Italy has to be one of the most popular destinations for American travelers. Any time I ask anyone who’s traveled abroad where their favorite destination is, Italy is frequently the answer! And Americans love Italian food. (It’s one of my favs too, no surprise 😉 )
You probably know about some of the most popular destinations in Italy: Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan… but there’s another place you need to know about in Italy. It’s Ischia — and Italian island off the coast of Naples. There is plenty to do in Ischia, especially if you are looking to relax, want to eat, be on a beach, or be in nature. The Island of Capri is nearby, as is Sorrento and the rest of the Amalfi Coast, so if you want to do a whole Italian Bay of Naples trip with a swing over to the Tyrrhenian Sea, then I suggest starting with Ischia. It’s pretty easy to get to Ischia from Naples. Just take the AliBus to the port and hop on a ferry. We have a whole post on how to get to Ischia that should help you out.
If you want to see all the fun we got into in Ischia in video format, you’re in luck!! We made a YouTube video just for you 😉 Enjoy! The article continues after the video for all the details, Google Map links, and more.
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Things to do in Ischia
Life for visitors to Ischia tends to revolve around the beach and spas, but it’s a whole, living island with much to offer. Some activities can be quite expensive, as can getting around the island by taxi. on our trip, we use the bus system, but it’s hot and packed on those beautiful summer days. Another other option is to rent a scooter or an e-bike, but we don’t have any experience with this. People seem to have their own rules of the road, so just be careful! We’ve been told that it’s not advised to rent a car unless you are comfortable driving windy and narrow Italian roads, so keep that in mind. Now that those things are out of the way, let’s get to the best things to do in Ischia!
Visit the Castle Aragonese
Walkthrough history in an epic way. There has been a castle on this spot since the 5th century BC. Yes! How people found an island, got to an island and survived on an island back then is beyond my comprehension. But here you go, some living history for you.
The Aragonese Castle is currently in its 3rd generation of private owners of recent history and they are dedicated to keeping it open to the public and continuing to keep it safe and are constantly working on restorations. It kind of reminds us that we are living history. Us walking through that castle, is now part of its story. That’s kind of cool.
Some extra interesting things to note are that there are many spots for incredible views, so if one place is busy, keep strolling and you’ll find another. There’s a small refreshment spot in the castle and restrooms if you need them. The Nun’s cemetery is a little creepy but worth checking out. You can see into the room where they are working on restoration projects.
This is definitely a must-visit spot on Ischia and I hope you enjoy it as much as we have (twice!). View the location on this Google Map.
Head to the beach
There are a bunch of beaches on Ischia. From small side-of-the-road spots to expansive areas, there’s a spot for all. There are plenty of free beaches, but some may be very small. For the others, you’ll pay a fee for a lounge chair and umbrella. In Sant’Angelo, it’s about €15 per person, you may find it’s a bit less elsewhere. There’s an area known as Fumarole, near Sant Angelo, where the thermal waters come out into the sea. It’s a hot spot of thermal activity and we loved it because the water was just a little bit warmer (so, obviously we weren’t in the hottest spot!) and made for such a fun time.
You’ll also find clusters of beaches in Forio and going all the way up to Ischia Ponte. What I love is that many are right on the main road. Of course, this could be a turn off for some people, but to me, it seems super accessible. If there is a large beach with lots of pay spots, keep walking. By law, they have to keep an area open to the public. It might be small but if all you have is your towel and shoes, then it doesn’t matter too much! The water is free reign, so swim wherever you’d like.
Drink the local wine & visit vineyards
Make your way to some of the wineries on the island. Wine is a lifestyle here. It’s been made on Ischia for ages and because of the volcanic soil, sea air, and amount of sun and rain, the island creates some lovely and unique wines that you will only find here. There are some super easy wineries to, or you can take a day trip with a tour company and visit even more.
If you’re like us and want the local experience of taking a bus (or too scared to rent a car/scooter, which is the real reason we took the bus), then a visit to these wineries is very easy because they are right by a bus stop. I’ll leave a Google Map link with each of the wineries to make it a bit easier.
Since we were staying in Sant’Angelo, Casa D’Ambra was the closest winery to us. If you are in Sant’Angelo, take bus CD or bus 1 to get there. From Ischia or Forio, take bus CS or bus 1. Once you hop off the bus, you’ll go down a small road and walk alongside the grapes for just a little bit. You might wonder where you are going, but don’t worry, you’ll know it when you see it!
You can book a proper vineyard tour, tasting, and museum viewing through Ischia Review (the website I poured over trying to figure out what to do), or you can pop by during their opening hours. More info here.
If you just walk in, the person may not speak much English, so you can ask “Degustazione di vini, per favore?”. Thanks, Google Translate! And yes, we used broken Italian and our host used broken English to do the tasting. It was amazing!
We tried three whites, two reds, and one sweet wine for €10. She had little bites (like crackers) to help us through the tasting. It was also about 11 am, so we needed a little bit of food with wine. The prices were a little higher than I thought for the bottles, so we left with one bottle of red, the Per’e Palummo. Of course, the one we really wanted was a little too pricey, but going to our second favorite still made us very happy! Find the location here.
This winery is also a very popular restaurant, and for good reason. It’s cute, cozy, has a great view and great wine. English is fine to use here and they are also on the tourist path of some group tours. We ran into a small American group who was on Ischia for the day.
The route is the same as for Casa D’Ambra since it’s right up the road. Once you get off the bus, you’ll have to go up a small road again. It looks like a private drive and I guess it kind of is, but it’s fine to walk up and you’ll find the sign on the left. As you walk down the path to the restaurant, try to soak up that stunning view! Use this Google Map to help you find it.
If you want the proper wine tasting with a vineyard tour, check the information on Ischia Review. We just strolled up just before lunchtime and asked about a tasting. For this, (at the time of this writing) it was 3 tastings for €8, 4 for €12, and 5 for €15 but you can speak with your server on what you would like to try. We asked for his recommendations which were spot on. He also suggested we have a meat and cheese platter to go with it. Oh man, it was so good! We should’ve gone back for dinner one night but missed out. Don’t be like us, go for a proper meal.
We didn’t leave empty-handed! We bought the Tenuta Janno Piro wine. It uses the famous local grapes Piedirosso and Guarnaccia. Cannot wait to break it open with a steak!
If you’re staying in Ischia then Cenatiempo would be the easiest winery to get to. Here’s the location information. Just take buses CS, 1, 2, or 3 to get there. And you can’t miss it since it’s literally right smack on the road.
We didn’t get a chance to go to Cenatiempo, which was disappointing, but a visit here is on the list for next time. I mention it because it’s easy to get to and the reviews are incredible! They also have a vineyard tour and tasting on the other side of the island which you can read more about here.
Relax in at a terme
What is a terme? For this post, we are considering it a place with a pool that uses naturally heated water produced from volcanic activity. Many hotels will have their own terme of sorts. This might be a small outdoor pool, or maybe an indoor heated room with a pool. But there are some specific places you can really immerse yourself in the terme experience, they are called thermal parks. I really like that term! Thermal park — sounds fun, relaxing, and warm 😉
Below are the ones we visited but because there are many more to explore, I’ll link to Ischia Review for their list.
The Aphrodite Apollon was the first thermal park we visited–ever! It was the closest to our hotel that seemed accessible and we could easily walk there. Well…I say easily, but it was a lot of downhill, then really uphill, then downhill again. We were so tired and sweaty when we got there, but once there, we were so happy we couldn’t stop smiling!
It cost €31 for entry, which includes the use of 8 pools, beach (with chair and umbrella), showers, change rooms, etc. There is a bar and restaurant on the premises which was very convenient and I don’t feel like the charge more than anywhere else for the food. Surprisingly, it was all delicious! Not sure which was best, the food or the view. My goodness. We were ridiculously happy.
We liked the sea here the best. When we were in the open water, it was calm, warm (but not too warm), and super buoyant. It was the freest I have felt in a very long time. The beach was very small, though. This seems to be an issue around the island — the beaches are becoming smaller and smaller, so there’s not much space for lounge chairs anymore. Here’s the map 🙂
Giardini Poseidon Terme
This terme came highly recommended by quite a few people we asked, so we figured we would try it to compare. Entry to The Giardini Poseidon Terme was €33 (€35 in July & August). The terme has 21 pools, the location is stunning, and the surroundings are relaxing and green. You have to wear a swim cap for this one, but you can buy one for €2.50 at the shop inside.
We found that some of the pools were much larger here and there were some children’s pools. Apparently, there is a certain temperature where it’s not good for kids. Thankfully, this made the rest of the park nice and quiet for the rest of us adults who don’t love the sound of squealing children. By all means, I hope they have fun! I just want to relax.
This is a very popular thermal park. A little too popular in my opinion! It seems like every lounge chair was taken. Everywhere. Some pools felt a little too full. In several pools, there was a spot to sit to have the water fall on your shoulders. There was an actual line of people to go in that spot and take a picture.
The beach was nicer than the Apollon one, but the water was rougher and had some sea plants in it that felt a bit awkward. They reminded me of small rolling tumbleweeds. I didn’t enjoy the seaside here. But if you want to relax on their beach chairs, they were really nice with great views.
Overall, it is very clean and well-organized, but there were just too many people for me. You can find it here.
Ischia is a place of relaxation in all its forms. If you want to go for a walk for some peace and quiet, that’s totally possible. If you want to have a picnic under the trees, go for it. If you want an easy stroll, moderate walk, or a bit of a hike, there’s something for everyone. Here are a few ways you can explore nature on Ischia.
We didn’t expect to love this 60-year-old Mediterranean and subtropical botanical garden. We just wrote it off as something to do when on Ischia. La Mortella reminded us a bit of Quinta da Regaleira in Portugal. A smaller version of it, anyway. It was lush and fun to follow the pathways to see where they would lead.
The garden offers a cooler atmosphere as well. That’s such a life-save on hot days. There’s also a restaurant on-site (we were so hungry when we got there!) and plenty of bathrooms.
La Mortella was the brain-child of the late Susan Walton – the wife of Sir William Walton. He was a famous British composer and -here’s a fun twist- a fan of his, Russell Page, was then hired to design this beautiful and vast garden that the Waltons imagined.
If you make time for this garden, please keep climbing! The views at the top are insane. Great spots for impromptu photoshoots 😉 Find it here on Google Maps.
Trek through the woods
Nature never seems to be too far away. The Naro Woods is near La Mortella and will give you a lovely walk. You’ll find a good path to follow here which will take you by the Negombo thermal park. It’s a bit of a hike but if you want a quiet walk in nature followed by a spa day, this could be the perfect thing for you to do!
Hike up to Mount Epomeo
Take the bus CD or CS depending on where you are coming from and hop off in Fontana. Here’s the point on Google Maps for you. It’ll stop at a church with a large statue of Jesus in the front and a small square. Head around the right side of the church, cross the street and at the next right, you’ll start seeing signs on how to get to the summit. Keep heading up that road and follow the signs. It’s about 3 km.
This is a hike with steep sections, so be sure you are confident in your health and ability to be ascending and descending for a few hours roundtrip. There’s a restaurant at the top so you can reward yourself!
Tip: Keep going up! 🙂
Discover the little towns
There are six main areas on Ischia: Ischia, Casamicciola, Lacco Ameno, Forio, Serrara Fontana, Barano. They each have their own personalities and a few towns in each.
Ischia is the main area that’s pretty lively. Especially in the evenings, you’ll see the familiar passiaggatta where people just walk along the streets talking and running into neighbors. It’s the best people-watching! Grab a table at a restaurant outside and enjoy the show.
Explore the smaller towns during the day. The joy here is in the wandering. Find shops to peek into. Find a local restaurant. We found a great one in Forio! (More on that below). Sant’Angelo is lovely during the day or at night. Perhaps, take the bus and just get off when you see something interesting.
Next time I would like to check out Fontana, Panza, Lacoo Ameno, and Casamicciola more. This is our second time to Ischia and I have a feeling we’ll be back again. The first time was during the off-season which made it difficult. This time was a bit busy, so maybe later in September will be a good time.
You can do a lot on Ischia on your own with a little help from the bus. But if you want to make the most of your time, especially if you are only doing one day or a couple of days, I would suggest finding an excursion or day trip. We’ve done everything on our own but would have liked to go out on a boat, take a full-day vineyard tour, a cooking class, or something like that.
One idea could be to do a day trip to Procida, the neighboring island. You can do this via ferry or by booking a tour. Spend a day on the water with lunch included. Waterbabies would love this one!! Swim whenever you want, then eat and drink, then swim some more (after it all settles of course). Get a full island tour by car. Do a photography tour. Oh, there are so many options. There are many different price points, as well.
There are lots of shops all over Ischia, but the main stretch would be in Ischia Ponte with some fun shopping in Sant’Angelo. We’re talking about high-end shops. You might feel like you’re on Capri, but this island is much bigger than Capri with even more to offer.
Check out via Roma and Corso Vittoria Colonna for the best luxury shopping. It’s really just one big street, but changes names, so all you have to do is to stroll along. They say the prices are cheaper than on the mainland so go and see if you can score yourself some deals! I guess if you are in Italy, it’s a great place to get some fashionable clothing. If nothing else, it’s a great place to window shop 😉
How to get around to Ischia
Take a taxi
Taxis are expensive, so it’s best to avoid them if you can. If you can afford it then go for it! Just be aware of the pricing because from the Porto there are set prices and there is no sense in you paying extra.
Hire a car or scooter
Driving on Ischia is serious business. It seems that most of the roads are the perfect size for one bus and a scooter going the other way. Basically, it feels like a road with 1.5 lanes. Parking didn’t seem too easy, either. So, if you want independence but don’t want to fuss with a big car, there are plenty of spots to hire a scooter. I’d advise that you check with your hotel. Some can handle the rental process for you or at least recommend one nearby.
Take the bus
The buses on Ischia can get very full, so if you can’t handle that, maybe a scooter or taxi is the best option. But the buses can get you almost anywhere you want to go. The best advice I have is to get a multi-day ticket. You can buy tickets at the bus terminus at Ischia Porto, and Sant’Angelo. If you aren’t in those areas, check with your hotel, bars, and tobacco shops. You can also buy a bus ticket on the bus, but it’s a little more and it might be hard to get to the driver. That’s a big reason I recommend the multi-day ticket. Don’t forget to validate the ticket on the bus!
The only annoying thing is you need to have your GPS on and know when to signal the bus to stop. Usually, there are signs, but if not, just walk across the street from where you got off the bus, to hop back on. They seemed to stop if you were near the designated stop. For more information on the buses in Ischia, check here.
Tips for Ischia
Ischia is very much its own island. It has its own personality, its own quirks, and pretty specific visitors. Here are a couple of bits of information and advice to help you enjoy Ischia to the fullest.
The island is very popular with Italians, Germans, and Russians. It’s not huge for English-speakers, but you will find some people speak at least a little English. But if you know German or Russian, that can help you as well. Just get your Google Translate ready!
Buy a guidebook once you get there. They are a HUGE help. Look for one with a bus map inside. Google Maps does not have transit information, so the bus map will help figure out which bus goes where, but you’ll still need the GPS to know when you are close because stop names don’t seem to exist.
Book a hotel with a terme included. It’s a major part of tourism, so might as well have one where you already are! If you can afford one of the resorts, that might work best for you since it will save you from paying another fee to go to a thermal park and some have golf carts as transport (at least in the Sant’Angelo area).
If you aren’t staying at a hotel with a thermal park, ask your hotel for thermal park discounts. Mid-day closings for shops are a thing, so when you are shopping, either go in the morning or after 2:30ish. Similarly, many restaurants are only open, or at least, will only serve food, from 11 or 12-2:30 pm and 7 or 7:30 pm onwards. Check ahead and plan accordingly. Of course, the gelato shops are normally open to hold you over 😉
Ischia is a great island to visit. Just keep in mind, as with many places in the summertime, it will get crowded. If you can, visit in June or September. The weather should still be lovely, but you’ll have fewer people.
Keep in mind that it’s an island, in southern Europe, so things may be a little more relaxed, schedules may not be adhered to, and everything might be a slower than normal for you. Try to embrace it and chill out. Take the time to relax and enjoy.
Wishing you joy and travels!