Visit Ischia like a local and find the experiences you can't miss for a perfect vacation in the Gulf of Naples.
The largest of the islands in the Gulf of Naples is a land waiting to be discovered.
Let yourself be seduced by its Mediterranean and slightly exotic charm and visit Ischia like a local by following our tips inspired by the islanders' customs.
Here is a first hint. In addition to a swimming costume and pareo, pack a pair of hiking boots: you'll definitely need them!
Ischia is not just sea and spas. There is so much to uncover and activities to do to make the most of your holiday.
10. Eating a cornetto ischitano for breakfast
A classic day in Ischia begins in one of the many bars dotting the island amid a sip of coffee and a chat with some friends.
Take a seat while the streets and alleys crowd with parents taking their children to school and people heading to grab fresh fish directly from the fishing boats moored in the marina.
If you aim to experience Ischia like a local, then you don't even need to open the menu to choose what to order. Just go ahead and ask for a cornetto. You only have to bite into it to realise that you are not eating a classic croissant.
The local variant is a soft, fragrant delicacy made of puff pastry and brioche filled with a bit of custard and sour cherries. The little sprinkles that often cover the surface, always golden and slightly crunchy, will fall scattered everywhere at the first bite. Irresistible.
9. Trekking in Ischia among the fairy chimneys
Ischia is not just beaches, spas and fishing villages turned into chic destinations. The island's true essence is made of both water and land, sea and mountains. Local cuisine is the perfect example of its double soul.
As for the hinterland, Ischia hides some surprises, with dense, lush forests and many trails for nature lovers and trekkers.
One of the most adventurous and evocative takes you to a magical place of clear rock and silence. It's called Pizzi Bianchi and is a corner of Cappadocia in the heart of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
You cross a canyon ploughed by deep, narrow gorges, holding on to ropes fixed to the rock walls.
You don't need much athletic training, just good shoes and stamina. However, you will walk along a dizzying cliff, so avoid it if you suffer from vertigo.
After so much effort, luxuriate with a mud bath in an ancient spa known since Roman times, Cavascura, and a dip in the waters of Maronti beach.
8. Taking a ride in an Ape Car
The island's motorists may find them nerve-racking, slow and noisy as they are. However, tourists seem to love them since forever. The Ape Cars still whizzing - so to speak - through Ischia streets are a dolce vita symbol.
As soon as you land on the island, you will certainly not struggle to spot the cute three-wheeled cult vehicle produced by Piaggio.
For some Ischitans, it still is a practical and useful means of transport, particularly for those who need to reach green gardens and vineyards through narrow, unpaved roads.
To move around Ischia like a local and enjoy a taste of yesteryear, do not miss a ride on the classic Ape Calessino. It will be like taking a dip into the past and finding yourself in the 1950s.
A passage on a micro-taxi may seem more touristy than local, but we assure you that the journey will be fun and rewarding and you'll also hear loads of anecdotes and curiosities about the island from the mouths of the talkative taxi drivers to get to know Ischia even better.
7. Attending a particular run
Religion, popular tradition and folklore are the ingredients of this event to which the island's population is particularly attached.
La Corsa dell'Angelo (angel's run) is a unique procession that has animated the historical centre of Forio, the largest of the island's six municipalities, on Easter Day since the 17th century.
If you are spending your next Easter holidays here, it's undoubtedly an unmissable way to immerse yourself in the traditions of Ischia like a local and mingle with the Ischitani.
Actually, loads of people flock from all over the island to attend the event, which is punctually packed with locals and tourists.
Four statues depicting St John, Mary, Jesus and the angel announcing the resurrection are placed along Corso Matteo Verde and Corso Francesco Regine.
The angel runs down the streets three times, carried on bearers' shoulders with the sound of a passionate, improvised (and a bit out of tune) tenor choir. It all ends with the symbolic meeting between the mother and son, Christ and the Holy Mary, a shower of confetti thrown from balconies and doves in flight. A must-see.
6. Spend the night on the Ischia lungomare
The warm summer nights are accompanied by the sea breeze, the twinkling of lights from the yachts moored in the marinas, and live music echoing along the streets thronged with tourists.
After a dinner of fish or the traditional rabbit all'ischitana, you move on to one of the many bars and cafés on the seafront for a drink with friends.
The area called Riva Destra overlooks the harbour and is packed with lounge bars all lined up one after the other. You will stay up late singing and dancing and may even bump into some Hollywood stars.
Stroll among the small artisan shops and pubs in Ischia Ponte and try the local street food snack, zingara, under the watchful eye of the Aragonese Castle, standing tall and mighty on an islet connected to the mainland by a stone bridge.
Walk on it with the dim light of the street lamps and the shimmer of the sea. The dark silhouettes of Procida and Vivara are so close that you feel as if you could grasp them with your hands.
5. Going to the beach in winter
Sea and spa only in spring or summer? Not at all.
While in Ischia, you can dive all year round, even in January if the day is sunny and the wind is not blowing.
Activate the navigator on your smartphone and head to Sorgeto Bay. A long road lined with cultivated land and vineyards leads you straight to a belvedere with a breathtaking view.
When you've rested, look down and don't get scared by the long flight of steps conducting to the final destination.
Sorgeto is a sheltered bay in the hamlet of Panza where you can take a regenerating thermal bath directly in the sea. The warm water (boiling in some places) makes it practicable all year round, even during the coldest days.
On the way back, the 300 steps just trodden may seem like 3000, but fear not because taxi boats connect Sorgeto to the nearby village of Sant'Angelo during summer.
The local tip? Drop in at sunset for an aperitif in the water or in the evening for a night swim.
4. A trip to the mountain of Ischia
September is probably the most suitable month for a holiday on the island, which is less crowded than July and August and is full of events for tasting the atmosphere of Ischia like a local.
You'll find another engaging end-of-summer occurrence in the last paragraph of this article. We now tell you about a tradition awaited by young and old alike, held on 12 September, St Mary's Day.
Again, such an event condenses the sacred and profane and is an ideal occasion for the population to return to its earthly, peasant origins.
It all begins in the morning with a hike through the woods of Mount Epomeo to reach the small village of Santa Maria al Monte, where a little church that can barely contain the large crowds of devotees and onlookers who flock in from all over the island hosts the religious celebrations.
The day passes in the cheerfulness of a typical village festival, eating all together with simple but decidedly hearty dishes - pasta and beans, barbecued meat, the iconic rabbit all'ischitana - among the banquets set up for the occasion. A feast that will make you feel like a true Ischitano.
3. Watching the sunset from Piazzale del Soccorso
Sunsets in Ischia enter your heart.
The golden hour takes on a unique charm just like in the Balearic Islands, a collective ritual to enjoy on a beach while drinking a beer, at a bar table overlooking the sea, or simply in the street, with the car pulled up next to the kerb to enjoy the moment.
The good news is that finding a vantage point is very easy and requires no particular searching.
And while the town of Ischia offers extraordinary sunrises (especially from Ischia Ponte, with the Aragonese Castle as a backdrop), the sunset is a true marvel to watch in Forio.
Reach the Piazzale del Soccorso from the main corso for an extraordinary view. The Soccorso church, a postcard icon of Ischia, dominates a wide, panoramic square.
Climb the steps to the churchyard for an even broader perspective, and if you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the legendary green ray, a rare atmospheric phenomenon that occurs immediately after sunset.
2. Cooking in the sand of Ischia
We wrote that right. No barbecues on the beach, but you can cook directly in the sand. Certainly a unique cooking method that amazes those who experience it for the first time.
To try it, you must go to Spiaggia delle Fumarole. You get there by walking from the village of Sant'Angelo or taking a taxi boat. The particularity of this beach consists of the high soil temperatures resulting from the island's volcanic activity.
Be careful where you step because, in some spots, the sand is so hot, even on the surface, that you would risk a burn. The name speaks for itself, and the steam you see rising from the tiny silver grains covering this coastline stretch says it all.
Chicken, potatoes and eggs are among the foods that perform the best, but locals with more manual dexterity and familiarity will also venture a few fish.
Whether or not you find cooking in the sand appealing, Fumarole is a beach you should visit in any case, if only for the crystal blue sea, the exceptional view of Sant'Angelo, and the chance of doing some sabbiatura. It's an old rheumatism remedy that consists of covering the body with sand. Give it a try.
1. Visiting Ischia's cellars
The grape harvest in Ischia is an ancient tradition.
Wine has been produced here for thousands of years, and visiting Ischia like a local requires paying homage to Bacchus.
In September, it's harvest time, and for anyone who decides to holiday at the end of summer, it's clear how this practise, almost a ritual, involves so many locals.
You will meet them with their loads of grapes (often transported in the back of an Ape Car) heading either to private cellars or local wineries.
You should definitely add a visit to these carved-into-tuff caves to your list of things to do in Ischia: they're little masterpieces of ingenuity and stubbornness in their own way.
There is an event much loved by the islanders that we recommend you to check to walk the wine trails in pure local spirit.
It's called Andar per Cantine and is organised by the Pro Loco of Panza during the grape harvest period. You will discover Ischia's long winemaking tradition in the best possible way: by sipping wine directly where it is produced.