Juliet Mills and Jack Lemon swam naked in the Tyrrhenian Sea in that censured scene of the movie Avanti!, a tribute to the tolerance of the Mediterranean resort towns of the sixties, and also to that impostor identity -freer, happier, and funnier- we all have while on vacations. What happened between your father and my mother? is the Spanish name for Billy Wilder’s masterpiece that takes place in the largest island of the Gulf of Naples. That was back when extended stays to “take the waters” were still in fashion among those with the fattest wallets.
Today, even mileuristas (workers with one-thousand-euro income) have the chance to reach this paradise: Specifically, by flying to Naples with Iberia Express and taking a boat in the port: The traghetto or the aliscafo, depending on whether you’re traveling with your car or just with your gear, respectively. After an hour to an hour-and-a-half trip with a cost between 15€ and 25€ each way, you’ll dock at Ischia Porto. Forty years after the film, Ischia maintains that neo-realistic charm, the agelessness of its scenery and, of course, the Grand Hotel Excelsior, the place where the main characters stayed at, now called Terme, same last name most of the ones on the isle share.
10:00 We’ve arrived… So, now what?
Any tour guide would probably send you directly to the Aragonese Castle, built by King Alfonso V in the fifteenth century -yes, this island was Spanish-, but we recommend you to take the CD or CS bus and escape to the other end of the atoll to Sorgeto Bay, the large natural hot spring. If you’re not up for the bus ride and you’re feeling generous, you can also get a taxi there for about 40€.
Get off at Panza, a colourful borough of the town of Forio. Buy yourself some plastic water shoes and walk down the highway for about 20 minutes -you’ll find a delicious bakery along the way; take a break!- until you come across the 200 steps leading to the rocky hot water beach. The view from the trail is a must.
11:30 Happily splash around in the water!
The lidos in Italy are usually private property of the beach bars and hammocks. In Sorgeto, the area is small and dominated by the La Sorgente bar. Even so, it leaves room for the masses to set up their sunshades and towels on the sides. You can access the water from the walkways built over the rocks. The stones create a type of small, natural Jacuzzis where the hot water meets the sea. Don’t forget those water shoes… a slip is unforgiving.
La Sorgente’s wooden structure is both a place to sunbathe -25€ per day for two hammocks and a parasol- and to try fresh fish from the area for an average of 25-30€. Swimming works up an appetite: The cuttlefish and grilled octopus are delicious. And for dessert: Apertas, a cocktail made from Campari and cedrata, a sweet lime beverage.
17:30 Go back? Uphill? No, thank you!
The hours go by, your skin is tanned, and you don’t want to be late for your return boat. Just the thought of climbing those 200 steps in the heat melts you. We recommend you to take the wonderful boat taxi which, for only 5€ per person, takes tourists to the charming touristy Sant’Angelo port, where it’s full of ice cream parlours, ristorantes, and summer fashion shops: Crochet, fringes, and the Ibizan style are the dominant note.
On the way back to the bus there’s a small juice stand. Get the misto lemon and orange combo. Super refreshing!
19:00 Stuck on the island!
Once in Ischia Porto, the ticket counter awaits. The Capri flashes have set this island aside as a second tourist destination so you have no idea what is about to happen: There’s no room in any of the boats and you have to wait until tomorrow!
The best solution for situations like this is to always have your Destinia app with you and don’t lose your nerve. Just a mere 15-minute walk away the Villatina Thermal Hotel awaits offering 57€ the night. It’s 20:00 and there’s still time to go for a swim. The palm trees and a very kitsch architecture, with the doors to the rooms surrounding the pool, make it look like some kind of Melrose Place.
22:00 The last supper
You take a shower and get ready for dinner. Rows of diverse restaurants stand guard along the promenade on one side, while colossal, luxurious yachts line up the other. I Ricci is the chosen restaurant. Go for the very typical “crudo x 2,” seafood without any cooking or marinating: King prawns, prawns, razor clams, sea urchins, and oysters, all local except for the latter. Their taste is on par with the Atlantic-sourced. As a finishing touch, order a caprese salad: Tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil. And choose a Campania white wine to go with the meal, there are 19 different designations of origin in the region alone.
24:00 Good night
It’s time to head back to the hotel and get up early to catch the first morning boat. After that dinner, the adventure was worth it!