When I lived in Pozzuoli, an ancient seaside town outside of Naples, we used to walk to the dock and take the ferry to Ischia. At the time, I thought of it as a secret island that was off the radar to most American tourists.
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I’ve been watching My Brilliant Friend on HBO, and I think it’s safe to say the secret is officially out. Thanks to Elena Ferrante and her Neapolitan novels, Ischia has been quietly gaining momentum and is destined to be one of the hottest destinations in Italy this summer.
In this Ischia travel guide, I’ll share how to get there, where to stay, what to do, where to eat and the best time to visit. Of course, I’ll give some tips for Ferrante lovers along the way.
How to get to Ischia
Fly into Naples airport or take the train from Rome to Garibaldi train station. From there, you can take the Alibus or taxi to the main port in Naples. The Alibus costs €5 a ticket and is scheduled to come about 3 times an hour. Notice how I said “scheduled.” If your ferry is leaving soon, you might be better off taking a taxi for about €25. They can get you to the port in around 30 minutes depending on traffic and how crazy the taxi driver is.
SNAV and Alilauro ferries leave from Naples, Sorrento and Pozzuoli. There are several docks in Ischia (Forio, Casamicciola and the main Ischia ferry terminal) so be sure to look up which one is nearest to your hotel. Tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the ticket booth at the port (expect a queue). Round trip tickets run around €50 euro. Small dogs are free!
I’m going to warn you right now, the Naples ferry port can be slightly chaotic in the summer. Considering you’ll probably be sweating with the sun beating down on you, not a single breeze in the air, hoisting your luggage around, just remain calm and know that you’ll eventually make it to this magical island.
Where to stay in Ischia
Ok! You arrived. Finally! Get settled in your hotel.
There are an abundance of options when it comes to deciding where to stay in Ischia (all complete with the most beautiful tiles). From charming Airbnbs at $60 a night to 5-star accommodations with a private beach, there’s something to suit your budget and needs. Read my guide to hotels in Italy so you’ll know what to expect.
B&B San Pietro guesthouse for a rooftop terrace and modern rooms near Ischia port. It’s in the top floor of an apartment building with no stairs, but the view from the top is beautiful.
Hotel Casa Celestino is an excellent mid-range choice in the colorful town of Sant’Angelo.
Grand Hotel Il Moresco for an upscale resort with a fitness room, outdoor pool, indoor thermal pool, wellness spa and private lido with a view of the castle.
I walked by the ocean front Hotel Miramare e Castello in July and the whole area was packed with families going to the beach. It’s ideally located right on the beach.
Mezzatorre Hotel & Spa for secluded luxury, stairs leading right into the sea and pristine rooms with ocean views.
L’Albergo Della Regina Isabella has hosted Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow (presumably when they were filming The Talented Mr. Ripley). The luxury resort has direct ocean access where they claim you can “moor your own yacht.” I’ll just have to take their word for it.
Guests can also book a tour and experience, “Following in the Footsteps of Ferrante.” The package includes a tour of locations from the book, writing workshop, spa treatment and 6-course tasting meal.
Things to do in Ischia
Have Ferrante fever but can’t swing a tour? For filming locations from the HBO series My Brilliant Friend, head to Ischia Ponte or spend the day at Maronti Beach. Be sure to read about the island’s preparation for filming as well (use Google Chrome to translate to English).
Visit Castello Aragonese for €10 euros a person. It’s open 365 days a year, a rarity in Italy. Privately owned since 1912, read more about the castle’s fascinating ancient history.
Ischia is known for thermal hot springs. Take advantage of their healing properties at Negombo or Poseidon.
Hike Mt. Epomeo. You will not find me doing this as I prefer to lazily sit on the beach with a spritz. However, for those of you with a better exercise agenda, start the hike in Fontana and let me how it goes.
Stroll along Corso Vittoria Colonna for clothing boutiques, sandal shops, and souvenirs.
For every sandy beach on Ischia, there’s even more rocky cement slabs or wooden decks with sun chairs. Lidos like these are one of the many unique traits of Ischia and throughout the region. Find one after the other between the castle and Ischia port. Get a sun chair for the day for €10- €20.
I just recently watched Monty Don’s Italian Gardens show on Netflix and it featured La Mortella Garden. It’s a fascinating garden created by Argentinian Susana Walton, wife to the composer Sir Willian Walton. It looks absolutely beautiful and I wish I had known about it. Opening times, entry fees and reviews can be found on the La Mortella Garden website and TripAdvisor.
Where to Eat
La Dolce Sosta and Gran Caffè Vittoria are where to stop for a leisurely aperitivo or morning coffee. Both face the main pedestrian walkway and are excellent for people watching.
We just went to Bar Epomeo for cocktails and a light snack, but they also serve pasta and burgers.
Bar di Ciccio for granita and gelato.
When to go to Ischia
Ischia is very much a summer destination. Most restaurants, hotels and thermal spas completely shut down during the off season. Ferragosto on August 15th marks the height of summer and when most Italians head to the beach. Expect the whole month of August to be quite crowded.
I visited Ischia in April and in the middle of July. They were two completely different experiences. July was busy and full of life. The beaches were crowded and the pavement sizzled. In spring, we had the place to ourselves save for a handful of German tourists who regard the high 60s as proper sunbathing temperatures.
I walked along the beach watching the islanders busy with preparations for the coming season – painting beach shacks, cleaning restaurant interiors and planting flowers. The whole island was eerily quiet and relaxed, yet no one seemed idle.