Things to Do on Ischia: Ultimate 4 Day Ischia Itinerary
November 14, 2022
Let’s Discuss all of the Glorious Things to Do on Ischia, Italy
Why Ischia? Well, because of Elena Ferrante, of course. She is the pseudonymous Italian novelist who wrote the Neapolitan Novels including My Brilliant Friend and consequently inspired my friend Caroline and I to visit this remarkable island.
Ischia is a volcanic island nestled within the Bay of Naples. It’s full of stunning scenery, sandy beaches and mineral-rich thermal waters. People come from all over the world just to experience its thermal baths; however, the island is certainly a bit more undiscovered than its island neighbor, Capri. You won’t see many American tourists in Ischia – from what we noticed, the island caters mostly to local Italians, with a mix of European travelers on holiday. So get ready to experience a much more authentic, no-frills vibe.
But, if you’re expecting a tiny island without a lot of infrastructure like I was, you will soon discover that residents live on Ischia year round. It is always active, albeit much more crowded in the summer months. Ischia is comprised of six different towns, each with its own individual character and charm: Ischia Porto & Ischia Ponte, Forio, Casamicciola, Lacco Ameno, Serrara Fontana and Barano.
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Getting to Ischia
If you are able to fly directly into Naples, I would highly recommend doing so. From there, you can take the Alibus for 5 euros directly from the airport to the port. The ferry from Naples Port to Ischia takes anywhere between 50 minutes and an hour and a half depending on whether you take a hydrofoil direct or the slower ferry that stops in Procida along the way.
If you must fly into Rome, transfer from the Rome airport to the Rome Termini train station. Take a train down to Garibaldi train station in Naples. From there, you’ll either take the tram, bus, or taxi to the port. If you are taking the slower ferry from Naples to Ischia with a stop in Procida, you should get out at the Calata di Massa port area. And, if you’re taking the hydrofoil boat to Ischia from Naples, you will get off at the Beverello part of the port.
Where to Stay in Ischia
Even after spending 4 nights in Ischia, I am not fully convinced whether it is better to stay in Forio or Ischia Porto. It was actually a big topic of conversation during the trip and I went back and forth many times as I continued to uncover charming streets in both areas.
Why the indecision? So many of the major sights like the thermal baths, St. Angelo, and the gardens are closer to Forio. And taking the public bus each day especially with the summer heat and crowds can be not be pretty draining, but also take up a lot of time.
However, the ease of staying near the port is not something to be overlooked. Unless you are coming from Naples or the Amalfi Coast, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a long travel day. So, it’s pretty convenient to be able to get off the ferry and walk to your accommodation. Plus, the port area has tons of shops and restaurants.
Because Ischia is less expensive than some other Italian islands, you’ll find plenty of budget-friendly hotels and stores – although upscale accommodations and fancy shops are few and far between. Many of the hotels have not been renovated and maintain a more traditional ambiance.
How to Get Around in Ischia
Personally, I would not drive in Ischia especially if you are visiting in the summer months. The island is very densely populated with over 62,000 residents, many of whom live there year round. Unfortunately, that means you have to stick with the public bus which I imagine is pretty great when it isn’t high season. During the summer, however, it is hot, sweaty, and standing room only the majority of the time. Was it particularly pleasant? No. Was it the best way to get around the island? Yes. A single journey ticket is €1.50 and the ticket is valid for 100 minutes, or you can get a three day ticket for €11.
Best Things to Do on Ischia: Travel Guide
Day 1: Poseidon Thermal Baths + Sunset at Chiesa del Soccorso in Forio + Dinner in Forio
Day 2: La Mortella Gardens + Dinner in Ischia Porto
Day 3: Ischia Ponte: Visit Aragonese Castle + Water taxi to Il Pirati restaurant
Day 4: Day Trip to Procida or Hike to Mount Epomeo and Visit Sant Angelo/Barano
Day 1: Ischia Itinerary
Spend time relaxing and rejuvenating from your long travel day at a thermal spa. Ischia is famous for its thermal waters, so much so that some believe the rich minerals provide healing properties. You have your choice of luxurious spas or gorgeous water parks, the two most well-known being Negombo and Poseidon thermal baths. I chose to spend the day at the latter of the two. You can also visit the Terme di Cavascura and bathe where the ancient Romans did or spend time at Sorgeto beach and relax for free in the thermal springs that bubble up in the sea.
I had some reservations about spending a whole day in communal pools as I had visited the spas in Budapest and kind of got the ick. Also, the 45 euro price tag at Poseidon seemed steep. But, the thermal baths in Ischia proved to be my favorite part of the entire trip.
If you enter the park at 4pm – which only gives you 3 hours inside – the price drops to 27 euros at Poseidon. We did the three hour thing which, frankly, I do not recommend. While we were able to enjoy all of the pools in that time period, I strongly encourage you to go for the full day. The spa was so much more than its pools which were actually also pretty incredible. At Poseidon, there are 20 different pools to choose from, each set at different temperatures. There are pools that provide a comfortable experience at 28, 32, and 34 degrees and then there are the pools that lay side by side at 40 degrees and 15 degrees celsius. Spend just 3 minutes in the 40 degree temps before plunging yourself into the freezing waters. It doesn’t feel great in the moment, but it sure feels exhilarating once you’re outta there.
The pools are just one part of the experience. The views are another. The park is huge so it doesn’t ever feel crowded and it’s pristinely clean. There are so many lounge chairs that you should pick a spot, preferably on an upper level so you have perfect views of the sea and spend the day reading and relaxing while dipping in and out of the pools and the private beach. There is also a cafe on site.
Make sure to bring your own towel and a hat. The thermal spas require you to wear a swimming cap in the pools, but we were able to wear our own baseball cap and sunhat instead. There are locker rooms for you to change in and out of your swimwear.
After your day at the spa, head to Forio town for sunset and dinner. Chiesa del Soccorso directly overlooks the sea and is truly the ideal spot for watching the sunset. After the sun goes down, everyone heads to Forio town for dinner. So, if you can, make a reservation. Otherwise, make your way down Corso Francesco Regine and ask if any of the restaurants lining this popular street have a table. We ultimately ended up doing this and if you are a smaller party, there should be little issue.
Day 2: Ischia Itinerary
Giardini La Mortella
British composer Sir William Walton and his Argentinian wife Susana moved to the island of Ischia in 1949 and Susana spent her time creating the beautiful La Mortella gardens alongside legendary garden designer, Russell Page. The gardens, which house more than 3,000 species of plants, took thirty years to create. In 1991, the gardens opened to the public.
Once again, we took to public bus from Ischia Porto to the stop closest to the gardens and walked the rest of the way down.
Entrance to the gardens is 12 euros. We enjoyed a cappuccino and a bruschetta from the cafe as soon as we arrived, but you could always break up the upper and lower gardens with a spot of tea or whatnot. It’s a climb, but you must explore every bit of the upper gardens. I still cannot get over the view of Forio from the amphitheater which hosts concerts in the summer in tribute to the couple’s love of music.
You could honestly stay here all day, which is exactly what we did. But be sure to check the opening days before you make your way over; we did not look at the website first and they were closed on Mondays when we first attempted to visit.
Giardini Ravino is nearby, so you could perhaps visit both on the same day. We decided to save Giardini Ravino for a future trip since we loved the Mortella gardens so much and wanted to savor our time there. The Ravino garden is known for boasting one of the largest collections of cacti and succulents in Europe.
We headed back to Ischia Porto for dinner and had a marvelous time at Il Giardino degli Aranci. Make a reservation for the outside patio as that is where the live entertainment happens. If you only have one night in Ischia Porto for dinner, however, I recommend Ristorante L’Altra Mezzanotte. This was one of my favorite meals of my 40 day trip. The spaghetti with zucchini flowers was superb.
Day 3: Ischia Itinerary
Take Bus #7 from Ischia Porto to Ischia Ponte for a view of the magnificent Castello Aragonese d’Ischia. It’s built on a small rocky island connected by a skinny causeway to Ischia town and dates back to 474 BC.
We had hoped to grab a coffee at the Il Terazzo cafe instead of taking a tour of the castle, but unfortunately you had to pay the entrance fee to do so. We opted not to go inside, but I have heard the views from the castle are absolutely beautiful. If you do decide to visit, know that there are steep, vertical steps up to the top but you will be rewarded with remarkable views. There are cafes where you can sit and have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee as you make your way up or down.
It’s also possible to stay at the castle and it’s supposed to be a truly one-of-a-kind experience. The castle is a little bit removed from the rest of the major sights on the island, so if you do decide to stay here, I would suggest starting or ending your trip in the castle hotel and spending another couple days in Forio.
After visiting the Aragonese Castle, spend some time walking around Ischia Ponte. We decided it was time for us to get out on in the sea, so we hired a water taxi from Maronti Beach to take us round trip for 20 euros per person to Restaurant Il Pirati – one of the restaurants in Ischia that you can only get to by boat. It was an unbelievable way to see the island from the water without having to pay exorbitant costs for a private cruise.
The restaurant also has its own beach spot should you wish to spend some time there. We ended up mingling with all of the guests at the restaurant and hours had passed by the time we had finished eating and taxied back to the mainland.
Day 4: Ischia Itinerary
If you are spending a fourth day in Ischia, you might want to spend some time relaxing by the sea. For us, some of our most cherished time was sitting on our lounge chairs overlooking the ocean and watching the sun go down while from the water’s edge. Ischia can get quite hot in the summer, so don’t feel bad if you save some of the attractions for your next trip.
But, if your energy levels are still high, there are a few different options to choose from on your fourth day. You could start off the morning bright and early with a hike to Mount Epomeo, Ischia’s highest point at 2,589 feet (789 meters). Take the bus to the village of Serrara Fontana to begin the steep steps up through lush greenery and even vineyards on your way to the top.
After the strenuous hike, cool off with a beach day in the quaint village of Sant’Angelo where pastel-hued buildings are embedded into the volcanic hillside. The streets are so narrow that the entire village is car-free. Reserve a chair for a nominal fee and lay out for the next few hours. Meander through the winding narrow streets and stop to shop at Il Pirata and other local treasures.
You can also take a day trip to another island off the coast of Naples, Procida, which also just so happens to have been named the Italian City of Culture for 2022. You would ferry there and back which takes approximately 20 minutes each way. Walk up the hill to admire the vistas over Marina di Corricella When you arrive, walk up the hill to admire the vistas over Marina di Corricella. The first thing you’ll notice is the sweeping view of the bay, followed by the fishing boats bobbing in the harbour, the bright colors of the 17th-century fishermen’s homes, and the pastel yellow hues of the Santa Maria delle Grazie Incoronata church. To get to the view, walk up the hill from the ferry port to the other side of the island, then up again towards the medieval citadel.
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