Naples and Campania: Places to Explore

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Ischia

Whereas Capri wows you with its charm and beauty, Ischia takes time to cast its spell. In fact, an overnight stay is probably not long enough for the island to get into your blood. Admittedly there are few signs of antiquity here, the architecture is unremarkable, the traffic can be overwhelming, and hoteliers have yet to achieve a balanced mix of clientele—most are either German (off-season) or Italian (in-season). But Ischia does have its share of vine-growing villages beneath the lush volcanic slopes of Monte Epomeo, and unlike Capri it enjoys a life of its own that survives when the tourists head home. So this is an ideal spot should you want to plunk down in the sun for a few days and tune out the world. When Augustus gave the Neapolitans Ischia for Capri, he knew what he was doing.

The island is volcanic in origin, and from its hidden reservoir of seething molten matter come thermal springs said to cure whatever ails you. As early as 1580 a doctor named Lasolino published a book about the mineral wells at Ischia. "If your eyebrows fall off," he wrote, "go and try the baths at Piaggia Romano. If you know anyone who is getting bald, anyone who suffers from elephantiasis, or another whose wife yearns for a child, take the three of them immediately to the Bagno di Vitara; they will bless you." Today Ischia is covered with thermal baths, often surrounded by tropical gardens.

A good 35-km (22-mile) road makes a circuit of the island; the ride takes most of a day if you stop along the way to enjoy the views and perhaps have lunch. You can also book a boat tour around it at the booths in various ports along the coast; there's a one-hour stop at Sant'Angelo. The information office is at the harbor. You may drive on Ischia year-round. There's fairly good bus service as well, and you'll find plenty of taxis.

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