“No matter what happens, always keep your childhood innocence. It’s the most important thing.”
– Federico Fellini
One of my favorite movies, Enchanted April, came out in 1992. I went to the theater at least seven or eight times and have watched it every April since that time. My dream, influenced by the movie, was to return to Italy during the month of April and experience sunshine, wisteria, the deep blue sea and the passionate Italian way of life. Returning to Italy eluded me for fifteen years for one reason or another. Would this journey to Ischia in April bring my heart’s desire to fruition?
The Journey Begins
On a brisk April morning I left Detroit, MI for New York’s Kennedy Airport for a connecting flight to Naples, Italy via Meridiana Air. Arriving at JFK early left me time to contemplate the journey over a cappuccino. As an Italian-American it was enjoyable watching other passengers arrive for the same flight. I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the other passengers were from my ancestry since my family was from the Naples and the Mt. Vesuvius area. Santa and Paulo, a couple I met while waiting to board, were returning home after visiting their family in New York. Since my enthusiasm was evident they were receptive in speaking with me about my family surnames and the Naples area. Soon after, we boarded Meridiana Air’s nonstop flight to Naples and it exceeded my expectations. Their service to Naples was comfortable and delightful.
Attraversiamo (Let’s Cross Over)
Upon arriving in Naples and after a short van ride to the port we were on our way via a quick ferry ride to the island of Ischia. With a glimpse of Mt. Vesuvius in the background I thought of my grandparents and felt a sense of admiration and connection to them.
Ischia, the largest island in the Gulf of Naples, is a volcanic island with Mt. Epomeo as its highest peak (Mt. Vezzi is the other formation). It is also known as the ‘Green Island’ due to its Mediterranean vegetation, mountains, rolling hills, and pine forests. Fascinating archeological finds show that Ischia was inhabited over 7000 years ago and discovered by the Greeks and the Romans. Ischia is also known as the island of ‘Good Health’ due its mineral springs, which was one of the main interests for my journey as Ischia is world renowned for their many mineral springs and hidden underground sources. Summer brings in the highest number of tourists, however Ischia is a year-round destination.
L’Albergo della Regina Isabella
One of the most enchanting resorts in Ischia would also be my home for the next several days. A 5-star luxury resort located in the small village of Lacco Amena, L’Albergo della Regina Isabella immediately seduced me with her beauty and grandeur. Built in the 1950’s by Angelo Rizzoli, publisher and film producer, it soon became ‘the’ place for movie stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Clark Gable and continues to attract celebrities, music icons and many others. The Regina Isabella has 128 rooms, four swimming pools, two bars, three restaurants, 60 spa treatment rooms, a sauna and hammam, a gym, tennis and boats for private hire. From my balcony, I spent time gazing at the sea and colorful fishing boats. Mesmerized by the various colors of the sky as the sun began to set, it was as if time stood still and perhaps it was because the dream I mentioned earlier was actually becoming a reality.
Food & Wine
All three of the dining venues at Regina Isabella were extraordinary. Sporting offered a casual atmosphere and peaceful sea views while Regina Isabella offered an elegant atmosphere, both with stellar service. Michelin rated Indaco, led by Chef Pasquale Palamaro, offered an intimate setting and experience not to be missed. His artistic gourmet creations were exquisite and ranged from colorful appetizers to equally creative desserts. This multi-course event was presented and appeared as artwork and each course was also paired with Italian wines. A must-do culinary delight when in Ischia.
Regina Isabella is also home to several annual events including the Global Film & Music Fest in mid-July and their food and wine event called Ischia Vintage held in late October.
Ischia, as mentioned earlier, is best known for the regenerating thermal waters as the springs and muds have therapeutic properties. Prior to building the resort, Mr. Rizzoli rebuilt the thermae/bath complex on the site of the original Greek and Roman baths. The resort’s water contains sodium, chloride, bicarbonate, sulphate, calcium magnesium, bromine, iodine ions and several other minerals. The springs and the muds would soon offer me an opportunity to relieve some aches and pains. By the way, it takes about six months in the thermal water for the muds to absorb mineral and medicinal qualities. My experience with Regina Isabella’s mud pack was quite interesting, relaxing and helpful. I don’t speak Italian and my therapist didn’t speak English, so it was an amusing experience, yet beneficial in the end. I thought the mud packs were going on my knees, due to a bit of swelling. However I received the full mud pack from my upper thighs to ankles and while it was a bit messy, it was an experience I’d recommend to anyone interested in enhancing their well-being and one I would do again on my next visit. One interesting note is that mud treatments with a prescription are covered in the Italian Health System.
There are many other services offered at Regina Isabella and some require a mandatory medical exam prior to the service. After my consultation with Costanza Popolano, Regina Isabella’s Spa Director, I set up an appointment with their osteopath, Dr. Leonardo Telese, as it was an opportunity to hear his perspective regarding my knee issue. Fortunately, Costanza was available to be with me for translation. His input was valuable and I was grateful to hear his natural recommendations that would ultimately help me further. There’s a robust menu of services available for this Spa including inhalation therapy, laser therapy, massotherapy, endermologie, and dermatology offerings including microtherapy. Relaxing massages, music and color therapy, Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine services are also available.
A queen, which is how I felt, must visit a castle and alas there was one rising above the deep blue sea called Aragonese Castle. Built by Syracusan Hiero I, a Greek, it dates back to 474 B.C. and offers magnificent views. There is a great deal of history surrounding the castle, which is connected to the main island via a stone bridge. You can easily spend a full day exploring the different levels, gardens, convent and cellars.
The next day included a visit to Giardini Poseidon Terme (Poseidon Gardens) and a healing opportunity to submerge my body in the various pools. Volcanic springs feed the pools and different water temperatures create different benefits. It’s recommended that you go from coldest to hottest on the circuit with time limits for each pool depending on the mineral content. Rich in curative minerals bubbling up from the source, you emerge with a renewed sense of well-being…I know I did. You’re surrounded by beauty as you meander through the gardens and take in the scent of jasmine, eucalyptus, hibiscus and oleander. I would recommend that you plan a full day to immerse yourself in all that there is to do here. Poseidon is along the beach and you can begin your day with a walk or plunge in the sea, followed by the mineral circuit and perhaps a yoga class or other service in the Wellness Centre. Massage, Watsu, Shiatsu, Mud therapy and many other services are offered. There are several dining venues and you can end your day with a glass of wine at sunset.
Later in the day, I toured Giardini La Mortella, one of the most memorable botanical gardens.
The Garden was created by Susana and William Walton in 1956. He was a British composer and she was a talented gardener and it’s evident as you walk along the different paths. I passed fountains and streams and the most beautiful and exotic flora. The Orchid House and Victoria House were unique and lovely, however the Thai Pavilion offered a meditation area and was surrounded by lotus flowers. Their creation continues to be a gift to the world and not to be missed when visiting Ischia.
Shopping, of course, would be one more activity to engage in while in Ischia. My interest was in items made in Italy and mainly scarves or wraps, however Ischia is known for their hand-made ceramics and specialty foods. Via Roma offered a number of unique shops and street side cafés.
Addio per ora
There was nothing ordinary about staying at the Regina Isabella and exploring Ischia. It brought about feelings of truly living in the moment. Calm breezes, sea views, sunshine and wisteria, amazing food and wine and the gracious people met along the way created a transforming experience. I left there with a renewed sense of well-being and a knowing that I met one of my heart’s desires.
Where to Stay
L’Albergo della Regina Isabella
Where to Explore
Giardini Poseidon Terme
Giardini La Mortella
Hotel Residence, Fruit & Vegetable Gardens
La Pergola Agriturismo
Local extra-virgin olive oil, Marmalades, Wine, Honey and more:
Via Falanga 1, 80070 Serrara Fontana, Ischia, Italy
Via Roma, Ischia Porto