JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH NATALIYA MELNYCHUK FROM ISCHIA, ITALY!
Nataliya Melnychuk is a passionate photographer, a mother and a local of the island of Ischia for almost 17 years. She knows this incredible island that most of us have never heard of inside out and tries her best to show the world true Ischia through her lens. Her love for the place she breathes in can be seen through her pictures. She also runs a blog on Instagram by the name of Natischia77 which will tell you a great deal about this picturesque Italian island.
Not very far away from Rome, the capital city of Italy and situated only around 30 km off the coast of city of Naples lies the beautiful island of Ischia. With a coastline of 34 kms, this island is located on the northern end of Gulf of Naples in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Ischia is Italy’s treasure trove which is now slowly coming into limelight. This volcanic island is popular for its therapeutic hot water springs, ancient historic sites and unrivalled landscape. Maronti beach is one of the largest beaches on the island.
Please tell us something about Ischia.
The island of Ischia comprises of six main towns or commune : Ischia Porto & Ischia Ponte, Forio, Casamicciola, Lacco Ameno, Serrara Fontana and Baran. The largest town on this island is also called Ischia making it a little confusing for the tourists. It is divided in to two parts, Ischia Porto and Ischia Ponte.
Ischia Porto is the main town of Ischia located in the north east of the island. It was once a volcanic crater which filled with water forming a lake over the years. It’s a good place to stay for its beaches and piano bars. Also, it is easy to reach the other parts of the island from Ischia Porto. Ischia Ponte can be reached by a bus from Ischia Porto within minutes. A hub for food joints and cafes, Ischia Ponte has a relaxed atmosphere.
Forio is the busiest commune of Ischia located in the west of the island and on the slopes of Mount Epomeo. It attracts all sorts of visitors for its beaches and welcoming atmosphere.
Casamicciola Terme town, located on the northern coast, near Lacco Ameno was rebuilt after the devastation caused by the earthquake in 1883.
Lacco Ameno is also a great resort town in the north of Ischia, most famous for its archaeological museum – Museo Archeologico di Pithecusae and Fungo, a rock standing in the waters of the bay shaped in the form of a mushroom.
Serrara and Fontana are mountain villages and smallest town of Ischia. Located at the highest point of the island, Mount Epomeo, these villages provide an excellent view of the entire island. Sant’Angelo is a popular fishing village and most famous district of Serrara Fontana. Located on the southern coast of Ischia, it’s a narrow isthmus that ends in a huge rock.
Barano in the south of Ischia is the second largest town in Ischia and is very famous for its Maronti beach. Maronti is also the largest spiaggia in Ischia.
When is the best time to visit Ischia?
The best time to visit the island of Ischia is certainly from March to October. In the winter months there is also the possibility of seeing it with more calm and freshness. In the warm season you go to the sea, in the thermal parks, gardens with rare plants.
How to reach Ischia?
If arriving by plane at Fiumicino Airport take the Leonardo Express to reach the station Rome Termini where the trains to Naples depart from.
If arriving by plane at Capdichino airport reach the Molo Beverello port or Porto di Massa. Both hydrofoils and ferries leave from there. Hydrofoils take around 45 mins and ferries around an hour and a half.
If arriving by train at the Central Station-Piazza Garibaldi, head to the Molo Beverello port. If arriving at the Napoli Mergellina station it is easier to head to the Mergellina terminal from where you can take hydrofoils (Lines Lauro) to reach Ischia in only around 35 minutes.
If arriving by car reach the Pozzuoli port from where ferries take only an hour to reach Ischia and transport you with your car to the island of Ischia.
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of Ischia?
The bus runs all over the island, passing from the port of Ischia in the left CS direction and right SD, making a tour of the island. A ride like this takes about an hour. Buses can take you to almost all the touristy places in Ischia and tickets can be bought at bars or shops or even on board. The ticket for a single trip costs € 1.50, you can buy a subscription for 1 week or longer.
Meanwhile there is the TAXI service or the car rental, motorcycles and boats.
To get to the island from Naples, Pozzuoli, Procida, Capri and Sorrento by ferry check the maritime timetable here. Ischia Porto is where most ferry services arrive and departs from on the island. You can find there all sorts of transports like large ferries, hydrofoils, yachts and fishing boats.
What are the top three must visit places in Ischia?
For the first 3 places to visit I would name:
The Aragonese castle : The Aragonese Castle, also known as Castel Sant’Angelo is a mysterious medieval castle steeped in history. Situated on the northern end of Gulf of Naples, this castle is joined to the village of Ischia Ponte by a 220 m (720 ft) long stone bridge. Visit the Holy Mother of God Church and the Assunta Cathedral inside it. The castle also houses macabre also called ‘death chairs’ which belonged to the nuns of the Poor Clares convent. It is said that the nuns there practiced an unusual burial practice in which bodies of dead nuns were left on the chairs to decompose. They had holes in them which collected the fluids produced during the process.
Poseidon thermal park : The island of Ischia is home to more than hundreds of thermal pools. However, the largest of these thermal pools is the Poseidon thermal park in the bay of Citara in Forio. With over twenty swimming and bathing pools of varied temperatures, tourists are spoilt for choice in Poseidon. The volcanic origin of these springs have a calming effect on the skin and treats ailments. Note it doesn’t stay open all year, it opens only from March to October. To reach there by bus take the number 2 bus which stops in Forio, Lacco Ameno, Casamicciola and Ischia Porto.
La Mortella gardens : If you want to spend a day in the natural beauty of flora grown on a rocky and volcanic island, head to La Mortella in Forio. The winner of the “Best Italian Garden Award”, this subtropical and mediterranean garden took more than half a century for being shaped the way it is today. Designed by Russell Page and made by Susana Walton, the wife of the popular composer Sir William Walton, with artistic sense and love, La Mortella is a popular garden in Ischia and whole of Italy. The Walton’s bought a land in Ischia in the Le Mortelle area which was abundantly blessed with myrtle (Mortelle in Italian) bushes, hence the garden was named as La Mortella. They also lived there in a house built on the side of the volcanic hill which today is called William Walton Museum. It also includes a concert hall. During the year there are three different concert seasons: in Spring and in Autumn the chamber music recitals are held while in Summer the Festival of Youth Orchestras with symphonic concerts take place.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Ischia?
Like a day trip I would recommend a tour of the island by sea or land.
By Sea : In a time span of a day there is a possibility to visit the nearby islands: Capri, Procida, Amalfi Coast.
Capri is a small Italian island located at the southern end of Gulf of Naples. It is quite popular among the tourists. Ferry time between Capri and Ischia is around an hour.
Procida is the smallest island in the Gulf of Naples. Spread across an area of 4 square kilometre this island can be reached from Ischia in an easy twenty minutes by ferry. The top attraction in Procida is the 15th century walled city, Terra Murrata. Take an EAVBUS or rent a bicycle and explore Procida’s medieval castles, charming beaches (spiaggia), quaint coffee shops and patisseries.
Amalfi Coast stretches for around fifty kilometres and boasts quite a few picturesque towns. The most popular towns to stay in are Positano and Sorrento. Located about one and an half hour from Naples and two hours ferry ride from Ischia, Amalfi Coast is one of the most sought after destination in Italy and is flocked by tourists all year round just as the major cities like Rome, Venice and Milan are.
By Land : Amidst spectacular flora and fauna, take a trek from Serrara Fontana to Mount Epomeo. Mount Epomeo is the highest point ( 789 meters above sea level) on the island of Ischia. It’s steep at times but worth the effort since the view from the summit is incredible. At the top you can also find a rock church and hermitage of San Nicola and a restaurant. Among the many trails from where you can start your ascent to the top, the one which starts at Fontana is most famous.
You can also visit the Saracen towers of Forio built in the 16th century as sighting and defensive towers against Saracen pirates.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Ischia?
Like the feasts, I would name the feast of Santa Restituta in Lacco Ameno, San Vito in Forio and Sant’Anna in Ischia Ponte held on July 26th each year.
What is the most loved local food of Ischia? Is it a vegetarian friendly island?
The first and foremost food to taste is Coniglio all’Ischitana i.e. Ischian style rabbit stew. Another popular local dish is La Zingara sandwich (panini) made with mozzarella of buffalo and local vegetables like cherry tomatoes, artichokes, aubergines, lemons etc. Also try pizza, seafood, fresh local fish dishes, grilled meat and various types of appetizers there.
I would say that in every restaurant there is the possibility of finding vegetarian food.
Where to head for shopping in Ischia?
The most popular place with plethora of shopping choices is Via Roma in Ischia Porto. Also Corso Vittoria Colonna which begins when Via Roma ends. They have plenty of fashion boutiques and stores. However, if you are looking for something traditional, head to the village of Ischia Ponte. For luxury shopping try Sant’ Angelo.
In spring, on the larger squares, they often make flea markets on Sundays, at Christmas time – Christmas markets.
Which is the local craft or souvenir of Ischia?
For souvenirs I would recommend the Rucolino and Limoncello made by Ischia Sapori which is the island’s one and only liqueur factory. Rucolino is the locally famous Italian liquor (argula – flavoured) made from herbs grown in the island while Limoncello is made from the lemons grown in the organic orchard of Ischia Sapori.
You can also buy magnets of various types, hand-painted hand-crafted ceramics, Ischia terracotta whistles, organic soaps, creams based on Ischian thermal water, local lemons, white and red wine produced in the best cellars of the island, spices and smells for cooking etc.
Which are the best streets of Ischia worthy of taking a stroll on?
For a pleasant walk I would recommend Ischia Ponte towards the castle, Via Roma in Ischia Porto or Corso Angelo Rizzoli with the Fungo in Lacco Ameno.
Forio is the busiest and second largest town in Ischia based on the slopes of Mount Epomeo. The center of Forio is beautiful with a breathtaking sunset near the church of Soccorso and is known for its bars and tree lined boulevards.
The small charming, characteristic and romantic village of Sant ‘ Angelo, Casamicciola seafront and Piazza Marina.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of Ischia?
Since Ischia is made up of a number of towns I would like to give you the best places to view each of them –
From the Aragonese Castle, the view of the village of Ischia Ponte is very beautiful.
From the height of the area of San Montano you can admire the whole of Lacco Ameno.
From Mount Epomeo you can see a large part of the island, in particular Forio.
From the viewpoint of Serrara Fontana opens up a wonderful view of the village of Sant’Angelo.
Would you suggest any shows in Ischia to drama, music or art lovers?
For the shows in the summer they do the folkloristic parade with period costumes for the feast of San Alessandro in August, cine festival in July, motorcycle rally in October, gathering of motorcycles and vintage cars in different periods, music concerts classical at the La Mortella gardens, concerts of modern music on the stage of the Negombo thermal park, numerous photographic exhibitions at the Aragonese castle etc
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Ischia?
As an app for transport, I would recommend Ischia Capri Procida Timetable for transport and timetables by sea.
Also, on Google there are all suggestions on bus schedules, car, motorcycle and boat rentals, the best restaurants and hotels.
Do you want to give any suggestion/tip to tourists coming to Ischia?
Points to note:
In very hot summer climate the siesta exists and often all the premises are closed from 13.00 to 17.30-18.00.
Some bathing establishments ask for a season ticket or to get place on the beds in 1 row you have to go early in the morning, after 9.30 – 10.00 it can all be occupied especially in July – August.
It is not welcome to walk to the city center in a beach costume and without a pareo or cover-up.
You do not enter public rooms with a bare chest.