This Italian Island Is As Alluring As Capri Without The Crowds And Hefty Price Tag

Italy is one country that's finding it challenging to balance the explosion of tourism with preservation of its cultural and natural jewels. From charging day passes in Venice to unsustainable hordes at the Colosseum, visitors and Italians alike are often looking for a break from the hot spots in order to focus on the true identity of Italy. While the island of Capri might seem like a place to find the quintessential experience, making a slight detour to the nearby island of Ischia might be a more rewarding and budget-friendly option.


Located a short ferry ride away from Naples, Ischia is positioned in the clear waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, not far from Ponza, another underrated Italian island. Although nearly four times the size of Capri, Ischia is easy to navigate and is loaded with natural, historical, and gastronomical delights. Void of the glitz and glam of the iconic Capri, Ischia aims to maintain a sense of authenticity, and although it may not be on a travelers' list of Italian islands that don't get enough attention, it's a very popular choice as a vacation spot for Italians. 

With 6 million visitors annually, you might think it would be saturated compared to the 2 million that pop into Capri. However, the tourist density is significantly lower in Ischia, and since the majority of visitors are Italian, it doesn't feel as touristy.


What to do and see in Ischia

You'll find Castello Aragonese d'Ischia at the top of any must-see list for Ischia. This campus of structures includes the castle, prisons, gardens, chapels, views, and even a historical museum. It's just as iconic from ground level, where visitors can easily identify it perched on the top of a massive rock structure just off the west coast of Ischia. The stone footbridge that connects it to the mainland is a photographer's dream.


Perhaps equally impressive is the plethora of natural hot springs on the island. A primary reason the locals visit the island, Ischia features 103 of them, and they are reputed to have therapeutic qualities. These hot spots (pun intended) mirror the vast natural essence of the island. Hikers can enjoy Bosco di Zaro, a volcanic forest park offering myriad botanical delights. There's also a botanical garden, Giardini la Mortella, where you can take a guided tour or catch a concert. To reach the highest peak on the island, visitors can trek up to Mount Epomeo, which reveals spectacular views of the entire region.

Although Ischia is significantly larger than Capri, you can get around using public transport or via a car rental. Then again, it's the perfect place to take a city bus tour or see the island from the water on a guided boat tour. And don't forget about beaches, which rank right up there with some of the best beaches along the Amalfi Coast


Food and drinks of Ischia

No Italian vacation would be complete without exploring the local food and drink options. While Capri certainly delivers on that front, Ischia does too, with a much lower price tag. Plus, unlike many locations in the country, the specialty here isn't pasta or pizza, it's coniglio all'ischitana — a stewed rabbit dish that's prepared in a clay pot alongside white wine, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and chilis. Seafood dishes are also popular, and as a region of Naples, Ischia serves up Neapolitan pizza, too. If you really want to know what's on the menu, visit the local market. For example, keep an eye out for the local tomato, called piennolos, and include them in your favorite dish. To deepen your connection with the foods in the region even further, take a food tour or sign up for a cooking class.


Food and Italy are as interwoven as hotdogs and baseball. However, the country is also known for its wine, and Ischia is no exception. There are several small producers on the island. You may even see the terraced vineyards thriving in the volcanic soil. In addition to wine, the island is known for some interesting distilled spirits as well. Be sure to taste rucolino liqueur, which is made from arugula, the well-known limoncello, and finocchietto, a digestif made from fennel seeds. However you decide to spend your days on Ischia, enjoy the fewer crowds and lower costs as you wine, dine, and tour the island.