Molto Sud della Toscana! / Very South of Tuscany
Last week I was very fortunate to find myself on the gorgeous Island of Ischia, a one hour ferry trip from Naples. Yes, I know that it’s not quite Tuscany anymore (realised that pretty quickly by the total disrespect for the traffic laws by our fellow travelers on the freeway south of Rome!) but I wanted to share where we went holidaying this Summer.
We decided to drive instead of taking the train to Naples as the extra luggage plus stroller needed for Matteo seemed that much easier to transport in our own car. Plus the price of the train tickets is not that cheap if you want to take the Eurostar fast train (is there really any other train option when traveling so far with a baby?)
Matteo was actually very well-behaved in the car and on the ferry but big thanks goes to Pingu, Bananas in Pyjamas and Happy Feet 2 that kept him (and me) very entertained along the way!
As we arrived at the port, it was very chaotic as the departing passengers were waiting to board the ferry while we were trying to disembark. Matteo and I had to walk off and wait for Emiliano to exit with the car but there was nowhere really to stop and buckle in Matteo. I jumped into the back seat and had to organise Matteo in his care seat as we slowly headed away from the ferry. Our hotel was very close – actually situated in the very busy Ischia port which has all the charms of a fishing village including port-side restaurants and luxury yachts parked close enough so that you could admire the luxury as you walked by.
We visited a few different beaches but our favourite by far was Maronti. We would arrive here at 8.30am while the water was still flat and clear as a sheet of glass, the air had a lovely cool whisper and we felt like the beach was ours exclusively. Fast forward to the afternoon and it’s incredibly crowded and noisy, such a contrast to the peaceful mornings. The very affordable prices mean that you can get an umbrella in the front row, one meter from the shore. Every now and then, a series of large waves would crash onto the shore and reach under our deck beds where we were sitting – just as well for the ‘lettino’ otherwise you would get quite wet or washed away as an old man nearly did while sitting in his director’s chair at the water’s edge.
One of the main attractions on Ischia are the thermal springs as it is a volcanic island. Nearly all the hotels advertise their thermal pools and have day-spas attached. While at the beach standing in the water, I buried my feet into the sand to surprisingly feel that it was really warm underneath. There were some points where you could really feel the hot thermal water coming through. Apparently at one of the beaches, one of the highlights after watching the sun set is to have a swim in the hot sea-water by the light of the moon as this is one point where the springs surge directly into the sea. Having a young bub with us though means that this activity is not really possible. Let’s hope that we don’t have to wait until we are senior citizens to come back and try that out!
Some of my favourite things about the beach experience here are (and in no particular order) that first early morning cappuccino on the beach, the first swim while the water is still flat and smooth, the many vendors that pass selling hot doughnuts/ciambelle, fresh coconut or watermelon. I love the lettino with the face shade and I love having a fresh-water shower available for a rinse off before we leave for the day. I love observing the Italians and their beach rituals – using Nivea as a sunscreen, turning around to lay in the direction of the sun as it moves throughout the day and of course, watching the poor kids who can’t swim until 4pm as they wait the obligatory 3 hours after eating their lunch so they don’t upset their digestion! This summer on the beach has been a whole new experience with a baby. It has been such a joy to watch him play in the water and explore the sand (well not such a joy when he decided to get a mouth-full!)
The ‘Napolitano’ accent here is very strong and I do have to concentrate to understand everything being said. It is very colourful to say the least and I am learning some very interesting new local slang! Driving laws don’t seem to exist and you really do need to take extra special care when crossing the road here!
Did I mention how good the food is? As one would expect, the seafood is absolutely delicious but my sweet tooth has also been tempted way too much by the almond granita, pastries (not-so-lite!) and baba. I have also become quite attached to my ‘caffe’ della nonna’ each afternoon. Basically this is a milky coffee granita so what better way to enjoy your afternoon coffee than in a slushy ice version!
The meal below cost us €39!! For a Linguine allo Scoglio, Frittura, mezzo litro di Vino e Caffe’ – Amazing!!!
For those of you wanting to know some facts about the island, here are some of the basics :
Ischia is a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. It lies at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples, about 30 km from the city of Naples. It is the largest of the Phlegrean Islands. It measures around 10 km east to west and 7 km north to south and has about 34 kilometres (21 mi) of coastline and a surface area of 46.3 square kilometres (17.9 sq mi). It is almost entirely mountainous, the highest peak being Mount Epomeo at 788 m. The island has a population of over 60,000 people.