After visiting Sorrento and Capri, my boyfriend and I ended our Italian trip by spending an extended weekend in Ischia.
Most Americans will think to visit Capri—and they’re not unjustified, we loved visiting Capri—but the neighboring island of Ischia is the choice of Italians and other Europeans looking for a quick escape.
Wine Traveler calls Ischia “Europe’s Best Kept Secret” and I understand why.
What makes Ischia special is that it’s currently unexploited from an onslaught of international tourism, so the local culture and way of life are well-preserved.
Like Capri, Ischia does have great nightlife during the summer—and we were well-informed of this by several locals—but this wasn’t on our itinerary for the off-season.
Ischia is also known for its thermal springs that date back to the Greco-Roman Ages. It’s not uncommon for travelers to make annual trips to their preferred hotel or resort and spend their days relaxing in the thermal water parks.
The days spent in Ischia were more relaxed than the rest of the trip and I can only hope that we can return to the island again in the future.
- How to Get to Ischia
- What to Do in Ischia, Italy
- Bar and Restaurant Recommendations in Ischia, Italy
- Where to Stay in Ischia, Italy
- Was Ischia worth visiting?
How to Get to Ischia
Also like Capri, the only way to reach Ischia is by ferry or hydrofoil. You can book your ferry tickets in advance on the Direct Ferries website, which pulls all of the schedules of available ferries and hydrofoils.
Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to boarding. Why? Ferries and hydrofoils may be canceled or delayed because of rough seas. If this happens, book new reservations at the ticket stand, then worry about the refund. At the time of writing, the staff at the ticket stand is not able to issue a credit or refund towards new reservations.
To receive your refund for the canceled reservation, email the ferry company directly and include the date and time of the canceled reservation. My boyfriend and I followed this process when our ferry from Capri to Ischia was canceled and we received our refund within 5 business days.
What to Do in Ischia, Italy
Before getting into the fun stuff, let’s go over the logistics of getting around Ischia.
Things in Ischia are farther apart than you may realize, so you will need to take either a bus or a taxi (Americans, there is no Uber here at the time of writing). The bus schedules on the website are straightforward—make sure to have cash on you in case you’re not able to pay your fare at the station!
Visit the Aragonese Castle
My boyfriend and I almost skipped out on touring Castello Aragonese—arguably the most historic landmark of Ischia—in favor of the pool and the beach…
I can promise you that walking the grounds and taking in the views of the Aragonese Castle for a few hours is well worth your time away from the thermal springs.
First constructed in 474 B.C., the fortress overlooks Ischia’s northeastern beaches and faces the Italian mainland and the smaller neighboring islands of Procida and Vivara.
If you read into the history of Castello Aragonese, it seems like every civilization in the general vicinity has made its own mark there.
To quote the visitor pamphlet, the Greeks, the Romans, “the Visigoths, the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, the Arabs, the Normans, the Suebi, the Angevins,” the French, the English, and—at last—the Italians.
Take your time exploring—there’s a beautifully curated bookshop, a small cafe on the lower level, and a larger cafe higher towards the highest access point of the monastery.
If you want to take your experience inside the Aragonese Castle to the next level, book a dinner reservation at the hotel restaurant inside the castle. Yes, Albergo Il Monastero is a boutique hotel inside the Aragonese Castle.
Spend a day at the thermal baths
Is this your first time experiencing European thermal baths or a hydrothermal park? Then you’re in for a treat.
According to this post and multiple sources, thermal springs are known for their healing properties to increase circulation, decrease muscle soreness, and detox the skin. Many Europeans go to thermal baths across the continent to rejuvenate—the elaborate bathhouses in Budapest, Hungary, for example, are a strong draw for visitors.
We went to Negombo in Lacco Ameno, one of the top thermal parks in Ischia. Negombo has over a dozen different thermal baths and pools between the beach and the mountainside.
There were some thermal pools that really shocked my body—rotating between the hot and cold thermal pools is the most effective way to experience the thermal baths. It may take a few seconds to adjust during the moment, but after spending the day in Negombo’s thermal park, you’ll feel the positive difference in your body the following day.
Take a day trip to Capri
I’m confident that I made a good case in another blog post for staying in Capri, Italy for a few days, but if you’re limited on time, book a boat tour around La Faraglioni and La Grotta Azzurra. Then, if you’re lucky enough to stay overnight, you have your choice of some of the best restaurants in the region—remember to make dinner reservations in advance!
Although we spent our time in Lacco Ameno and Ischia, we heard so many good things about Forio and Sant’Angelo from locals. Forio is the second largest town on the island and is known for its traditional architecture while Sant’Angelo boasts stunning views away from the crowds.
Bar and Restaurant Recommendations in Ischia, Italy
Besides the restaurant at our hotel, we only ate at two other restaurants during our stay in Ischia—and we ate at each restaurant twice for dinner.
Il Mosaico is located inside Terme Manzi in Casamicciola Terme. It’s a slightly more formal setting, but the staff was very approachable and took pride in explaining the menu. The maitre d’ was like no other and truly went above and beyond to deliver an incredible experience.
O’Pignatello in Lacco Ameno is a polished casual restaurant run by a young couple who loves sharing the local culture of Ischia—it’s clear that their passion and energy are present throughout the establishment.
If you love pasta and seafood, either restaurant will happily satisfy your appetite.
Where to Stay in Ischia, Italy
I could dedicate an entire blog post to our amazing hotel, the San Montano Resort & Spa in Lacco Ameno, Ischia, which is located a 15-minute drive away from Porto d’Ischia and only minutes away from Negombo and San Montano Beach.
There are a few key benefits to staying at the San Montano.
First, the hotel offers complimentary shuttle service throughout Lacco Ameno—including Negombo and San Montano Beach—as well as pick up and drop off at Porto d’Ischia. This shuttle service makes it very easy to leave the resort and explore Lacco Ameno instead of constantly ordering a taxi to get down the mountain. If you plan on leaving the Lacco Ameno area, the concierge will secure a taxi for you.
The staff and concierge were nothing but courteous and kind. A special shoutout to the housekeeping staff who focused on cleanliness throughout our stay—they tidy the rooms at least twice a day.
The food is delicious. Since we decided to go out for dinner every night, we enjoyed breakfast in the main dining room and lunch by the pool. The pizzas are prepared in an outdoor woodfire pizza oven and all of the dishes use as many fresh ingredients as possible from the San Montano’s grounds. The hotel does grow plenty of herbs and lemons on the premises.
The San Montano has its own thermal park on the grounds. Though not nearly the same scale as Negombo, it’s like having unlimited access to an elevated thermal park throughout your stay at the San Montano. The spa inside the hotel had a tranquility room that was also equipped with hot-cold thermal baths, a sauna, a steam room, and a fitness center.
The hotel’s signature service is the Lemontano massage—held outdoors underneath the lemon groves and completed with a private session in a jetted lounge pool overlooking the sea. Absolutely worth the experience!
As you can see, the views are hard to top. In conversations with locals and other hoteliers, even they admitted that no other hotel could compete with the panoramic views at the San Montano. Our room overlooked the courtyard and the sea on one balcony and the heated pool and the volcano from the other balcony—it was a true Italian dream.
But really, there’s nothing more surreal than sitting by the pool, facing a volcanic mountain and the sea, while sipping on a lemon spritz cocktail (also appropriately named the Lemontano).
I read one blog post that framed the San Montano in a negative light… While I understand that the expectations of a “five-star” resort may *slightly* differ from country to country, I think a part of being an international traveler is being able to set aside those *slight* differences and focus on the joy of the experience.
From the amenities to the high level of service to the breathtaking views, I would be hard-pressed to have had a better stay anywhere else in Ischia than the San Montano.
Was Ischia worth visiting?