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At the crossroads of Mediterranean civilization, s Ischia was already inhabited 7,000 years ago. Visited by the Phoenicians the island was discovered by the Greeks who established a stronghold for the foundation of Cuma and the conquest of the mainland. Its fascinating ancient history has become a legend thanks to extraordinary archaeological finds. The symbol of that remote era is the so-called Nestor's Cup that is engraved with a famous epigram: "Nestor's Cup is good for drinking... but whoever drinks from this cup ...will immediately be seized by desire for the regal Aphrodite."

Three verses written in the Chalcidian alphabet. The author? An intellectual from 2,800 years ago who was in a playful mood and wanted to liken his cup to the great cup of Homer's hero, the famous Nestor. Perhaps he was in love. Who can say? He was among the first inhabitants of the settlement of Pithekoussai, which was founded by Greek colonists who departed from Euboea in the eighth century BC. and landed on the coast after a harrowing voyage. These sophisticated craftsmen, artists, merchants, vintners and Livestock breeders set out in search of fertile land, company, adventure and prosperous business dealings and had never ventured so far on the western route in the Mediterranean. They brought with them the art of ceramics and a valuable wealth of information: most importantly, the written alphabet, which would later lead to the Latin language. Those verses – graffiti written from right to left, Phoenician style – on a cup imported from Rhodes are one of the oldest examples of the written Greek language. It is, in fact, the first written poem that has been handed down from the time when Homer was creating the Iliad.


The fishing villages of Ischia Ponte and Sant’ Angelo, with their twisting lanes, stairways and facades decorated with Arab-style arches and pale colors; the rural hillside towns of Buonopane, Fontana and Ciglio dotted with austere homes with barrel-shaped roofs; and the stone houses and shelters dug out of huge blocks of tuff and camouflaged in the Falanga woods are but some of the architectural features of the island. They alternate with the splendid aristocratic palazzos in the old town centers of Ischia and Florio and with the more recent majestic villas owned by celebrities, surrounded by vegetation or built on promontories high above the sea. A formidable aura permeates the beauty of the monumental rock of the Castello Aragonese, a small fortified city on an islet connected by a bridge to the mainland. The castle offered hospitality to sovereigns and princely courts and also to extraordinary people such as Vittoria Colonna, the great poetess and protagonist of a lively circle of intellectuals during the Renaissance era, then the Torre dei Guevara in Cartarornana; the royal Casino of the Bourbon dynasty; “I Pilastri”, an l8th century aqueduct that reproduces the unmistakable Roman style; and particularly fascinating towers which loom over Forio, constructed along the coast to protect it and sight pirate ships that infested the Mediterranean. The many basilicas, cathedrals, churches and oratorios open for worship are noteworthy and contain numerous works of art, which is proof of the island’s great religiousness.

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Ischia is a volcanic island with breathtaking views and unique weather conditions that change season after season amidst the pristine habitat of valleys and hills, rocks, beaches and promontories, pine forests, woods and mountain (the highest peak is Mount Epomeo, 788 meters in altitude). The four primordial elements — air, earth, fire and water — are a perfect synthesis of the Ischian countryside. Inland, tall trees open onto glades colored with white violets in places such as Cretaio, the Maddalena wood and Fondo d'Oglio. In these oases for nature lovers, migrating birds fly above a kaleidoscope of wild orchids, anemones, and extremely rare papyrus of the hot fumaroles. Accompanied by the scent of rosemary and wild oregano, thyme and sage, Nature delights in bestowing sensations from east to west, from the coasts of Canipagn.ano and Piano Liguori, to Punta Imperatore and Punta Zaro, soaring over the spectacular vitality of the Falanga, and between the towns of Serrara Fontana and Forio. another biological paradise that is home to lichens and elegant tropical ferns such as the “Woodwardia radicans”. Hidden amidst the dense vegetation are amazing pits for storing snow, which was collected, pressed then covered with mats and chestnut wood and conserved until summer when it was used to cool water. The pits were dug in the green tuff rock, which is only found on Ischia and is a distinctive feature of the landscape.

Broom, myrtle, laurel, oak and ash trees play throughout with the Mediterranean light that shines upon terraces bordered by dry stone walls that encircle vineyards, orchards, citrus groves and well-tended vegetable gardens.


Diving or swimming? There are 37 kilometers of coast to enjoy the sea amongst inlets, grottos, bays, strips of sand and beaches colored with smooth pebbles, where bathing is a relaxing moment to share with friends and family. Corners of paradise where seawater mingles with hot spring water that gushes out just a short distance from the shore. In secret places accessible by boat, the silence is broken only by the distant cries of seagulls. The bathing strip, composed of alternating private bathing establishments and free public beaches from north to east, stretches from the Spiaggia degli Inglesi, passes the island's main port, a lake which in 1854 was opened onto the sea and proceeds towards the Lido and the Mandra. It skirts the Castello Aragonese and enters the legend of Cartaromana, where rocks overlook a sunken Roman port. Fumaroles and hot springs dot the enchanting two kilometers of the shore of Maronti to the south, where the hot springs of Olmitello and Cavascura emerge. The Sant’ Angelo isthmus is the southernmost point of the island: its narrow sandy coast opens onto the crevices of Cava Grado, and it traces the route westward towards the Bay of Sorgeto.

Hot springs heat the shoreline and here one may bathe even in the middle of winter and enjoy a truly unique sensation. The splendid coast of Citara, to the west, extends to Cava dell’ Isola, a spot that is a favorite with the youth and continues round to Chiaia, San Francesco ending at the point of Zaro. After this rocky scenario one discovers the magical gulf of San Montano, the band of beaches of Lacco Ameno and Casamicciola, which together with Bagnitielli, close the northern sea arc.


The island of spas and well-being has a wealth of treasures hidden under soil. In terms of density of sources, it is the most important in Europe: 103 sources, 69 fumaroles, and 29 hot springs. The use of thermal-mineral waters for therapeutic purposes is a practice that has existed for millennia and has made the island world-famous, attracting travelers fascinated by the idea of being able to treat themselves in a natural way and in pristine surroundings. In a more modern sense, the spas are a place of psychological and physical pleasure, where one may recuperate and get into shape. There are also fitness and cosmetics centers where the concept of total relaxation effectively combines health and beauty. Ischia is the island where you can "feel good with yourself and others", in complete harmony with nature. It combines spa treatments with aroma therapy, amidst fragrances and scents; with phototherapy, using plants that grow spontaneously in the area and based on ancient remedies made from the active ingredients of plants; with chromo-therapy and music-therapy. Today the spa parks are a special resource with their different temperature pools, Kniepp courses, saunas, Japanese baths, and massage centers inspired by Oriental philosophy.

Thanks to the special properties of the saline-bromine-iodine, alkaline and sulphate water (continuously monitored by experts), it is possible to treat metabolic ailments. rheumatic illnesses and diseases of the joints, rheumatoid arthritis and tendonitis, gynecological ailments and infertility. Illnesses of the respiratory system are treated with inhalations, and aerosol treatment is used for the upper respiratory tract.

Food and Wine

Wholesome flavors of the fertile land and a sea teeming with fish triumph everywhere, from peasant meals to gourmet banquets. Authentic treasures of taste, they are accompanied by a millennium-old tradition of D.O.C. wines produced from noble grapes such as Biancolella, Forastera, and Rilla (white wines) and Guarnaccia and “Per’ e palummo”, a local variety of Piedirosso (red wines). Many local recipes use rabbit which live in the wild in the local woods (also full of mushrooms, berries and strawberry trees), but that have also been bred for centuries in pits dug out in the country, or kept in cages. Practically every family and trattoria prepares "Ischia-style rabbit", which is made with garlic, wine, cherry tomatoes and aromatic herbs. Goats and sheep are raised on the island, and their milk is used to make rare cheeses. Pigs are also raised, and their meat is used for tasty sausages. The age-old rural culture means that all sorts of vegetables are grown: aubergines, courgettes, potatoes, artichokes, arugula and peppers. Foods, small but of great nutritional value such as lentils, chickpeas and beans are also grown. There are also two types of rare beans grown here the purplish red “zampognari” and the black “fascisti” varieties. The volcanic soil is ideal for growing tomatoes, which are normally harvested on the vine and plaited to form characteristic "pendulums" that are preserved in well ventilated, dry areas. Along the coast the daily toils of fishermen supply sea bass, white bream, gilthead, small tuna, prawns, cuttlefish, squid and lobster which, with less prized fish (that nevertheless can be extraordinarily delicious) fill the menus of specialized restaurants and farm holiday establishments.

Folklore – Crafts

Mysticism and folklore intertwine. Each saint has his or her own church and feast day: there are more than forty on the liturgical calendar. These popular events draw the crowds with their fascinating rituals, crowded processions, sweet stalls and spectacularly choreographed fireworks, such as the Festa of Sant’ Anna, which is celebrated on 26th of July in the bay of the Castello Aragonese and is a genuine “carnival” on the sea. There are ritual dances such as the “Ndrezzata”, in which two groups of dancers enact warlike skirmishes from times immemorial. The magical power of the past can also be seen in the clay worked by the master craftsmen of Ischia, who continue a tradition going back thousands of years to the Greeks. The workshops of these skilled craftsmen characterize the heart of the old town centers and each clay they are colored by their new creations, vases, plates, floral designed tiles, fanciful majolica tiles, elegant landscapes and precious objects which must be considered true works of art.

Sport and Leisure

From paragliding to windsurfing, from horseback trekking in the hills to sailing, tennis and canoeing, diving and jogging, the island offers tens and tens of solutions for lovers of the outdoor life and sports. With its tennis courts, football fields, bowls facilities, swimming pools and fitness gyms, there is something for everyone and for every pocket and the same can be said for its numerous night spots and meeting places where people can spend pleasant, carefree moments together.

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Written by Ciro Cenatiempo
Publication of Ischia and Procida Tourist Board. © Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved

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