombarded the fortress and left little more than gravel.
In 1823 King Ferdinand of Naples kicked out the last inhabitants and turned the castle into a prison. When Garibaldi came to Naples in 1860, the prison was dropped, and Ischia became a part of Italy.
On June 8th 1912 the dilapidated castle was sold on an auction. Since then the castle has been privately owned, and a lot of restoration work has been done. As a visitor you appreciate that they have installed a lift!
It is a fascinating place to visit - a boy's fantasy with giddy heights and corridors like in a maze. It is also very beautiful with marvellous views over the sea and Ischia, and it is a lush green with many flowers.
Tickets cost 10 euro (in 2009). The castle's homepage is in Italian only. There are also a few holiday apartments for rent (from 1500 to 2000 euro per week) and a hotel.
It is melting hot to climb up and down exposed to the scorching sun. Fortunately there is a ristorante near the top where you can enjoy shady refreshments and the view. Prices are adjusted to the height: one small Coke costs 3.80 euro.
Despite the heat we walk down instead of taking the lift. On the way we see an exhibition with ingenious tools of torture that could make even politicians speak the truth. However that doesn't cool us off - we are close to steaming.
Lunch at Ristorante Ciccio
Click to enlarge
We drop in at Ristorante Ciccio - one of the last restaurants before the castle. It is easy to tempt Helle - you just say: "Pasta?"
So here we sit in the shadow with liquids and spaghetti carbonara and lemon sorbet and espresso. At another table is an Italian with a pile of postcards, and he franks each one with a clenched fist. He must have a big family.
The small buses leave with 10 to 15 minutes interval. This time the stamping machine works, and soon we're home for siesta.
In Ischia they have a very fine system for sorting waste at the source. Three times a week they collect organic waste (green plastic bag), and on the other days except Sunday they collect paper and cardboard (blue bag), plastics (yellow bag) and then the rest, where the bag has no specific colour.
There is a poster in the lift telling you what type of waste is collected when, and the guests are kindly asked to deliver in the reception between 21 and 23. Francesco receives the bag and gives you a new one of the same colour.
I hope it all works as intended, but I suspect it all ends in one huge pile on the mainland. No matter what, it offers employment for some people.
Bus tickets and aperitif
In the evening we go to the tobacconist's ("tabacchi" - a kiosk). Our guidebook says that you can buy 12 hour tickets for the buses, and that would be convenient for seeing more of the island. The shop assistant explains that 12 hour tickets don't exist, but we can buy tickets for 1½ hours and 3, 7 or 14 days. A 3-day ticket for 8 euro is cheap, so we get one each. Tomorrow we'll take a coach round the island.
Up the main street to Ischia Ponte we try another aperitif-place, Bar delle Rose. The waiter says that he has some small bottles of white wine that is much better than wine by the glass. We give it a try, and as promised the wine is actually good. We expect it to be expensive, but with water the bill is a mere 8.5 euro. Arrividerci!
Pizza and Italian ladies
At Ciro's we order pizza. Two Italian ladies in the sixties get the table next to ours, and when at some point they are caught by Helle's contagious laughter, curiosity wins, and they ask where we come from.
They speak Italian only, and our limited Italian puts a natural limit to the intellectual level of the conversation. Well, one of them speaks Sicilian too, she says with a grin, but that doesn't help.
We enjoy a moment of peace on the balcony before going to bed. I set the alarm for 6 o'clock. Tomorrow we'll explore Ischia by bus.