I love Italy. My husband is an Italian citizen. I have been to Italy many, many times. However, Ischia was never on my radar until we planned a last minute trip this Summer and were looking for a sunny spot without too many American tourists. I landed on Ischia, not knowing much about it and thinking that it even may be “too Italian” (i.e. no fast internet or English) for a short stay. We decided to give it a go and spent a lovely five days in Ischia.
Upon returning to the States, however, it seems that others have also recently discovered Ischia and are flocking there. In fact, Ischia was recently featured in CNN and named Travel and Leisure’s “Best Island in the World.” Honestly, shocking. I don’t agree that Ischia is the “best island in the world,” but its pretty great, especially in the touristy Amalfi area. A little taste of Italy without the American tourists, at least for now. This article shares some information on Ischia and our trip, which was difficult to find online (although that’s probably changing!). Go now if you want a “Capri” without all the tourists and sky high prices.
GORGEOUS ISCHIA ISLAND
Ischia is an Italian island located ∼30 kilometers off the coast of Naples in the Tyrhennian Sea, very close to Procida Island (Europe’s 2022 Capital of Culture). The fast ferry from Naples takes 1 hour, as does the ferry between Ischia and the very famous Italian island of Capri. In other words, while not as famous as its neighbors, Ischia is basically the Amalfi area for tourist purposes.
Once on Ischia, three main towns serve most tourists: Ischia Porto (or “Ischia”), Forio, and Lacco Ameno. We stayed in Ischia Porto because it is the easiest to reach and has a lot of bars, restaurants, and shops to keep one busy. A public bus runs between towns and it seems easy enough to use. Taxis are also readily available, but not inexpensive (there is no Uber or Lyft, etc.). A rental car would be helpful if you plan to tour around the island.
HOW TO REACH ISCHIA
The only way to reach Ischia is via ferry from Naples or the surround area, inclding Procida, Capri, or the Amalfi Coast. Alilaura runs frequent ferries, as do a few other companies. We took the ferry from Naple’s Beverello port, very close to Naples Castle. We arrived at the port just over an hour in advance and purchased tickets on the spot for approximately €30 per person with luggage. Note, on some ferry lines, including Alilaura, you must pay extra for luggage. While not always necessary, advance reservations are probably not a bad idea in high season (the summer).
We boarded with our luggage about 15 minutes prior to departure. All seats are indoors and we just picked the first two that we saw. Masks continue to be mandatory in Summer of 2022. As for our large checked luggage, the staff takes it upon boarding and stores it at the front of the boat. We picked up our luggage on the way off the boat. We kept our carry on luggage (small backpacks) and stored them under our seat. The ferry ride was easy and gorgeous (try for a window seat!), and we got off at the first stop, Ischia Porto. The ferry continued to Forio after we departed.
In leaving Ischia, we boarded at the same spot but the ticket office is across the street in a small store front. Be sure to get your tickets ahead of time; the line backs up at ferry time and despite the lines, staff does not move any faster. You cannot buy tickets on the ferries.
If you want to take your car to Ischia, you will need to use a car ferry, which depart from a different Naples port than Beverello. You will also need to confirm that you can take your car on to Ischia – they have strict rules about what cars can be brought on the island.
WHERE TO STAY IN ISCHIA
Ischia has loads of accommodations, from hotels to AirBnBs, to local pensions. We found that the accommodations generally were more Italian-style than American, and most of the websites we perused were largely in Italian. We opted to stay in Ischia Porto because it was the easiest and we found a lovely hotel that seemed to have decent wifi – Hotel Villa Durrueli Resort & Spa.
Hotel Villa Durrueli Resort & Spa is located within walking distance of the touristy part of Ischia Porto. Like many hotels on the island, it boasts a thermal spa, as well as a pool and a rooftop bar and restaurant. We stayed in a room on the third floor with a lovely little balcony over looking the pool and Aragonese Castle – it was lovely! Our room was decent sized and the bathroom was fine; no complaints.
Aside from our cute room, the pool was sizable with lots of space. The hotel rented towels to use daily for €2 per towel. The in-house “spa” was just off the pool area and included a very shallow hot pool, a very warm sauna, a full size indoor pool that was not so warm, and a very cold pool. We used it one day but found the outdoor pool to be more fun for us.
Hotel Villa Durrueli Resort & Spa also provided complimentary breakfast everyday that was fantastic! Do not skip the breakfast pastries or white cheese with specks of red if you stay at Hotel Villa Durrueli Resort & Spa.
ACTIVITIES WE DID ON ISCHIA
A BOAT TOUR AROUND ISCHIA WITH ALCIONE BOAT TOURS
Our favorite thing that we did on Ischia was to take a boat ride around the entire island with Alcione boat tours! We booked in advance online and met the boat in Forio. The boat ride was incredible: gorgeous views, pretty free flowing drinks, a great crowd, and a totally delicious lunch prepared by the captain’s wife. My only note is that the boat caters to mostly Italian tourists and there is not much English on the boat. We didn’t care and still had a blast, but others who don’t speak Italian may feel a bit isolated.
A SPA DAY AT NEGOMBO SPA.
Another popular thing to do in Ischia is visit one of Ischia’s many, many thermal spas. Seriously, the thermal spas are everywhere (even in our hotel). We decided to visit Negombo because it is rated as one of the “nicer” ones. Our back up was Poseidon, which we saw from the water, is huge, and is also supposed to be quite nice.
Parco Negombo is a huge outdoor spa with a beach! We spent a full day at Negombo, from about 10:00 – 15:30, using many of its warm and regular temperature pools. We skipped the beach because we ran out of time, but it looked very nice. Definitely hit a thermal pool or spa – its a unique thing to do on Ischia.
CASTELLO ARAGONESE D’ISCHIA
Another very popular activity on Ischia is to walk up to and explore Castello Aragonese d’Ischia. Right in Ischia Porto, tourists can apparently walk to the top for excellent views of Ischia. We skipped the castle due to time constraints and the fact that we had a great view from our hotel room. But, it did seem like an interesting activity.
In terms of other activities, I am sure there is loads more to do on Ischia, but these were our favorites. Tell me about those that I missed in the comments!
WHERE WE ATE & DRANK IN ISCHIA PORTO
Ischia boats loads of restaurants, from Michelin starred to grab-and-go. We were pleased with all of our, mostly seafood-based, food. Popular restaurants book up in the high season. I booked in advance via email. Here are some of the places that we ate and enjoyed.
Restaurant Dortas is a casual pizza restaurant in Ischia Porto, which also offers non-pizza options. Obviously, I went with the pizza, and it was very good! Dortas as packed with locals when we visited. Reservations recommended on the weekend and during the summer.
Danì Maison holds two Michelin stars and is located on a hill just outside of the main area of Ischia Porto. We opted for the tasting menu, which was huge, delicious, and had a lot of seafood. Reservations necessary, but I was able to get them the week of our dinner. I’ll be doing a separate post about this crazy dining experience!
APERITIVO AT HOTEL DURRUELI
Hotel Durrueli honestly had an absolutely fantastic rooftop aperitivo. While the drinks were a bit more expensive than other places, stuff continuously brought out food during Aperitivo: olives, nuts, chips, meat, cheeses, octopus, and even pieces of smoked salmon. We could have easily made a meal out of just the aperitivo.
Porto 51 is a cool bar located on Ischia Porto’s waterfront. I had read about Porto 51’s aperitivo, and we ended up here twice! While I never experienced “aperitivo”, the drinks at Porto 51 are actually very good and interesting. This is a good “going out” spot in Ischia Porto. We also had a casual dinner here one night. The food was ok – what I would describe as Italian bar food. Come here for drinks, have dinner elsewhere!
Another restaurant that we visited with high marks was L’Altra Mezzanotte, located on the waterfront a few doors down from Porto 51! L’Altra Mezzanotte is a popular spot with many tables booked in advance, including ours (I emailed a few days prior)! L’altra Mezzanotte serves fresh seafood, in addition to pizza made in its wood fire oven. We started with fresh tuna tartare, followed by squid for Dan and a pizza for me. Our meal ended with lemoncelle and melloncello, compliments of our new friends that we met at dinner! Thanks, D-nice and Haley!
PRACTICALITIES FOR VISITING ISCHIA
- Like mainland Italy, Ischia uses the Euro. ATM machines are easy to find in the main towns. Credit cards were pretty readily accepted. Smaller vendors may prefer cash.
- Ischia is frequented by Italians, unlike its more touristy Amalfi Coast neighbors. English is widely spoken and signs and menus usually have an English option, but English is not as common as elsewhere in the area.
- In visiting boats, beaches, spas, etc., bring your own towels, etc. Some places rent them for €€ but not everywhere.
- A car or scooter rental is the easiest way to get around the island. That being said, there is also a public bus and pricey taxis. There is no Uber on the island as of writing.
- Ischia has a lot of island specialities, be sure to try them as you may not find them easily on the mainland.
- Be sure to try the Melloncello. While you can find Melloncello throughout Southern Italy, it was particularly good on Ischia!
- Make reservations for restaurants and thermal spas during the summer to ensure the best times and seats!
- As I mentioned above, don’t sleep on Aperitivo hour!
- So closed to Napoli, don’t miss the pizza on Ischia. Its almost as good as that in Napoli!
- Don’t squeeze in a trip to Ischia in 1 day, stay a couple nights to get a good feel for the island. You’ll miss too much on just a “day trip.” I could have stayed another week!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Hotel Durrueli Resort and Spa: Via Traversa Mirabella, 27 Ischia. English spoke by most of the staff.
The Negombo Spa: Via San Montano, Lacco Ameno. Open daily 8:30 – 19:00. Bring sandals, bathing suit, towel, and robe if you don’t want to rent/buy these things at Negombo. We rented a locker, towel, and robe for the for about €10 per person, with an additional €10 per person deposit that was returned when we returned the towel and robe.
Restaurant Dortas: Via Edgardo Cortese, 7, 80077 Ischia NA, Italy. Open nightly for dinner from 19:00 – 23:00. Reservations recommended during high season. Casual.
Danì Maison: Via Montetignuso, 4, 80077 Ischia NA, Italy. Upscale restaurant experience. You’ll feel uncomfortable in too casual of attire. Dan wore khakis and a polo and I wore a dress. Reservations necessary.
Porto 51: Via Porto, 51, 80077 Ischia NA, Italy. Open daily from 18:00 – 3:00.
Ristorante L’Altra Mezzanotte: Via Porto, 71, 80077 Ischia NA, Italy. Open daily for lunch and dinner, closed between meals. Casual. Reservations recommended in high season.