Hope this is intersting for anyone thinking of a visit. Thanks to Peter for his help in planning mine! I amv ery conscious of all things I didn't do but that just leaves lots for next time
Tuesday - Day1
Having spent 2 days in Naples I am excited to have 4 days on Ischia ahead. It’s quite hot when I arrive mid afternoon, so I am relieved to find my hotel room is cool and spacious with a small balcony. The staff are friendly and helpful. I go for a walk to explore Ponte. The Castle offers some great photo opportunities – by the end of my stay I shall have a lot of these, it is so photogenic from all angles. I then walk back down to Ischia Porte and joins the hordes of German and Italian tourists in the evening passegiata for a wander around. It’s extremely busy for a and the shops seem to be doing a fairly good trade – if you like shiny gold animal print bikinis for 70euro then this is the place for you. Then suddenly everyone disappears, presumably to restaurants or apartments for dinner, so I walk back to Ponte. The buses seem a bit random on timing and it’s not very far. All this travelling and walking means I am hungry but when my prosciutto e melone arrives I realise I have over ordered. It’s huge. And delicious, so long as you aren’t a vegetarian. So I eat the lot, then struggle to make a dent in my enormous insalata mista and even bigger gnocchi alla sorrentina. Stomach now painful, I walk down to the Castle and back to try and get comfortable before bedtime.
Wednesday dawns bright and clear. I walk up to the Castle (10euro entry) and after a very sweaty walk up the steps I spend a few happy hours pottering about taking huge numbers of photos. The views are stunning and the water looks gorgeous. I eat a gelato at the terrace restaurant at the very top, soaking up the heat, the views and the peace. ‘You’re so lucky’ I say to the waitress and she agrees but says, gesturing at the spectacular expanse of sea and Island ‘but we no longer see’. I wish I could stay long enough to get blasé about it. The olive terrace is delightful, cool and pretty and tranquil, with chickens and their chicks squawking away as background entertainment. I could stay here for ages. However I don’t, I keep going. The rest of the visit is just as interesting. I am a little creeped out by the room under the old church which appears to have toilets seats in it but which is actually where the dead nuns were left to let bodily fluids leak out and then eventually become skeletons. The living nuns used to come and pray here, not surprisingly then getting sick themselves and some presumably ended up on the toilets seat things themselves. Ugh. The crypt under the old cathedral is also interesting with remnants of frescoes still easily seen.
After a late lunch I wander down to the port and decide on a whim to jump on a bus and go somewhere. The buses are really crowded and people are not being very polite about pushing their way on. This turns into a bit of a theme over the next few days – although Ischia generally doesn’t feel overly crowded or touristy (especially compared to my later Capri & Amalfi Coast visits which are both horrendous), the buses are not able to cope with the numbers and this the only time I feel a bit harassed. I end up jumping off in Forio and walking around there for a bit. Oddly, it’s very quiet, almost deserted and not many shops or bars are open. The beautiful white church at the top, which can be seen miles out to sea apparently, is quite simple inside and has lovely views. Maybe I haven’t given Forio enough of a chance but it doesn’t really grab me particularly and it doesn’t make me want to linger. Maybe next time I shall give it some more time and explore a bit more. I walk back along the beachfront and pop out on a busy road next to a bus stop. However I soon realise this is a mistake as the buses are so full by the time they reach this stop I can’t get on. It takes until the 3rd bus before I can squeeze in and it’s a rather sweaty & wobbly trip back to Porto hanging onto the strap for dear life.
At the port I wander up along the harbour edge and sit to have a drink at Antonio’s Taverna. I am impressed when my modest order of a glass of Prosecco comes with bowls of both crisps and olives. Having watched the sunset and eaten my snacks I have to decide what to do for dinner. It’s still fairly early and most of the restaurants on the waterfront are completely empty or have one solitary occupied table. As I will be eating by myself I prefer a more buzzy vibe so I walk up to the main shopping street to see what the choices are there. I choose a fish restaurant and have one of the more expensive, but very nice, meals of my trip. I walk back to my hotel in Ponte – it’s a bit dark in spots but I feel perfectly safe.
Thursday Day 3
After a bit of a slow relaxed start to the morning I jump on the ferry to Procida (in the process discovering I have been mispronouncing the name of this lovely island for years!) It’s getting hot and by the time I am walking up the steep road from the harbour I am glowing like a lady. Apart from some fellow tourists also trudging up the hill for photos, Procida feels virtually deserted, it’s almost a bit eerie. The views are spectacular and the island is ridiculously pretty. It’s quite like Positano, but without the tour groups and pedestrian traffic jams. I walk down to the Marina, which is rather whiffy from the smell of the fishing boats and the nets piled up along the edge of the harbour but very picturesque. A couple of restaurants are open but neither are very busy. Where is everyone? Or is this normal for mid September? I walk back up in a loop, more photo opps along the way, then down through the narrow streets dodging manic scooters blasting past, one with a passenger with a plaster cast leg and holding crutches. Mmm. Back at the main harbour things are little busier but this is all relative – it’s still pretty empty. I buy a very tasty Panini and sit eating it in the sun as I wait for the return boat to arrive. A short but sweet visit.
I arrive back in time to have a coffee before jumping on the Round the Island tour boat. This is a bit spontaneous but I have time and the weather is still nice so why not. It’s a very good trip - should have done this on my first day to get myself oriented. It appears that I am the only English speaker on the boat so I get a ‘personalised’ if slightly abbreviated commentary from the part time comedian /on board guide. He seems keen for us to see the animal shapes in various rock formations along the coast (personally I think some of these are a real stretch of imagination. Plus there is the ‘mushroom’ rock at Lacco Ameno and the ‘lying down man’ that is the island’s profile from a certain angle. I suspect the people who put up that large pylon on the hill did not consider what that would do to his profile - but from the sniggers all around me I am not the only person to notice!
The stop in San Antonio is pleasant and it is a pretty little place. The boat stops are clearly a good source of income for the bars and cafes, but the gelato is not the best I’ve had and the village is a bit small to cope with the sudden inrush of people. On the way back I get yet more photo’s of the Castle in the low light. It really is so photogenic.
Dinner is in Ponte – a huge and very tasty Pizza and slightly more red wine than is good for me. Combined with spending much of the day in the sun & wind I sleep well.
Friday Day 4
Today I visit Negumbo, the big thermal spa. Seriously, this is the most fun I’ve had in a swimsuit in a long time. I quickly lose inhibitions about my body when seeing my fellow bathers, many of whom are much larger, flabbier and less covered up than me! The sun was shining, the beach looked gorgeous, the hot pools were divine and the whole day fabulous. My favourite of the various treatment pools is the Templare, rows of tall columns from which strong flows of water cascade down , the gravity adding even more power to the water so that by the time it hits necks and backs it feels like the most incredible massage you will ever have. It does have the slightly disconcerting effect of making my slightly loose bikini bottoms billow and slip and getting it down your cleavage can have a similar effect - as one lady near me discovers with a shriek! The most amusing bit is seeing everyone contorting themselves to get the water onto various tight muscles all over the body, necks, shoulders, lower backs, bums, calves, legs feet, – the positions are very funny. I lay down in the shallow water and let the powerful torrent pound my glutes, which are complaining about days of walking up hills and over cobbles. The groans of pleasure/ pain are bit embarrassing but then I am not the only one. The water works out all the kinks - I like it so much I go back three times. I wimp out on the Japanese leg bath pool, which is made up of 2 long skinny pools about thigh height side by side, connected by steps at each end, You are meant to walk around it 3 times. The warm bit has pebbles underfoot & is very pleasant. The other side, which is allegedly 18C but feels a lot colder, comes as a shock. I get up to my knees, scream like a girl and get out.
I have a very good & reasonably priced lunch at the self service restaurant, though the posher restaurant looks very nice too. I find a private spot up on the hill overlooking the beach and settle down on a sunlounger to read. Eventually it just gets too hot, it’s a total sun trap and I have to move. I go down the beach for a bit then move around trying out some of the pools. One is a lovely secluded pool at a perfect 35C temperature. Surrounded by greenery and rocks, it reminds me of similar places in New Zealand. I stay until I am wrinkled like a prune. I finally end up in a very hot pool of 38C, with a cold plunge pool beside it. The idea is you move from one to the other. Personal y I think this is madness and stay in the nice warm side, but have some fun watching the faces and hearing the gasps of others as they rotate from hot to cold. I decide to skip the Ribollita pool - given this is the Italian for ‘boiled’ I figure this Jacuzzi might be a bit much!
By the time I leave at 6pm I am as relaxed as I’ve been in ages, maybe years. Luckily it’s a downhill walk to get back to the bus as my legs have little strength left. Lacco Ameno has a nice atmosphere and so I stay for a bit eating a gelato and enjoying the early evening sunset. I would like to have dinner here but it’s still too early and I fear I will fade quickly after eating so decide not to stay. Another place for ‘next time’.
When I get back to Porto I go up to Antonio’s for another Prosecco and snacks. I decide I may as well eat at the harbour tonight so randomly choose a restaurant and have a very nice meal. The tide seems very high and the sea has obviously crept up over the harbour wall and towards the restaurants. By the time I leave it’s getting on for 11pm and the restaurants are much fuller – Ischia is obviously more of a late night eating place than I had expected. On Nearing the bus stop I come across a very recent accident. Someone has been knocked off their scooter right in the main street and a crowd is already building up. The ambulance arrives just as I walk past the accident site. The person is on the ground and not moving. The road is completely blocked and it’s obvious buses are not going anywhere for a bit so I walk home, hoping the injured person is ok.
I am leaving today... heading for Positano via Capri (now that's a whole other story!) Have really liked Ischia and shall be back again.