Soooo, where was I….ah, yes, telling you all about our rail journey across Italy in March\April 2012.
Well, after our four night stay in Venice, the Mr. and I hopped a train down to Naples and from there we planned to take a ferry to the island of Ischia. The train ride down was smooth and uneventful, though we did have the “pleasure” of sharing one of those cramped cabins that the Europeans seem to love where everybody is sitting and facing each other.
If you’ve ever done any amount of rail travel in Europe, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I mean, if you’re travelling as a family or a large group, great; it’s a cozy space where you can all hang out and chat and it’s very intimate. But if you’re only two people, and in a cabin with a whole bunch of other people who don’t know each other, it’s…awkward. That’s the best way to put it. We shared our cabin with a young woman and a young boy (her brother, maybe? definitely not his mother) and an elderly couple who both snored when they fell asleep. At one point the Mr. got out a bag of M&Ms, and I shot him a sort of horrified look as he contentedly munched away, presumably unaware of his rudeness by not offering some to the other passengers. The other passengers who were sitting DIRECTLY ACROSS FROM US, staring at us, less than five feet away. I knew we didn’t have enough to offer to everyone, so I just tried to shrink down in my seat and disappear. Not the first and certainly won’t be the last time we’re the awkward, rude tourists, no doubt 🙂
Once in Naples, we hopped into a taxi and were ridiculously ripped off for what ended up being only an 8-minute long journey to the ferry terminal. Once on the ferry, I ended up chatting to a nice Italian woman whose friend at the terminal on Ischia gave us a lift to our accommodation. That was a brilliant stroke of luck to meet such nice people who saved us both time and money getting to the town we were staying in.
We arrived at our accommodation, and were immediately pleased with our choice. But more on that later. After dropping off our things in our room, we had to find food. Luckily for us, a small restaurant\carry-out place across the street from us was open. For around 15 euros, we had the best pizza I had ever eaten, along with the most delicious roast chicken and two cold beers. It was food heaven, and even though we were in self-catering accommodation, we ended up going back to that place many, many times.
We spent the next couple of days checking out Forio and our accommodation, buying some groceries and settling in. Although our accommodation was technically in Forio, we were actually uphill from town, and it was a bit of a hike down and back up again. Towards the end of our stay on the island we took the bus more often, but it was usually so crowded that it was better to walk.
Our accommodation was really special. We stayed at the Villa Ravino, which has its own entry on the Wikipedia page for Ischia:
Gardens of Villa Ravino
A botanical garden, located in Forio-Citara Bay, resulting of 50 years of great passion and loving work of Captain Giuseppe D’Ambra, the owner of the Villa. Giardini Ravino is a botanical garden with one of the richest collection of cacti and succulents cultivated outdoors in Europe. Giardini Ravino has been awarded from the OPE (European Parliamentary Observatory) as the most ecofriendly property in South Italy. Giardini Ravino is also the location of Meristema Fair, an exhibition dedicated to both professional and quality amateur gardeners, enriched with seminars and hands on experiences handling and discussing for various reasons about biodiversity in nature. Giardini Ravino is also the headquarter of many social associations that organize events, in collaboration with international humanitarian aid organizations, such as MSF (Doctors Without Borders), the non-profit eco-gastronomic member-supported organization Slow Food and many other cultural exhibitions during the year around. Bus-stop “Via Bocca” on the CS, #1 or #2 bus routes.
The Villa is located just above the gardens, and we could visit them anytime they were open for free. It was really lovely to wander down and have a drink in the bar, or just take in the beauty of the gardens.
Our first trip out of town on the island was to Ischia’s main commune, or town, also called Ischia. We took a bus ride over to the town, and then exlored on foot, heading towards the town’s biggest landmark and attraction, the Aragonese Castle. We were really impressed with the town of Ischia, as it had a couple of advantages over Forio as a place to stay. For one, the town is located directly on the beach, and while it doesn’t exactly have a long stretching promenade like we enjoyed in Sitges, Spain, there are stretches that you can walk along with a few restaurants dotted along as well. It’s also bigger than Forio, so there’s more shopping and more places to eat in general. As lovely as the Villa Ravino was, I think in future I’d almost prefer to stay in a town with closer access to a beach. Or possibly stay at the Villa, but with a vehicle to get around more easily.
The weather started to take a turn for the worse as we headed towards the castle, but we decided to take our chances and check it out anyways. It made for some pretty atmospheric photos, with the dark clouds looming in the sky. The castle offered amazing views of the island, and was well worth the entrance fee, though we were a little disappointed the cafe was already closed for the day.
A couple days later, the Mr. and I decided to get another high up view of the island, though this time from the side of Mount Epomeo, the highest mountain on the island of Ischia. We didn’t go all the way to the top (the Mr. would do that on his own, a few days later) but we did walk up along roads from the Villa Ravino to a fairly high vantage point where we enjoyed a fantastic sunset. The higher we climbed, the more remote the road become with only a few houses at the point where we stopped. The Mr. would tell me a few days later that once you get up even higher, towards to the summit, there are no real roads anymore and people who live up there still rely on mules for transportation and moving goods.
We visited one other major town on the island during our stay, Sant’Angelo. Sant’Angelo would make headlines a few days after the Mr. and I were there as Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel stayed there on vacation for the Easter holidays. Sant’Angelo is lovely, but the Mr. and I both felt like it was still a bit sleepy at the end of March with many places still being closed for the winter season. In fact, we felt that a bit all over the island, but given that Sant’Angelo is one of the major tourist destinations on the island I think it was even more empty and quiet than other cities where there are more locals living and going about their daily business. We saw many restaurants and some shops all over the island who were just throwing the doors and windows open after the long winter closure, cleaning and painting and sprucing everything up for the onslaught of tourists that would begin to arrive during the Easter holidays and would stay throughout the summer.
We enjoyed one of the best meals during the entire trip in Sant’ Angelo. We hadn’t intended to splash out on a pricier meal, but there were so few food options that we really had little choice but to eat at this pricier seafood restaurant for lunch. Luckily, it was worth the pricetag. We shared a delicious seafood pasta dish and a tempura-style dish with all different types of seafood. Our bellies full, we headed down to the beach to check out Sant’Angelo’s famous fumarole. A fumarole is an opening in a planet’s crust, often in the neighborhood of volcanoes, which emits steam and gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, and hydrogen sulfide. At this fumarole in Sant’Angelo, the sand is toasty hot and you can bury yourself to stay warm and relaxed. Particularly nice if it’s a slightly chillier day in March!
In the next installment of Holly and the Mr.’s Adventures in Italy 2012, I’ll tell you all about my day-trip adventure to Pompeii and Vesuvius.