Ischia is an attractive and popular island situated just off the western coast of Italy in the Bay of Naples. The traditional town and harbour, lovely scenery both around the coast and on the slopes of Mount Epomeo, pretty gardens and stunning beaches, and the traces left by history all come together to make Ischia a very pleasant island to visit.
There are more than 40000 residents on Ischia island. The main town is divided into the old part, Ischia Ponte, and the harbour and newer town, called Ischia Porto.
Note: you might think that Ischia is less well known than Capri, its famous neighbour to the south, and perhaps it is - but its many attractions and ease of access from mainland Italy mean it does get very busy in the summer!
Explore Ischia: a tourist guide to the town and island
Ischia town, ferry arrivals and most settlements are to the east and north of the island, with the southern coast much quieter except for the village of Sant'Angelo. Below we first take a stroll around Ischia town and its monuments followed by an excursion to Forio, then suggest some beaches - or more attractions if you still have some energy left!
Your visit to Ischia starts from the port - Ischia Porto - where your boat crossing from mainland Italy arrives. After enjoying a stroll around the port continue along the Via Roma to reach the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
This church, built in the late 18th century by Giuseppe Astarita, has an elliptical plan and a dome covered in multi-coloured majolica. Nearby the Church of Saint Antonio has an interesting picture from the 17th century Neapolitan school.
Continuing on there are various buildings of interest to discover. After passing the Bishop's Palace with its 4th century paleo-Christian sarcophagus (there are only 10 of these to be found in the world), you will find Ischia Cathedral, rebuilt in 1613 and further enlarged in the 18th century.
The cathedral contains has three beautiful paintings inside by Giacinto Diano (1731-1804), depicting 'St. Augustine, Who Defeated Heresy with the Help of Faith', 'St. Nicholas from Tolentino Interceding for Souls in Purgatory', and the 'Assumption of the Virgin'.
Next to the cathedral is the Convent of the Augustinian monks. This was an important centre on the island from the 16th to 18th century which at that time owned almost all the mills, vineyards and woods on Ischia.
Across the street the Church of the Holy Spirit stands out for being rich in works of art, among them the 'Madonna delle Grazie' by Paolo de Matteis, a wooden crucifix and a painting by Giuseppe Bonito ('The Virgin, Mary Magdalene and St. John at the foot of the cross').
After admiring the 15th century Ponte Aragonese (Aragon Bridge) you carry on up the hill to the ruins of the ancient castle, of which faint traces can still be seen along with fragments of the old cathedral such as some decorations and a 16th century floor.
All the administrative and religious functions for the island were once based in the top of this castle.
In the west of Ischia you can visit the small town of Forio. In the early 18th century twenty fortifications were established here and are still in excellent condition. Also at Forio is the beautiful 14th century Church of Santa Maria di Loreto with several notable paintings e.g. 'History of the Virgin' by Alfonso Spigno and 'St. Nicola Tolentino' by Cesare Calise.
Other important religious buildings in Forio, worth a visit for their artistic treasures, include:
- the Church of St. Francis: 17th century and with a painting by Andrea Malinconico
- the Church of Santa Maria Visitapoveri: 18th century, with a majolica floor).
- the Church of Soccorso and San Vito: a very ancient church, which seems to date back to 1000 AD.
Also worth a visit is the Archaeological Museum, which features a large number of Roman artefacts from prehistory including potteries, vases, statues and busts.
Ischia beaches and outdoors
All across Ischia you can see olives, orchards and vineyards, and garden enthusiasts will also enjoy seeing the diverse range of plants that grow in the warm climate. Among the highlights you can visit the Giardini La Mortella gardens between Lacco Ameno and Forio, which are one of the highlights of your visit and have an exceptional range of rare plants to discover.
Ischia offers many other attractions to tourists, and of course the beaches are among the most popular. In summer we particularly suggest a visit to the beautiful beach of Citara. Located in the town of Forio and below the Punta Emperor it is famous not only for its crystal clear waters but also its position and sunny aspect. The beach also has all facilities - bars and restaurants etc, and the famous Poseidon Gardens Thermal Park is nearby.
There are numerous other beaches in Ischia including Barano beach to the south which is the biggest beach on the island and consists of a long strip of sand surrounded by Capo Grosso and the village of Saint Angelo and Saint Montano Bay (located in the town of Lacco Ameno).
You can also enjoy the beaches near Forio, the Chiaia beach, the Lido of Ischia, the Carta Romana, Saint Angelo beach and many others.
Suggested excursions include the Bosco della Maddalena located near the town of Casamicciola Terme (to the north), while another relaxing trip is to follow the roads of the island that lead to the summit of Ischia. At the top you can visit the church and the hermitage of Saint Nicola.
In the south near the pretty village of Sant'Angelo the mountain of Monte Epomeo is an extinct volcano with a summit that has exceptional views. The most usual ascent starts from the small village of Fortana.
Ischia restaurants and cuisine
Be sure to also visit some of the restaurants on Ischia to try the typical dishes of this region, typically based on tomatoes, basil, mint and chillies. Among the most well known of these traditional dishes is the 'rabbit from Ischia'. Since Ischia has been famous for its wines since ancient times you may want to taste the local wines - both white and red Ischia wines are available.
The neighbouring island of Procida is small but well worth exploring, while Capri to the south is one of the loveliest of the Italian islands. Back on mainland Italy, Sorrento is a very popular resort with visitors.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Campania guide.