This Small Town in Ischia Should Be the Backdrop of Your Next Eating Vacation
Growing up in a frenetic, gritty Naples neighborhood, Elena Greco spent stretches of her summers in Ischia. The protagonist in Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan novels (and HBO adaptation, too), Elena experienced some of her adolescence's most intense moments by the thermal beaches at Maronti, a twinkling stretch of Ischia. For Neopolitans, the mountainous 17-square-mile island serves as a dreamy escape from the chaos of the city, and for Ischians, well, it's home. Only an hour away from the Port of Naples by ferry, the journey to the island from the city takes less time than the wait to get a pie at Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, a pizza landmark that's been tourist-swarmed since Eat, Pray, Love.
But the volcanic island was a tourist destination long before My Brilliant Friend, luring visitors from around the world with its thermal, nutrient-rich mud—slapped on limbs during famed Ischian spa treatments—and for its pristine mountain-framed beaches, which offer a serenity that's hard to find in Naples. The glory of Ischia is that it has all the great things Naples does—spectacular seafood, wine, and vistas—with a bit more space to breathe and, in Elena's case, reflect.
Ischia tourism has experienced a surge in visitors since the novel concluded its English translation and HBO commenced its adaption, which is partially filmed on the island. (Travel & Leisure named Ischia one of the top 50 places to travel in 2019.) If you're interested in planning a weekend trip (or longer) for the warmer months, so you can profit fully from the beaches, we recommend the Lacco Ameno area as a home base. Just a short drive from Ischia Porto, the town is ideally positioned near some of the island's geographic wonders (including Mount Epomeo and Il Fungo, a strange mushroom-shaped rock that juts out of the harbor) and luxury experiences (mud spa treatments and refined oceanside dining.)
Courtesy Regina Isabella
If you're headed to Lacco Ameno, here's what to look for.
What to drink
Thanks to its volcanic terrain, warm climate, and ocean proximity, the island has produced some of Italy's most distinctive (albeit lesser-known) wines for hundreds of years. (In Phoenician times, Ischia was a wine trade island, even mentioned in The Odyssey.) Grab a bottle to sip on the beach—though be prepared to get the malocchio ("evil eye") from locals going about their errands and stray dogs looking for snacks.
If you're interested in tasting as many Ischian wines as possibile, swing by La Cantina del Mare (Corso Angelo Rizzoli, 20), where the owner can offer you the reds, whites, and rosatos for which the island is most known, and pour you tastes alongside crostini drenched in funky local olive oils and regional contorni. Cenatiempo Vini D'Ischia is a wonderful family-owned wine-maker to try.
What to eat
Seafood is good here; so is rabbit, and handmade pasta, and just about everything. You'll even find good pizza, as we're still within the Naples orbit. (When your ferry pulls into Ischia Porto, consider grabbing a bite at Fratelli di Bufala, a super solid Italian chain for Neapolitan-style pizza and dishes featuring milky buffalo mozzarella.)
Some of the island's most memorable restaurants are in beachside hotels you might have been wary were tourist traps. At the iconic Albergo Della Regina Isabella, which is known for its thermal spa treatments, you'll find three excellent bars and restaurants that are packed in the high season with tourists and locals. Most of the outlets offer sea views and meticulously sourced regional products, including the bounty from fisherman you might have spotted on the water while eating breakfast.
Indaco, led by Ischian-born chef Pasquale Palamaro, has maintained a well-deserved Michelin star since 2013, serving elegant seafood dishes that feature produce and herbs grown on the property's garden. For something a touch more casual (but just as sea-oriented), sit on the porch at DolceVita, enjoy regional pastas (taglierini freschi with lemon sauce and spaghetti con vongole with local peppers), and take full advantage of the dessert cart, where you'll find Ischian tortas and cookies.
For something relaxed and easy—or for beach picnic provisions—swing by Pizzeria Rosticceria "Piccoletto" for pizza and arancini.
Where to stay
Luxury seaside resort known for dining, thermal spa, and views.
Piazza Santa Restituta, 1, 80076 Lacco Ameno NA, Italy
Seaview spa with several panoramic dining options.
Vico I torre, 80076 Lacco Ameno NA, Italy