Ischia: Summer in L’isola verde

After two hot, sticky nights in Naples I was keen to set sail across the bay to the one island of the archipelago I’d yet to visit: Ischia. Known as ‘L’isola verde’ (the green island), on account of its lush, rich vegetation and sheer natural beauty, Ischia is blessed with a diverse and captivating landscape spanning mountains, hills, vineyards, olive and citric groves, hot springs, volcanic beaches, rocky coastline and the most stunning flora to behold. The highest point on the volcanic island is the ever-visible Mount Epomeo, which towers over the island and, had it not been a mid-summer 35-40 degrees, I would have surely have attempted to hike!

Ischia is the biggest island in the Bay of Naples by some measure, and as such you are reliant on public transport or a rental car to get yourself around. There are various bus routes and services are reasonably regular – I found these turned up most of the time, which is pretty good going! Despite the island feeling more lively than crowded even in July, however, the buses can get as packed as London ones in rush hour so come armed with a hand fan and a good dose of patience.

I took LOTS of photos of Ischia as it’s a freaking photographer’s paradise. Here is my visual trip around the island (though in reality I only covered a fraction).

Ischia Ponte

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First stop, Castello Aragonese, an elegant medieval castle perched on a rocky islet detached from the island and connected by Ponte Aragonese. This place far exceeded my expectations – the castle and grounds are a wonderful concoction of old ruins, vivid gardens exhibiting beautiful flora and a myriad of small tracks leading to breathtaking views over the island below. There are rows of tomatoes and pomegranates being cultivated up here and I even bumped into a man carrying a wheelbarrow full of the largest onions I’ve ever seen! The castle itself hosts a rather macabre Museo delle Torture, with a collection of medieval torture instruments, armour and weaponry.

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Panorama looking down from the castle20160707_220442 cn

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Some of the produce grown on the island – olives, grapefruits and pomegranates

The flora on Ischia is nothing short of magnificent. Radiant pink and white flowers pretty much cover the island at this time of year.

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Giardini La Mortella – there are quite a few landscaped gardens on the island and I struggled to choose which ones to visit. I decided on Giardini La Mortella in the end upon a local recommendation. This was to be the first of two or three but I got so ridden with mosquito bites (I’m amoungst the small percentage of people who experience a mild sort of allergic reaction to mozzie bites so every bite swells up into a red raging lump. I even got one on my eyelid which looked a bit freaky) that I decided against going to the others. These gardens were incredibly beautiful though and in retrospect it was worth all the incessant itching (no pain, no gain)! It was created by Susana Walton, wife of the composer William Walton, in 1950 and the garden is divided into two parts: a lower garden, called ‘Valle’ and a more high one set on the top of a hill. Inside is an impressive collection of more than 3000 specimens of rare and exotic plants including huge orchids, palms, fountains, water pools, lotus and tropical water lilies. I got pretty snap happy in the garden as you can imagine, and here are some of the sights:

It’s a bit of a running joke, for those who know me, that at least twice a day I am instructed to switch on the bath tap for my two rather demanding felines (they hop in the bath and miaow loudly at the tap until I comply). So, I was more than happy to oblige for this little one I stumbled across in the garden.

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I spotted lots of bright green geckos and surprisingly tame they were too. This one was, in fact, quite a little poser!

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A part of the upper garden, rich in lotus, hosts the Sala Thai, a great spot to relax and enjoy the sights and fragrances of the garden.

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One day I caught a bus to the other side of the island (took about 45-50 mins) to Sant’Angelo, a small little place by the sea. From here you can catch a small boat over to Maronti beach, one of the island’s most popular.

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I did this trip as a solo traveller and I would definitely recommend the island for females travelling alone. Whilst the island is not as compact as Capri or Procida, transport is still reasonable (though if you take taxis these probably add up as some of them seem to overcharge  – when my bus didn’t show up on the way back to the port to catch the ferry, I ended up walking all the way with my case in the heat, obstinately refusing to be ripped off to go 5 mins down the road!) Some pictures of me enjoying Ischia and a gelato (or two)… amazing, the mozzie bites ain’t even visibile on these!

Some panoramas of the island looking out towards the castle. I took these on my last evening in the island whilst roaming the houses on a nearby hill. Turned out to be a great little walk with some fantastic viewpoints.

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Some of many local gatti – the island cats are on the tiny side and varied in appearance

 Finally, a shot of Ischia ponte one night during sunset. A great way to end a lovely day on the island 🙂

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