Riserva di

Ischia

Riserva di

Ischia

The Earth's Energy

A large volcanic island in the Thyrrenean sea, Ischia is a sanctuary of healing and regeneration. Its volcanic mud, natural hot springs, beaches and bougainvilleas make the island a tranquil paradise, setting it apart from the bustling streets of nearby Naples. The largest of the islands in the Gulf of Naples, Ischia enchants with a unique energy.

Discover all the excellence in this Riserva

  • Places & Landscapes
  • Culture
  • Food & Wine
  • Craft
  • Curiosity

A Stormy, Very Long History

Aragonese Castle

A Stormy, Very Long History

Aragonese Castle

The island of Ischia is to be found just 30 miles off the coast of Naples. Go there on a boat, and the first thing you will see is the Aragonese Castle, apparently rising up out of the sea itself. 

Dating from 474 BC, the primary structure of the castle was built by Hiero I of Syracuse. A decided tyrant and conqueror of peoples near and far, Hiero built the imposing towers to scan the seas for potential invaders. It wasn’t until 1441 that Alfonso V of Aragon connected the isolated rock to the actual island of Ischia by way of a stone bridge, allowing the culture of the castle to blend with that of the island, then only sparsely settled.


In that thousand-year period, alone, a social and political history far more complex than even the structures themselves, unfolded within the castle’s outer walls. 

Until 1552, which marked a peaceful end to yet another era of pirate invasions on the island, the castle itself was Ischia. 

The town had not yet spread much beyond the protected walls of the fortress, rendering court and political life rather intense. The castello moves beyond the theatrical to near satire with its historical role in protecting an ever-changing population of “Ischians”. 

Invasion after invasion altered the heterogeneity, character, and culture of the island of Ischia. At any given time, the near constant condition of war and rebellion threatened to make the little island and its marvellous fortress British, French, Spanish, Roman, Pirate, Saracen, or any other than Greek, Etruscan, or Phoenician, as comprised the early ethnic configuration of the region. 


It’s any wonder that Verdi or Donizetti didn’t seize upon any one of the dozens of incursions or consequent “vespers” (uprisings) as fodder to generate the narrative of a moody, dramatic opera set in the castle itself.

If the castle is imposing from outside, it is more surprising to behold from within. Behind its massive walls, one discovers a citadel covered with sunny gardens, vistas, olive groves, and small vineyards. Abbeys and monasteries, prisons and frescoed catacombs, tiny chapels and impressive churches (13, to be precise!), are all contained in the vast fortress.


1509 saw the wedding of the poetess Vittoria Colonna to Fernando Francesco D’Avalos in the castle’s cathedral. This heralded an epoch of cultural richness when the poet Ariosto and artist Michelangelo, among countless other literati, were honoured guests of the castle. 

If opera composers missed the mark, cinema directors have not. 

Numerous films were situated here, numerous artists captured the spirit of the ancient castle in their poems, paintings, and symphonic suites. Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite, Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra, Pascal Quignard’s Villa Amalia were all composed, filmed, or staged within fortress walls.


Perched on its  own isolated rock just off the coast of Ischia proper, the Castello Aragonese makes a stark impression

The volcanic eruption that occurred some 300,000 years ago producing the rock upon which the castle is perched lends yet another layer of mystique to an already ponderous structure. Rumours of a nearby, sunken Atlantis push the castle back further still into the depths of history and myth to the very origins of our modern civilization. Finally, the castle must be accessed in dramatic fashion through a tunnel connecting to Aragon’s bridge.* Stone cut-outs provide the only source of light of the eerie tunnel, providing tourists a befittingly atmospheric entryway.

*Or more recently, a lift run on electricity can get you inside just the same. And lightbulbs have been added to light the tunnel. But we thought we’d spare you the modern intrusions in the body of the article!

Any suggestions?

© All rights reserved.

The Art of 
Basket Weaving

Ischia's Cestini

The Art of Basket Weaving

Ischia's Cestini

Women and children have been weaving on the island of Ischia for centuries. What started as a leisure activity to perform during spare time, when the inhabitants of the island were not busy in the fields, soon became an important way to produce useful objects such as baskets, slippers, hats and fans.

The elaborate art of weaving was passed on from generation to generation and offered an additional source of income to the islanders. 

The materials used consisted mainly of local plants such as cane, myrtle, elm, broom and especially straw, derived from the wheat that grew in the fields.


During the fifties, as tourism started developing on the island, more and more farmers were attracted to the villages, where they went to work for hotels and restaurants, thus abandoning the fields. Straw became less readily available and new materials had to be imported, and raffia in particular (a species of palm tree coming from Madagascar and the coastal areas of East Africa).

Ischia baskets are an intricate mix of weaving and macramé knotting, almost to symbolise the melting of different cultures and materials originating both in the Mediterranean and in the more remote regions of Africa and the Middle East.

Although the local government is trying to promote the art of basket design and weaving through unemployment-relief ‘earn-as-you-learn’ programmes, this ancient craft is slowly disappearing and only few genuine master weavers remain on the island. The most famous are Gennaro di Meglio in Barano d’Ischia, who manufactures rustic, traditional baskets or Antonio Monti in Lacco Ameno, producing a more delicate version, almost resembling embroidered lace, in a great variety of patterns and colours.

Make sure you visit their workshops before you leave the island or, if you prefer to give it a try yourself, join a weaving class and relax while making your own special basket!

Any suggestions?

© All rights reserved.

From Ischia's Holes

Ischia-style Rabbit

From Ischia's Holes

Ischia-style Rabbit

When you approach this wonderful island from the sea you’ll probably expect to find fish restaurants lining the busy streets of the many villages. And you will. 

However, you’ll be surprised to learn that the specialty of the island is not a fish dish, but a meat one: coniglio all’ischitana or, in other words, Ischia-style rabbit.


Some say it was Sicilians who brought rabbits to Ischia: these then found a suitable environment in the many holes of the island (fosse, in Italian), and proliferated, thus becoming a major food source for the islanders. 

Others instead claim that when Sicilians got to the island, they already found Ischia infested by the small animals and took advantage of their abundance, bringing easy-caught meat to their tables.

A recipe dating back to the 5th century, coniglio all’Ischitana requires the following ingredients:

  • 3 lb rabbit
  • 1 lb cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup white wine
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • chili pepper, thyme, basil, rosemary and marjoram
  • salt

To replicate the recipe at home, cut the rabbit into 8 pieces: rinse and dry well. Add olive oil to a clay pot (remember, the clay pot is the secret of the recipe!) and place over medium heat. Once hot, add the unpeeled garlic and cook until golden. Remove from the pot, add the rabbit and brown evenly on all sides.

Stir in the wine and let evaporate. Add the cherry tomatoes to the meat. Season with salt and stir in the herbs and chili peppers. Cook for about 30 minutes, turning the rabbit from time to time. Serve warm with Vigne di Chignole white wine.


If you prefer to relax and let the locals do the work, why not head to Taverna Verde or Bracconiere, both in Serrara Fontana, or Ristorante Il Capannaccio in Forio, where you can try this as well as other traditional dishes!

Any suggestions?

© All rights reserved.

Ain't No Secret

Monte Epomeo

Ain't No Secret

Monte Epomeo

If you think Ischia is just about spas, thermal water and beaches, think again! If you’re looking to discover the lesser known face of the island, head for Monte Epomeo. 

The highest mount of Ischia, Monte Epomeo is 787 metres high. The walk to the top takes about an hour, although it’s possible to arrange for horseback rides or mule rides, which obviously take slightly less and save you the trouble of walking uphill. 


The route starts from the small village of Fontana and the trail is partially carved out of rock, making the climb scenic and unique. The hike can be intense as some stretches are quite steep; a person in regular shape should be able to tackle the path with no problems. 

Make sure to take some water with you and put on appropriate walking shoes.

If you haven’t given in to the comfort of being brought to the top on horseback, the walk will be rewarded with staggering views. The Gulf of Naples, Mount Vesuvius and the neighbouring islands will all unfold in front of your eyes in a picture-perfect panorama. No wonder the Greeks called the mount “Epomeo”, meaning ‘to view the panorama from high above’.


The beauty of the views this mount offers has been no secret - in past centuries, riding to the top of Mount Epomeo on the back of a mule was a primary tourist activity on Ischia, and it's easy to see why.

A tip: the views are spectacular at any time of the day, but sunset, with its pinks, oranges and reds, is just amazing.

Any suggestions?

© All rights reserved.

Ischia's Past

Museo Archeologico di Pithecusae

Ischia's Past

Museo Archeologico di Pithecusae

Ischia’s Museo Archeologico di Pithecusae sits atop the very lands that constituted the island’s ancient Hellenic settlement, wherefrom many of the very earthenware pots, friezes, and other artefacts that are featured inside the museum were excavated.

Situated on the acropolis of Pithecusae, an area today known as Lacco Ameno, the museum enjoys a clear view of historic Monte Vico. 

The edifice is a palace built by Carlo Acquaviva, Duke of Atri in the 1700’s, and later became the summer home of novelist Angelo Rizzoli. In 1947, archaeologist Giorgio Buchner and volcanologist Alfred Rittman converted the palace into its first archaeological incarnation, called Museum of the Island of Ischia. Later expanded and renamed to reflect the significance of its local contents, the museum also includes finds from rich, successive excavations on the island.

The discoveries of Giorgio Buchner are considered to be have caused a veritable stir in academic circles because they all pointed to how much the critical, developmental phases of southern 'Italian' coastal culture were fairly inseparable from development and expansions of Greece.

Magna Grecia is the name given to the greater sum of coastal areas off the Italian peninsula that were extensively populated by Greek settlers.

The Hellenic imprint left by the tides of settlers around the 8th century BC was vast, such that Roman poet Ovid uses the term ‘Greater Greece’ to describe Italy as an extension of Greece, itself.


Within the museum’s collections, one can find such noted pottery and vases as the ‘Crater of shipwreck’, a Pithecusæn piece frequently showcased in history books that features the detailed, sensational scene of a wrecked voyage. The famous “Nestor’s Cup” (8th century B.C.) contains an epigram of three verses written in the Euboic alphabet, making reference to the famous cup described in the Iliad. This is one of the oldest known Greek inscriptions, the verses of which also celebrate the fine wines of Ischia.


This sort of cross-disciplinary discovery that ties an artefact to literary-artistic history, and even references the local viniculture pointing to culture and anthropological development, is precisely what renders this museum so attractive to history and archaeological buffs, and so relevant to Italy’s greater collection of important exhibitions.

Any suggestions?

© All rights reserved.

A Whiff of California

Ravino Gardens

A Whiff of California

Ravino Gardens

With over 400 different species and several thousand specimens, Ravino Gardens are an impressive collection of succulent plants and cacti from all over the world.

Overlooking the bay of Citara, the gardens occupy a sunny stretch of land in the small town of Forio and are the result of over 40 years of hard work and study. Their creator, Giuseppe D’Ambra, was fascinated by the plants he saw during his travels as a sailor and decided to re-create the different floras back home. It is thanks to him if the Ravino Gardens, today, exist for all to admire.

It’s plain to see, in this case, that hard work pays off. 

What came about as a bizarre idea during a trip to California in the 60s is today a botanical heaven that has received numerous prizes and recognitions both at national and international level, especially for the project's sustainability. 

Described by its creator as a “Tropical Mediterranean Botanical Park”, Ravino Gardens are also home to a number of majestic peacocks who are left to roam freely on the gardens' grounds

These opalescent-feathered birds usually enjoy discreetly following visitors around, almost as if to keep an eye on them, but are also extremely vain and often pose for pictures among the plants!

The trail through the park is about 800 metres long and is accessible to wheelchairs. 

Guided visits are available on request; during tours visitors will be shown the highlights of the garden, rare species and the different possible uses of the plants present, such aromatherapy and homeopathy. The gardens are usually closed during the winter and re-open after the spring equinox; check the official site for details.

Any suggestions?

© All rights reserved.

A Deep Identity

The Sea Museum

A Deep Identity

The Sea Museum

Set in the Clock Tower of Ischia Ponte, the Museo del Mare (Sea Museum) has been sharing the island’s history with visitors since 1996.

The aim of the museum is to display Ischia’s identity - and what better way to do it than by explaining what has always moulded the islanders’ way of life? 

The museum’s organisation states: “the Earth was born from the sea, the land has always found its destiny in the sea, as well as work and love. The sea has the right to have a place where its collective memory is made visible”.

All objects on display at the museum have been collected thanks to the voluntary work of a group of islanders, driven by passion and even, why not, a bit of curiosity for their own history. On display are models, photos, maps, nets and other fishing tools as well as many other curious items related to living the sea. Of particular interest are a diving suit - the sort one would immagine in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - as well as ancient objects used to aid navigation in deep waters.


Inside, visitors feel the intimate connection between life on the island and the close, but sometimes dangerous, immense friend. 

If today Ischia may not seem as deeply connected to the sea as in the past, understanding the island’s heritage may unveil a closer connection than what meets the eye.

Any suggestions?

© All rights reserved.

Nature's Spa

Ischia's Terme di Sorgeto

Nature's Spa

Ischia's Terme di Sorgeto

Found in a cove of the southwestern coast of Ischia, Sorgeto’s thermal pools are special not only for their beauty and health benefits, but because they remain free of charge and open to the public. 

Whereas many hot springs in Italy and Europe have been appropriated by luxury establishments that cater primarily to the jet set, Ischia rigorously protects the terme as an offering of nature and a public good. Although many hotels and spas on Ischia boast offerings and trips related to Sorgeto’s naturally forming pools of therapeutic spring waters, it is not necessary to stay at one of these establishments to access the thermal inlet. They are open to anyone, and at all hours.


Easily accessible by water, the only passage on land is by foot via a steep ramp of stairs that begins in the village of Panza and exits at the protected inlet. 

Either route will transport you to pools of mixed water, both salty and fresh. The mixing of these saline and sweet waters means that the natural pools are of varying temperature, ranging widely from 20 to 90 degrees centigrade. Ancient volcanic vaults infuse the water with an alkaline mixture of sodium chloride and bicarbonate, thought to soothe a host of ailments. The waters also contain a minimum amount of radon, a rare gas that has long been appreciated as a curative by arthritis sufferers.

Other notes of interest about Ischia’s thermal baths: one is advised to take caution when visiting the waters of Sorgeto, as many of its rocks and slopes are sometimes at boiling temperatures.


A note of fun and intrigue is that the islanders continue to participate in a centuries’ old custom of cooking eggs, potatoes, and seafood in some of sorgeto’s hotter pools! 

Ischia’s own weather system maintains mild temperatures year round, so it’s possible to visit the baths even in the deepest quiet and solitude of a winter’s night.

Any suggestions?

© All rights reserved.

The Garden
of the
Seven Marvels

Ischia's Botanical
Gardens

The Garden of the Seven Marvels

Ischia's Botanical Gardens

Also called “the garden of the seven marvels”, the Mortella Giardino Botanico is a stunning, whimsical garden-park, conceived by Lady Susana Walton as a gift to her husband, British composer William Walton. 


Having noted that William derived his primary artistic inspiration from the natural world, Lady Walton enlisted landscape architect Russell Page to design the a cluster of small gardens in 1950. Private, intimate, passionate spaces, these gardens were at first intended for the exclusive usage of her husband, and for the two of them, together.

As the years passed, the principal gardens expanded and multiplied. 

A far more ample spread of secret, surprisingly sculpted spaces, arbours and flower beds, temples and riverside perches for meditation, became woven together by a network of paths, ramps, walks, and steps. Atop the uppermost hill of the gardens, one encounters breath-taking views of the Bay of Foro. There are also ponds and steams which nourish a wide array of water-loving and even tropical plants, and a meditative Oriental garden which hosts a curious ‘Thai House’. 

Fountains and more natural sources of water that glides and trickles over stone, groves of trees, mountain panoramas, and marvels of Mediterranean flora, all contribute to a rich aesthetic and effluvious ambiance.

During the year, there are three different concert seasons held in the amphitheatre of the gardens and indoor recital hall to be found in the confines of the expansive gardens.

Spring and autumn usher in a wash of recitals and chamber music, and summer heralds a festival of youth orchestras that showcases its talent in a weekly concert held at the Greek Theatre.

The subsequent evolution of Susana Walton’s original gift of plants and love into a place of peace and wonder open for all to wander, would no doubt honour this heartfelt gift to a beloved husband and composer. That the ‘Gardens of Myrtle’ are furthermore offered in service of the world of fine art music, represents the ultimate flowering and fruition of a sublime, poetic concept.

Any suggestions?

© All rights reserved.

Traditional Ischia

Sant'Angelo

A picturesque village on Ischia, Sant'Angelo is the perfect spot if you're looking for relaxation and gorgeous views.

Forio's Distinctive Building

Chiesa del Soccorso

Almost completely encircled by the sea, Forio's Chiesa del Soccorso is one of Ischia's most unique buildings in terms of architecture. 

A Peculiar Landmark

The 'Mushroom' of Lacco Ameno

Eroded by the ceaseless waves of the sea, the mushroom-shaped rock of Lacco Ameno has become a popular picture-spot.

La Colombaia

The Luchino Visconti Museum

La Colombaia is a popular museum dedicated to Italian film director Luchino Visconti, housed in the maestro's former summer residence. 

Traditional Ischia

Sant'Angelo

Any suggestions?
You may also be interested in
The Temple of Light
San Tomè
Riserva di Bergamo
Mountain Life
'Petit Monde' Museum
Riserva del Cervino
Can Love Defeat War?
The Carnival of Mondovì
Riserva del Monregalese
An Unforgettable Sound
Cremona's Violin Museums
Riserva di Cremona

© All rights reserved.

Forio's Distinctive Building

Chiesa del Soccorso

Any suggestions?
You may also be interested in
A Dish for the Adventurous
Bagna caöda
Riserva dell' Astigiano
The Pride of Novara
San Gaudenzio's Basilica
Riserva di Novara
Twenty Chapels, One Sacred Mount
Sacro Monte di Orta
Riserva del Lago d'Orta
The People's Pope
Giovanni 23°
Riserva di Bergamo

© All rights reserved.

A Peculiar Landmark

The 'Mushroom' of Lacco Ameno

Any suggestions?
You may also be interested in
A Toast to Tradition
Bière des Salasses
Riserva di Aosta
Beauty and Darkness of the Middle Ages
Cly Castle
Riserva del Cervino
A 2000 Year Tour
Aosta’s Roman and Medieval Past
Riserva di Aosta
The Colourful Works of a Free Spirit
Francesco Nex
Riserva di Aosta

© All rights reserved.

La Colombaia

The Luchino Visconti Museum

Any suggestions?
You may also be interested in
Italy’s George Washington
Luigi Einaudi
Riserva di Carrù
Dare to Look?
Sarriod de La Tour Castle
Riserva del Gran Paradiso
A Typical Mountain Delicacy
The Valleé d’Aoste Lard d’Arnad
Riserva del Monte Rosa
Two Names, One Church
Duomo di Novara
Riserva di Novara

© All rights reserved.