By Travelin’ Gal Maxine Albert
My fascination with Ischia began when a native Tuscan raved to me about the island’s thermal waters, top spas and delicious cuisine. Ischia also offers sandy beaches and a culture with authentic flavor. You’ll find picturesque villages like Sant’ Angelo and a medieval castle, Il Castello Aragonese. Americans have yet to discover this favorite haunt of Europeans in search of curative springs. Located in the Bay of Naples an hour ferry ride from Capri and the Amalfi Coast, a visit to Ischia will not disappoint.
The European medical community considers Ischia’s thermal pools heated by volcanic action as healing treatments for a variety of maladies, from arthritis and body aches to skin and digestive ailments. These springs that revive body, mind and spirit have had spas and resorts built around them since the Greek and Roman times.
I call the modern thermal/spa venues ‘Water Park Italiano.’ Couples, families, and groups of friends relax and socialize in the healing waters. And of course there are excellent eateries on premises - it’s Italy. Here are some highlights.
Poseidon is the largest of the thermal parks, on the Bay of Citara, with 22 pools of different temperatures, some with hydro massage or waterfalls. This thermal paradise, my favorite, boasts an Olympic size sea water swimming pool, restaurant and a bar.
Negombo Gardens on San Montano Bay, has 15 thermal pools strikingly landscaped with gorgeous plantings and a private beach for swimming in the sea.
Near beautiful Moranti Beach, Cava Scura’s rustic thermal pools, popular with the ancients, are dug into the stone walls of a canyon. The healing thermal water induced a joyous sensation throughout my body and left my hair and skin silky soft and smooth.
The 4 star Hotel Garden Resort & Villas Resort, near the town of Lacco Ameno, minutes from Negombo, is a pastoral oasis. The property is a verdant garden, with all varieties of plants, fruits, vegetables and herbs, which are used for the tasty cuisine in its restaurant. Lovely spacious villas have marble floors, comfy beds, and ceiling to floor glass doors opening to expansive verandas with panoramic vistas. With a huge swimming pool, the beach just steps away and delicious food like fresh amberjack and pasta with pumpkin, it was pitch perfect.
Hotel Garden & Villas Resort
The luxurious 5 star Relais & Chateaux Terme Manzi Hotel & Spa, in Casamicciola Terme built on the Gurgitiello spring features a rooftop pool with bar and stylish rooms and suites. The extensive spa, considered one of the best on the island, uses the potent thermal water with many treatments such as mud, clay, detoxifying and rejuvenating therapies. There’s also an array of massages and customized treatments with natural products. Don’t miss the hotel’s 2 Michelin star restaurant, Il Mosaico, where Chef Nino performs artistic wizardry with his culinary extravaganza.
Terme Manzi Hotel & Spa
I relished amazing pasta with prawns at Hotel Miramare e Castello in Ischia Ponte, and delicious local fare like the famous Ischia rabbit stew at Da Leopoldo in Panza. A highlight was the amazing chef Raimondo Triolo’s harbor strip restaurant ‘Un Attimo Di Vino.’ Each dish was a sensory masterpiece using local organic ingredients.
Take a short ferry ride to Procida, a charming untouristy island for lunch at Fishbone - a seafood eatery fronting the quaint harbor. Head to Capri on the Hydrofoil; pamper yourself with a massage and superb pasta at the stunning JK Place, after a dip in their pool. Catch a boat to nearby Positano on the Amalfi Coast; relish a glorious afternoon on the scenic veranda savoring Mediterranean specialties at the exquisite 5 star Relais & Chateaux Il San Pietro Di Positano Hotel.
For information about travel in Southern Italy
I wanted to personally thank my Tuscan friend for recommending Ischia, so off I headed from Naples to Florence on the new stylish high speed Italo train. With cushy leather seats, carpeted floors and wifi, it’s aptly called ‘ the Ferrari train.’ Auto Europe outfitted me with a Volvo and a British accented GPS for the best way to see Tuscany - driving the gorgeous rolling green landscape and copper lit hills, with stops to partake of the region’s fine food and wine.
1 800 223 5555
A standout was the Relais and Chateaux Il Falconiere, a restored villa in Cortona with frescoed walls, original antiques, landscaped gardens, vineyards, an Etruscan spa and gourmet restaurant. With wine tastings, cooking classes, the number 1 pinot noir in Italy and best roast pig ever, it’s a home run. Also noteworthy was Castello del Nero, a 5 star boutique hotel with superb restaurant La Torre, close to Florence. Truly unique, the exclusive 5 star Nun Relais in Assisi boasts a first rate spa, eatery and luxury eighteen-suite hotel all built on the ruins of a Roman amphitheater.
No visit to Italy is complete without stopping at the Eternal City. The Intercontinental De La Ville with well appointed rooms located atop the Spanish steps was ideal for my Roman jaunt. I swung by the 5 star Hassler Hotel next door, epitome of sophisticated luxury and favorite haunt of royals, celebs and diplomats, for a sublime feast at their Michelin starred panoramic restaurant ‘Imago.’ A private underground tour of the Colosseum, dinner at seafood restaurant extraordinaire ‘Assunta Madre,’ a nighttime drive through Rome in a Rolls Royce and transfer to the airport in a Maserati, was arranged by Amanda Tour. What a way to say arrivederci Roma!
Luxury offerings booked through travel agents.