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Waking up with Ischia .... Many people think of Italy for skiing in the winter or hot beach holidays in the summer, but there is a lot to be said for visiting as the seasons segue, things are thawing in the north and just waking up further south. Ischia has two special factors to add, it is beautiful and thermal waters mean that warm bathing is available at any time of year. This year Easter was relatively late, mid April, and the way school holidays fell meant that the Easter vacation finished with the bank holidays; perfect for some R&R with time for a sort out before returning back to the cut and thrust of daily life.
We wanted a treat, proper time for renewal, having been to Ischia before this seemed like just the time for a return and Travel with Jules found us a wonderful hotel and made all the arrangements. The connections were seamless, having left Stansted with thick ice on car windows, arriving at lunchtime to warmer air was wonderful. We were met at Naples airport, transferred to a private taxi and onwards to a hydrofoil at the port of Beverello - our bags were transferred for us. The journey over to Ischia by hydrofoil takes about an hour, faster than the ferry but with the downside of no outside seating. It is comfortable and if you need a snack there is a bar service available. On arrival our bags were ported for us, again we were met by a lovely representative and transferred to private taxi to our hotel, San Montano Spa on top of a hill on the edge of Lacco Ameno.
The greeting at the hotel was charming, the whole team seem to have the biggest smiles, we were given a quick tour before being shown to our room with views over Lacco Ameno and in the distance Vesuvius rising over the bay of Naples.
We took the chance for a stroll down into Lacco Ameno to get our bearings and made the most of the hotel driver to return up the hill for dinner. Aperitivi are served in the sunset bar and it only seemed right to drink sunset coloured Aperol whilst admiring the view. We were making the most of half board which for the evening meal includes buffet antipasti with a massive range of salads, cheeses, fish and preserved meats, a first main course, including choices of pasta, risotto, mozzarella and proscuitto crudo, second mains typically including catch of the day and local meat dishes including rabbit - which is the island’s speciality. There are also beautiful deserts on offer. The wine list is very good with plenty of local Ischia wines - all of a very high standard.
After dinner drinks and coffees can be taken back in the bar upstairs. During the whole of the evening experience the pianist seams to follow you around, playing at pre-dinner drinks, during your meal and back in the lounge after your meal.
Over the course of the days that followed we explored the island in more detail. It is worth buying a three day bus ticket for eleven euro, this gives unlimited travel, (don’t forget to validate your ticket on the bus -if you do forget don’t be surprised if an elderly local robustly reminds you!). It isn’t necessary to hire a car for access to most areas on the island, although in the summer months the busses probably become very hot and crowded. The dent rate in local cars is about 50%, if you decide to drive in Naples, the dent rate is about 95%, the only un-dented cars seem to be the private transfer cars which tend towards Mercedes with anti-collision devices fitted.
The other very popular method of transport on Ischia is electric bicycle, almost to the point of taking over from Vespas, they whizz around the island. A trip to Ischia town and port is well worth it, though the port-side restaurants compete with amiable chatter to win your trade, they are probably expensive compared with other places, the view is the main draw, that and people watching. After a good lunch we walked on down to Ponte Aragonese for more coffee and people watching.
After much food and coffee a long session in the hotel pool was the perfect detox, surely all those jets of thermal water must clear the cellulite! Our travels also took us to The Poseiden Gardens, a massive thermal pool complex, we were there for its first day of the season, it was quiet, giving full possibility to use every facility with no hassle.
The beautiful gardens of La Mortella designed by Susan Walton, where concerts of her husband William Walton’s music are regularly played was another star attraction, the sound of frogs from all the pools resonating around the hillside was quite spectacular.
On one day we decided to journey back over to the mainland for a trip to Pompeii, this was a ferry, taxi, local train ride away, well worth the time and already this early in the year you could see that some family groups were flagging form the heat of making their way around the enormous site.
Our last day we visited another spa, Negombo, a thermal park close to the hotel, with access to the beautiful San Montano beach and a great beach restaurant. There are some interesting cave elements to the park and it has a slightly more relaxed air, with a less structured approach (think beanbags and hammocks as well as sun beds), than Poseidon the perfect final fix of thermal waters before our return.
This is the week in which Ischia truly wakes up, on Palm Sunday there was plenty of activity in the town but over the course of the week various refurbishments, the refreshing of whitewash and replanting of flowerbeds went on, by the time we left restaurants had relaunched, the Easter parades were taking place and there was a real sense of renewal all around. All part of ’cursus vitae’.
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