Ischia is famous worldwide especially for its thermal waters and beautiful beaches. During summer tourists from all around the world literally invade the small island. Hence, you may prefer to go to Ischia in autumn when it is a little less crowded.
I did so and went in mid September, and I can assure it is absolutely worth it! The sun still shines and with warm temperatures you can go to the beach until October. And Ischia in fall is also very culturally alive, with many events until Christmas.
Let’s familiarise with Ischia first
Ischia is an island in southern Italy close to Naples. To get there, you have to take a ferry or a catamaran from Naples or Pozzuoli. If you get sick, I strongly encourage you to choose the ferry, slower (1h and a half instead of 1h) but at least you don’t feel like you’re on a carousel! I have tried both and I can assure that you do really feel the difference. Oh, and the ferry is also much cheaper!
Ischia is actually quite a big island and there are a few main centres, as you can see on the map. With the boat you can go either to Ischia or Casamicciola Terme, and from there you can reach other towns by bus.
The meaning of SPA
A lot of people go to Ischia because of the SPAs. There are various thermal baths all around the island and almost every shop sells beauty treatments with the waters of Ischia.
I didn’t go to the thermal baths, but I’ve learnt something very interesting. SPA stands for Salus Per Acquam, which means “health through water” in Latin.
Other things to do in Ischia
Beaches and sightseeing
This beautiful island is not worth to visit only for the SPAs. Ischia also offers amazing beaches and caves. You can travel around the island with a bus (although they’re always very full even in autumn!) or by boat and manage to see many different beaches.
At the centre of the island, you can hike to reach the peak of mount Epomeo. Alternatively, you can go up by donkey! From there you can see the entire island.
According to an old myth, mount Epomeo is the body of the terrible monster Typhoeus. He fought against Zeus during the battle between gods and titans, but eventually Zeus won and Typhoeus fell right on Ischia, forming the mountain.
The most famous cultural attraction is Castello Aragonese, in the town of Ischia. The castle is privately owned and open all year, with tickets of €10.
There are also various museums. In Ischia, you can visit museo del mare (museum of the sea), showcasing the history of navigation in the island.
In Lacco Ameno there is the museum of Pithecusae where you can learn about the Greek and Roman history of the island. The museum has a famous piece, the Nestor’s Cup. This is the most ancient example of Greek writing (740-720 BC)! The museum is on Villa Arbusto, where a terrace offers a nice view of the coast. Tickets are €5 and if you’re a student is just €1!
There is also an exhibition about Angelo Rizzoli, founder of the Italian bookshop chain Rizzoli. Indeed, he was very active in the island, among other things funding a public hospital.
Another thing I’ve learned there is that the ancient name of the island was Pithecusae (“ae” is pronounced “e” like the word “red”). The etymology seems to come from the Greek word pythos, which means vase or jar. Indeed, in the early times this was the main good to trade with close islands and shores.
Ischia also organises various open air concerts as well as various workshops and festivals.
A book about Ischia
I always love to read books that talk about a place I visit. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a sort of tourist guide or a novel that takes place there. Reading a book it’s like visiting a place in a different dimension.
This time, in a bookshop in Ischia I have found a small book by Alexandre Dumas. The title is Ischia, from legendary times until 1799.
Dumas investigated about the etymology of both Ischia and Pithecusae, and talks in great detail about the myth of Typhoeus. Then he makes a summary of the Island history from the fall of the Roman empire to his times. Ischia, like all Italy, was conquered many times by different invaders before the unification of the country in 1861.
I was also quite surprise to read that Dumas was a supporter of the Italian independence, was friend of Garibaldi and even founded the newspaper “L’indipendente” to support it.
I’d like to conclude with a nice quote of Dumas I have found in this small book:
Voyager, c’est vivre dans toute la plénitude du mot