We’re pleased to welcome to the InsureMyTrip blog a friend of ours, renowned travel blogger Johnny Jet! Johnny has graciously agreed to share with us his perspective on one of our travelers’ most popular fall vacation destinations.
For many, Italy is a favorite vacation destination and it’s definitely one of mine. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me where they should go on their maiden Italian voyage, I would be a very wealthy man. Instead of you lighting up my cell phone, I figured I would share my opinion here.
Ideally, you should try to hit Italy’s big three (Rome, Florence and Venice) sometime in your life. So if you think this is a once in a lifetime trip, then I would recommend you start off in Venice and make your way down to Rome (through Tuscany). You can sign up for a tour if you don’t want to have to think about your every move – I hear Trafalgar and Perillo offer excellent tours.
But after you are done with that trip, you’re going to need a vacation from your vacation so add on a few extra days and go to my favorite place in Italy; the island of Ischia. Ischia is Capri’s little known sister island, despite the fact that she’s three times bigger and a lot less expensive. Many travelers consider it a slice of heaven and I’m sure after your stay, you will too. Ischia is a volcanic island that’s six miles (10 km) wide and four miles (7 km) long. It’s located in the Tyrrhenian Sea between the Gulf of Gaeta and the Bay of Naples. It’s famous for its warm mineral springs and incredible vistas.
To get there from Rome is easy. Just take a high-speed train from Rome to Naples, which takes an hour. When you get to Naples, jump in a taxi to the Molo Beverello Port, a 10-minute ride away. Drivers charge tourists a flat rate of 15 euros (US $21) but my local Italian friends say that if you tell the driver ‘tariffa predeterminata’, the fee is just 10 euros (US $14) including luggage. There are multiple ferry companies offering transit to Ischia so look at the ferry schedule on the departure board and give your business to the one leaving the earliest; they usually depart every 30 minutes. Tickets cost 16 euros (US $23) each and the ride is just under an hour. Tip: Naples is still notorious for crime. Be sure to take off all your jewelry, including the fake stuff, and safeguard your belongings.
The island is a popular destination in the summer, attracting mostly mainland Italians and Germans. In fact, there are so many Germans that almost all the signs and menus are in both Italian and German; many of the locals speak both languages, too. One of Ischia’s best attributes is that few Americans visit. Don’t get me wrong! I love my fellow citizens, but it’s so much more authentic to be surrounded by locals. For me, being surrounded by Americans when I’m abroad diminishes some of the mystique of foreign travel.
Good to know: Like in Capri, most hotels in Ischia are seasonal. They open in early April and close at the end of October. The population in Ischia is 70,000, but in the summer, this number rises to 90,000. The island gets a total of five million visitors a year, many visiting just for the day.
There are plenty of hotels and bed and breakfasts to choose from for every budget. Just be sure to make advance reservations in high season. I recently stayed at the five-star Hotel Terme Manzi. It’s expensive but has the island’s best restaurant located on its premises. But a few years ago, I shacked up at the three-star La Ginestra for just 80 euros (US $114) a night and that included breakfast and dinner like most hotels on the island.
While you are in Ischia, you’re probably just going to want to relax at the beach and eat good food (and gelato!) while recovering from your whirlwind trip exploring Italy’s treasures. But you really should try to visit these three places:
-The Negombo Health and Beauty Center is a natural thermal spa on the Tyrrhenian Sea surrounded by beautiful gardens. It’s a 10-minute, free shuttle ride from the hotel and a perfect place to unwind.
-La Mortella Gardens, located on a volcanic gorge, has over 3,000 different species of tropical flora from around the world. The views and waterfall make it a perfect place.
-At Fumarole Beach, you can not only swim but the locals cook dinner at night underneath the sand! They don’t use a grill but rather the vapor from the volcano. That’s how close to the surface it is.
-Don’t spend 2 euros on a small bottle of water. Instead, find out where the closest grocery store is and stock up. I bought a large bottle of water for under US $1 (0.63 euro).
-I wouldn’t rent a car but depending on your motor skills, I would entertain the idea of getting a Vespa, even though they can be dangerous. I do recommend taking the public bus, which connects to the major towns and costs under $2 USD. Just be sure to buy tickets in advance from either a newsstand, bar, travel agency or tobacconist.
As you can probably tell, I love Ischia and it holds a special place in my heart. And it’s not just because it’s where my grandparents emigrated from in the 1920s. After experiencing the food, views and people, I suspect that you will feel the same way. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee it!
John E. DiScala (a.k.a. Johnny Jet) travels around 150,000 miles and visits over 20 countries each year. He and his website JohnnyJet.com have been featured over 2,000 times in major publications, including USA Today, Time, Fortune and The New York Times, and he has appeared on ABC, CBS, CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, FOX News Channel and PBS. JohnnyJet.com has been named “one of the top best money-saving web sites for travel” by Budget Travel Magazine, while the L.A. Times calls it “one of the top 10 essential travel resources on the internet.” Outside Magazine touted Johnny for having one of the world’s best “dream jobs”. He writes for Frommers.com, The Huffington Post, LAX Magazine and has written for USAToday and ABC News. Sign up today for Johnny Jet’s free weekly travel newsletter at JohnnyJet.com.