When you are not making use of the excellent facilities at the resort, there are plenty more things to see and do on the island and further afield. Here are just a few highlights.
This colourful botanical garden is almost right next door to the resort and a great place to spend a few hours. Created by William Walton and his wife, various flora is spread over two levels (valley and hillside) and interwoven between fountains, cosy corners to sit and relax and a small museum. Because of the fertile soil, you will find many species that usually prefer more tropical climates. There is also a small amphitheatre where performances are sometimes held.
Follow the path from within the resort of climb aboard the regular shuttle bus to reach the secluded San Montano Beach. There are plenty of sun loungers and parasols on the sand and a little bar to help keep you refreshed.
Although small, this museum will help you learn about the history of Ischia between prehistoric times and the Roman Empire. There are some interesting artefacts on display and a small gift shop at the end.
The same shuttle bus that takes you to San Montano Beach will also take you to the nearby town of Lacco Ameno. As well as more beaches and a quaint harbour, it is home to the Mushroom Rock, one of the islands most recognisable landmarks. Made from soft Tufo rock, it has been eroded by the sea over the years into the shape of a giant mushroom.
The highest point on the island provides breathtaking 360-degree views down below and out across the bay. There are various hiking trails to guide you up there and some great restaurants near the top to help fuel you for your return journey.
This dramatic castle can be seen from anywhere on the northern side of the island and is another great way to learn about the history of Ischia. Now in the hands of the Mattera family, it was first built by Gerone from Syracuse and has been occupied by Romans, Normans and the Spanish. Its strategic location (on its own separate island) meant it was a great defence from invading forces and a refuge following volcanic eruptions. Guided tours will take you through the various rooms and even to the tunnels underneath.
Named after the family that once owned it (but also known as Michelangelo's Tower because the artist is thought to have lived in the building for a while), the tower is another defensive structure built to defend the island. Today, it holds regular art exhibitions and features frescoes rumoured to be painted by Michelangelo.
One of the island's most picturesque spots, Sant'Angelo is home to a couple of small beaches, a charming harbour and a quaint row of shops and restaurants.
Ischia's neighbouring island is jet 15 minutes away by ferry and is a great spot for a relaxing day trip. There are some excellent walking opportunities, colourful harbours and the Abbey of St. Michael the Archangel to explore.
Travel slightly further afield and you can head back to Naples to discover this historic city. The harbour areas, with the Castel Nuvo and Castel d'Ovo, is a good place to start but the Centro Antico area of the city is arguably where Naples's heart lies. Via dei Tribunali, in particular, is a maze of fantastic pizzerias, gelaterias and pasticcerias that will make your eyes light up and stomach growl. It's also right next door to the famous Christmas Alley, where you can buy a wide range of nativity figures and see the extraordinary scenes people create to present them in.
These two excavation sites are a ride on the Circumvesuviana train from Naples. Frozen in time after the eruption of Vesuvius, they offer a unique view into the past.
Although still an active volcano, it is possible to climb to the edge of Vesuvius's crater and peer down at the lunar-like landscape below. The volcano can be reached by taking the Circumvesuviana train to either Pompeii or Herculaneum and then climbing aboard a bus that will take you to 1000 feet. From there, it's about a 45-minute walk to the top where, on a clear day, you will be greeted by jaw-dropping views of Naples and the bay.
If you have the time and the desire to travel even further from your base in Ischia, the towns and villages of the Amalfi Coast are within reach. First, you have to get to Sorrento (either by ferry from Ischia or train from Naples) and then it's a case of hopping on the bus and travelling along the winding mountain road until you reach Positano or Amalfi. The landscapes are definitely worth it though and there are plenty of cobbled streets and alleyways to explore.
© Fred. Olsen Travel.
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