Ischia is the island off the town of Pozzuoli, on the gulf of Pozzuoli and the peninsula of Campi Flegrei and across from the island of Capri. It is often referred to as the mysterious “other” island in the Bay of Naples but thanks to movies such as The Talented Mr. Ripley and the famed Elena Ferrante novels, My Brilliant Friend, the secret is out! Passion for Italy Travel has fallen in love with this volcanic island famous for its thermal waters, which have been known to promote health and healing since ancient times.

Passion for Italy travel recently visited Negombo Thermal Park on beautiful San Mantano Bay in Lacco Ameno. You can easily spend a day here and explore the different types of thermal pools and water installations. We were told the best way to discover them all was to hike to the top of the park – a 10-15 minute walk up various paths and staircases – and work your way down. This way you can be sure to experience all of the thermal pools of varying temperatures and purposes.

Our favorite was an installation in which you walk on rocks in very cold water and then very hot water to improve circulation. The park also has a large sea-water swimming pool and private beach with loungers, umbrellas and a restaurant. This park would be especially ideal for families because of the large pool, many services and the calm swimming waters of San Mantano Bay. Many hotels on the island also have thermal pools and spas where guests can take advantage of spa services based on the healing powers of the waters. And when you are done relaxing, Ischia has many other attractions worthy of a visit as well.

Ischia’s iconic Aragonese Castle built on a volcanic mountain of rock in Ischia Ponte is a must-see on the island. Rich with history, the castle offers stunning views from the top. The beautiful gardens of La Mortella lush with Mediterranean plants are lovely to explore and for those who enjoy hiking, a trek up Mount Epomeo, the highest point on the island, also offers gorgeous views. Ischia has 6 towns including one of our favorites, the charming pedestrian-only fishing village of Sant’Angelo. Lacco Ameno is lovely to visit as well with many shops and restaurants.

Unlike other more touristed areas of Italy, the people of Ischia observe siesta, the time of day after lunch until about 5pm when shops close and Italians head to the beaches or home to spend time with family and friends. We also took a short ½ hour ferry ride to the smaller island of Procida with its picture perfect Port of Corichella where we had a delicious lunch of lemon salad (the lemons in this area of Italy are not at all bitter), bruschetta and fresh fish on the marina.

Passion for Italy Travel also took a wonderful boat tour around the island where we swam in grottoes, visited hot spring beaches only accessible by foot or boat and enjoyed the beautiful topography of the island which includes wide sandy beaches, mountains and vineyards.

The Southern side of the island is wonderful for boat rides because it is largely deserted and there are many spots to stop for a swim and enjoy the clear blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. And of course Ischia has a vibrant food scene with everything from family run establishments in the quiet hills of the island to bustling trattorias and Michelin starred restaurants. All regions have their specialties and Ischia is no different with its favorite food tradition “Congilio All’Ischitana” or rabbit stew, due to the abundance of wild rabbits on the island.

Easily accessible via ferry from Naples or Sorrento, Ischia is a brilliant gem worthy of a visit and a great alternative to the Amalfi Coast, especially during the busy summer months. Although we have been told by locals that the best time to visit Ischia is in September when the waters are still warm and the sun still shines down on this not-so-mysterious island in the sea. Contact us to help plan your getaway!

Allison Spiegal New York PFI Office.