Sailing into a volcanic crater turned bustling seaport, the lush green peak of Monte Epomeo welcomes you to this bit of paradise. An environmentally and geologically rich and diverse island that is blessed with an abundance of thermal springs and sparkling beaches, this is Ischia. At 46.3 square kilometres, it is the largest of Naples, or more precisely, the Phlegrean Islands.
Thanks to Ischia’s volcanic nature, geo-thermally heated ground waters, aka, the thermal waters, simmer beneath the earth’s crust all over the island. These waters, they say, possess curative powers that can heal all manner and variety of aliments. Equally as curative is Ischia’s mud, a marriage of the island’s thermal waters and its mineral rich clay. One day here is not nearly enough time to explore this diamond in the rough, nevertheless, day-trippers will have sufficient time to soak in some of Ischia’s thermal waters and to bask in the island’s sun, sea and relaxing atmosphere.
Poseidon in Forio and Negombo in Lacco Ameno are the island’s biggest and most popular thermal parks. If you only have one day on the island, these are your best bets. At large parks like these you can expect to find a variety of spring fed bathing pools with temperatures ranging from about 20 to 40+ celsius; lush tropical gardens; seawater pools; private beaches; Kneipp baths, saunas and steam rooms; beauty and wellness centers with massage services, oxygen bars and mud treatments; snack bars and restaurants; and some are even connected to hotels.
A bit more intimate and a bit less expensive, Castiglione in Casamicciola is this author’s favorite. If you’re new to the thermal park experience, Castiglione is a great choice and it is also closer to Ischia’s main port, Ischia Porto leaving more time to spa. Cavascura and Nitrodi, both on the southern side of the island, are for thermal park devotees. For those seeking serious wellness treatments, the dated, yet ultra proficient Antiche Terme Belliazzi in Casamicciola is a good choice. A short boat ride from Ischia Ponte, the Garden of Eden (Giardino Eden) is more a day at a beach club than a thermal park, but it offers an equally satisfying experience.
Arrive early! The first HIGH SPEED hydrofoil will get you to the island well before most locals and vacationers have had their first caffè. Conversely, take the last SLOW BOAT (ferry) back for a relaxing return, outside seating and the chance to see a stunning sunset by sea.
Most day-trippers travel in and out of Ischia’s main port, Ischia Porto, but you can also get a boat to Forio or Casamicciola.
Children (usually under 12) are not allowed in thermal waters. If you have little ones in tow, choose a park with seawater pools or beach access. Mud treatments require a health check which can usually be done at the wellness center.
Ischia’s thermal parks are open from mid April through mid to late October and they get extremely crowded in the summer, especially in August. The spring and fall are the best times to visit.
Most thermal parks offer a slight discount after 1.00 pm. For the perfect one-day excursion to Ischia, do a bit of sight-seeing in the morning followed by a leisurely lunch, spend the afternoon at a thermal park and leave enough time before the last ferry to stroll, shop, sample a gelato and sip a spritz along Corso Vittoria Colonna near Ischia Porto.
Among Ischia’s many attractions are: Castello Aragonese in Ischia Ponte, perfect if you plan an afternoon at the Garden of Eden or Castiglione; Susana Walton’s La Mortella Gardens in Lacco Ameno and very near to Negombo; the Ravino Botanical Gardens near Forio and Poseidon.
If you have a real sense of adventure, take a bus tour of the island. Just behind the port (Ischia Porto) is the bus terminal where you can catch one of Ischia’s circolare buses, circle right (destra) or circle left (sinistra), the CD or CS for an interesting though occasionally harrowing and sometimes SRO crowed tour of the island. Stay on the bus the entire time and it will eventually land back where you started or buy a day ticket and hop on and off as you like.
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