Ischia: the paradise island offers a taste of the real Italy

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(CNN) – A quiet, idyllic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Ischia offers a touching dose of Italian beauty, spirit and hospitality, with a generous splash of nostalgia for the Italy of yesteryear.

Here, five-star hotels and luxurious thermal springs coexist with scenes of Italian grandmothers hanging laundry, religious street parades, and children strapped to the backs of adults zipping by on Vespas.

Its pristine beaches have long been popular with Italians, but foreign visitors are more likely to be drawn to the glittering shores of nearby Capri or the Amalfi Coast.

However, Ischia still has something that its more sophisticated neighbors may lack. You don’t have to dig deep here to find the real Italy. Ischia is a little less man-made, a little more eye-catching and ultimately more authentic.

And now, finally, the moment has come.

The emergence of what the Italians call the “green island” went something like this. Firstly, its famous tufa cliffs, narrow streets and landscapes entwined with bougainvillea became one of the backdrops for Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, world bestsellers that became popular TV shows.

Investment and the promise of more followed when luxury hotel group Pellicano Hotels acquired the five-star Mezzatorre Hotel and Spa on the island.

And finally new Ischia more A campaign run by a community of local hotels and businesses that aim to revive the island’s fortunes after two difficult years for tourism.

Michele Sambaldi, Group President and Managing Director of Pellicano, says he wants to position Ischia as one of Italy’s most prestigious destinations, attracting and retaining an international elite.

This is what the island offers all year round.

Sunsets, views and thermal waters

The beauty of Ischia is that the landscape and traditions change from city to city, so every time you visit you can have a new experience.

Ischia Porto is a bustling and commercial hub, while nearby Ischia Ponte has an Old World feel to it.

Casamicciola Terme is on the north coast and has the highest concentration of thermal springs, while Barano di Ischia is best known for the Maronti beach, the largest on the island.

Lacco Ameno with its beautiful harbor and Forio with its picturesque old town are perhaps the two most charming towns.

The island has several attractions not to be missed, including the medieval Aragonese castle which sits on its own volcanic rock formation, accessed by a footbridge.

This symbol of Ischia was a royal residence and, during the Renaissance, a beehive for artists and writers.

After a tour of the halls and gardens, you can relax in the Café Terrazzo overlooking the Gulf of Naples.

To see more, the Madonna del Soccorso church in Forio is a stunning whitewashed hilltop with incredible sunset views.

Private sunset and even full day boat tours can be arranged from most of the ports here and is a great way to get your bearings in the island’s landscape even when you’re swimming in the crystal clear waters.
For swimming and a real Italian summer vibe, spending a day at the beach club is a must. Giardino Eden it is a quiet oasis where you can dine on local dishes and then swim from the beach platforms with stunning views of the Aragonese castle. And La Scannella Beach Club it’s everything you’d expect from an island beach with three pools and beach access from sun loungers literally suspended from the edge of a cliff.
Fans of breathtaking views of the mountains and the sea will enjoy hiking Mount Epomeo, reminiscent of the island’s volcanic past. And on the subject of history, Villa Arbusto, which houses Archaeological Museum of Pitecusa worth a visit for its fascinating collection of Roman and Greek artifacts including amphoras, pottery and jewels.

There is no shortage of gardens and thermal parks in Ischia. The well-maintained La Mortella Botanical Gardens were created by Susana Walton, wife of the English composer William Walton, and often host events and concerts. With exotic plants, views of the bay and a zen garden, you can relax here at any time of the year.

Also ideal for bathing in the healing thermal springs at any time of the year, including the spa in Nymph Park Nitrodi, which claims to be the oldest in the world. For multiple pools, spa treatments and restaurants, spend the day at any of the Negombo or Gardens of Poseidon.

An ice cream walk might be the best way to get to know the picturesque former fishing village of Sant’Angelo. Closed to cars, it’s a kaleidoscope of flowers, vines, and white houses, and importantly, it has some of the finest granite in Enzo’s Kiosk.

Dynamic cuisine focused on land and sea

Forio is located on the west coast of the island.

Balate Doreen/Adobe Stock

Being so close to Naples, it’s not hard to find Neapolitan treats in Ischia, like great pizza or pasticeria service sfogliatelle (pastries stuffed with ricotta and candied orange peels) or iconic woman (a small, soft, sweet biscuit, usually soaked in rum).

Many bars and beach clubs also offer Zingara Ischitanatoasted sandwich with rustic bread, fior di latte cheese, prosciuttotomatoes, lettuce and mayonnaise – two guys are said to have created it in their pub in the 1970s, and it can be eaten all over the island to this day.

Piennolo here the most popular tomatoes are grown on rich volcanic soil, which makes them especially sweet and special. In fact, it is guaranteed that if you eat pasta al tomato around these parts, it was this variety that was used.

Since this is a Mediterranean island, you can be forgiven for assuming that seafood should be a local delicacy. Instead it’s coniglio all’Ischitana, rabbit stew cooked in a terracotta casserole with tomatoes and local spices. The best on the island can be found in Il Focolare a restaurant located high in the hills above Casamicciola Terme and Barano. They specialize in slow food, and to order their famous rabbit dish, you have to call ahead.
Of course Ischia is also very good at seafood, some of the most creative on the island can be found in Saturnino in Forio, where gourmets meet the freshest catch of the day. Also in Forio gourmets will appreciate the raw selection in Umberto a Mare with panoramic sea views to match for lunch or dinner.
For those who want to watch the sunset in style aperitif right on the beach, Seasons this is the place to taste artfully mixed creative cocktails with exquisite canapés. Stay for dinner, where you can choose from a variety of contemporary seafood tasting menus with matching wines.

For hearty and rustic seasonal cuisine, head to La Vigna di Alberto In Barano. Locals flock here for no-frills dining surrounded by vineyards with a true family welcome. You will need to call ahead to order rabbit but there is plenty more to choose from between pasta, seafood and meat. Impress the locals at the end of your meal by asking pipernainfused with thyme and local herbs amaro digestif.

Fans of gourmet cuisine will love the restaurant, marked with two Michelin stars. Dani Maison where multi-award winning chef Nino Di Costanzo delights with his culinary skills and tasting dishes that are works of art. And in Indaco Michelin-starred chef Pasquale Palamaro is located right on the seafront at the Regina Isabella. salumi dee mare (sausage made from dried seafood).
For those who want to combine food and travel, local operator Personalized Italy offer a fun-filled food tour of the island on a beloved Italian icon, the three-wheeled monkey Calessino.

Elegant stay

Ischia Ponte is home to charming narrow streets and is topped by the Aragonese Castle.

Ischia Ponte is home to charming narrow streets and is topped by the Aragonese Castle.

Tomasz Czajkowski/Adobe Stock

The game of luxury five-star hotels in Ischia is strong. The offer ranges from classic to chic and modern design. Most hotels have natural thermal waters, as well as day spas and natural pools.

To immerse yourself in nature and three hectares of perfectly manicured gardens, recently renovated Botania Relay and Spa it’s an adults-only hideaway with whitewashed suites and villa-style rooms. They now boast Mirto, the region’s only fully vegetarian gourmet restaurant with a true garden-to-table philosophy. Historical Regina Isabella Resort and Spa great for families and groups and has a variety of simple and fine dining options including one Michelin starred Indaco and has its own private beach.
If you prefer the atmosphere of the old world, then the former aristocratic mansion that houses Excelsior Belvedere Hotel & Spa in the heart of Ischia, Porto will not disappoint.
Overlooking the sea in San Montano Bay is located San Montano Resort and Spa. It has a spectacular infinity pool and several suites with private infinity pools. Their lawn on the terrace is the perfect place to watch the sunset.
And then there is Mezzatorre Hotel and Thermal Spa that exudes Italian beach sophistication. If you could distill sweet life and 1950s Italy, it would look like a group of Pellicano hotels. The peach-coloured retro beach umbrellas and the private view of the bay against the backdrop of the shadow of the 16th-century watchtower are sure to stop you.

In Ischia, this can be one of the many things that will capture your heart: an unforgettable meal, a breathtaking sunset view, mesmerizing panoramas, or the mesmerizing blue and green waters. This magnetic island can charm you. And one thing is certain. It’s not just a moment. Ischia is the real deal and is here to stay.

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