Wednesday, March 4, 2020

An Italian Road Trip: Part iii, Ischia

The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia
Well hey there! So, when I last left you (catch the last post here if you missed it) we were in Rome for a very short but sweet 10 hours. We woke up bright and early and got the train down to Naples (again, very, very stressful – there was no luggage space at all so there were people having to stand in the aisle with their cases the whole way) and from there across to the equally stressful Naples ferry port. As you might have heard/read, it’s very badly organised so is filled with tourists wandering around going ‘is this… my gate?’ with a panicked look on their face and not very many people available to help. So make sure to give yourself plenty of time if you’re getting a ferry from Naples! We made it onto our ferry just in time – murmuring a silent thank you for maximum strength deodorant – and one short hour later we were in Ischia! Also, I apologise, that a very Negative Nancy start to the post but I promise that's the last you'll hear of any downsides. 

The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia
The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia
We’d booked to stay at Villa Sirena (which I was so, so excited about after reading all the lovely things people had to say) and realised only two days before – when we were stranded in Pitigliano already having a mild meltdown – that there are in fact two Villa Sirena's on the island and I’d managed to book the wrong one. However, the Incredible Alberto (who you’ll be hearing a lot about in this post) let us know that Lady Luck was shining down on us and he’d had a cancellation across our dates so we managed to stay after all! He met us off of the ferry and, on the drive up, told us all about the history of the hotel, how it had always been in his family, as well as a bit about the island. When we arrived at the hotel he sat with us and, over a very welcome aperol spritz and some crostinis, talked us through what we could do on the island and the daily trips the hotel run. Both Alberto and his brother, Arnaldo, are so wonderfully passionate about the island and that really shines through in everything they do – they go out of their way to plan trips each day, driving guests all around the island so that they can get the most out of their stay and see as much as possible of Ischia. We decided to go half board during our stay, which we don’t often do, but I’m so, so glad we did. The guests are mainly Italian holiday-makers and 70% are repeat customers (you’ll see why if you visit for yourself), so at dinner we got to know two lovely Italian ladies over course of the week; you'll find yourself really looking forward to seeing and saying hello to each familiar, friendly face at breakfast and dinner. I’d told Super Alberto - which I'm going to insist should be his official name - all about my allergies and every single meal he was there making sure that I was totally happy and that everything was ok (this was done for every single guest there and often after him already having worked a 13 hour day!). The kitchen has a completely separate area for coeliac customers and the chefs have a great understanding of allergies so it was the safest I felt the entire trip. Breakfast was a true FEAST – I started every day with lots of buffet bits, three slices of cake and zero regrets. Alberto remembers everything about everyone – which is eternally impressive to me and my sieve brain – and never once failed to make each guest feel special.

The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia
The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia Ischia The Little Magpie The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia
The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia
The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia
The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia
The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia
The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia
The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Guide to Ischia Botanic Gardens The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia
There’s so much to do on the island (so much more than we’d initially realised!) but the hotel itself also has a lot to offer. There’s the roof terrace - with it’s beautiful views across to Naples on a clear day - where we spent a couple of afternoons in the jacuzzi, playing cards with an aperol spritz, reading on the loungers or watching the sunset. There’s the spa, where we both had mud treatments and massages on our last day, and the relaxing thermal pool, hammam and Japanese Labyrinth bath which is where we started every morning and often visited every night before bed too. As for what to do on the island there is A LOT and, as I’m aware I’ve already typed 772 words and am nowhere close to finishing (why didn't I do my dissertation on Ischia?), I’m going to bullet point to make life a bit easier! I’ll share a wee nugget of pub trivia for you first though: Ischia is actually where they filmed a lot of The Talented Mr Ripley (except it goes under the fictional name of Mongibello in the film) so you’ll probably have seen it before without even realising! Right, now onto the ‘what to do’:
  •  Giardini la Mortella: A beautiful garden that was created all the way back in the 50s by Lady Susana Walton and was only opened to the public in 1991. I think this was maybe Rob’s favourite stop of the trip; the gardens are so peaceful and unique and, as well as walking around and taking it all in, we saw a lot of people sitting on benches reading, writing and simply taking some time to themselves. Make sure not to miss the cafe, where you can get a proper English tea (which I know will make many a happy Brit) as well as some fresh bruschetta. There was even gluten free cake, rejoice!
  •           Castello Aragonese: A medieval castle built all the way back in 474BC (!). If you're visiting the castle, make sure – and this is a strongly advised recommendation – to stop at the cafĂ© for one of their freshly made orange, lemon and crushed ice concoctions. Good god. I think I actually shouted 'MMM!' at full volume on first taste I was so shocked. I normally get a bit bored about 15 minutes into a castle visit (that's terrible, I know, I really do have the attention span of an 8 year old) but there’s also pop-up exhibitions, a beautiful bookshop and gallery with handmade pottery and gifts as well, of course, as the lovely cafe, so I think we ended up spending a good couple of hours here. The view from the top of the castle across the village is the cherry on top and the walk down to the castle through Ischia Porto is also very lovely.
  •      Visit 'Torre Michaelangelo', where it is said that Michaelangelo lived for a while and had an affair with Vittoria Colonna
  •           Boat ride around the island with Ischia Sea Dreams (see snaps below!). We were accidentally put on the Italian tour rather than the English speaking one so we missed out on the history of the island as we went along, but this is a definite must do as you get to see the island from every angle across the course of the day! There’s really lovely food , as well as drinks, included throughout and several of the spots you stop at will make you almost certain there’s some clever green screen work at hand it’s so beautiful.
  •      Negombo Thermal Park: this was my favourite stop of the trip as all it involved was total and utter relaxation (as well as some ice lollies along the way). There are 12 thermal pools and baths, all at different temperatures, a huge sea water pool with lots of loungers (that's the bright blue pool you can see above surrounded by cliffside) as well as access to San Montano beach. The restaurant, Casa Colonica, is also supposed to be very good! 
 The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia The Little Magpie Italy Road Trip Guide to Ischia
And that brings to a close our stay in Ischia! I honestly wish so much that I could put into words how wonderful Alberto is and how special he made our (and every single other guest there's) stay; we said from our first day that we'd love to revisit and, despite it being the longest stop of our trip, didn’t want to leave at the end of it, which I think is when you know you’ve found somewhere special.  One wee tip: book early on! The rooms fill up very, very far in advance with people even booking their next stay on checking out so it's best to get in there early if you fancy a wee trip to Villa Sirena.

Be back very soon with the next leg of the trip: Ravello!

Amy 

3 comments:

the gold lipstick said...

In love with all these shots!

Mireia from TGL
https://thegoldlipstick.com/

Laura said...

Such gorgeous photos - made me miss both Italy and the summer! Hopefully going on another Italy trip later this year, and I now can't wait!

Lisa Autumn said...

This is such a gorgeous place!

Lisa | lisaautumn.com