Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ischia Weekend

My mom arrived last week for a two week visit. Her visit, combined with my birthday, meant time to plan another trip. Oddly, I picked as our destination the same place that was the scene of one of my worst days in this country - the island of Ischia and Negombo Spa. That's the place we visited back in March and was a day where everything that could go wrong did go wrong. But, I still desperately wanted to go to Negombo when all it's pools were open, and Ischia is really easy to get to from our house. We can hop on one of the Metro lines (called the Cumana out our way), travel for about 10 minutes, get off right at the Pozzuoli port and be on a ferry in 20 minutes. We'd also decided that for this trip, we'd forego the crowded and difficult public buses in favor of taxis. This made all the difference in the world.

Nathan carted Scully and his broken bone off to his sitter's house and we were on Ischia by lunchtime. Ischia is a large, mountainous island, and was actually home to the very earliest Greek settlers - I've written a few times about the Cuma ruins I love so much. That settlement was from a group who came over from their Ischia land. Ferries go into two ports, both fairly near one another, so it's an odd set-up. Last time, we went into the port at the town of Ischia, which wasn't all that intriguing. This time, we docked at Casamicciola, a beautiful town along the coast that looked just like an Italian, coastal town is supposed to look according to movies, tv, and the pictures I've made up in my head from reading lots of books.

Lunch and a taxi ride later, we checked into our hotel, Umberto Al Mare, in the town of Forio, yet another, pretty, coastal village. We'd booked two, seaview rooms, and were pleasantly surprised to find that we'd been assigned two rooms connected by a huge terrace overlooking the water. A perk like that always makes me a little sad that I'm not staying a little longer. Nathan elected to join in the Italian reposso (aka, afternoon nap) while Mom and I headed off to Giardino La Mortella, beautiful gardens at the former home of a famous 20th century, British composer and his Argentinian wife. His wife was responsible for the creation of the gardens, and they are spectacular. There are numerous water features, beautiful plantings and pathways, a cafe for a bit of afternoon tea (Ischia is a popular place among the Germans and the Brits), and one of my favorites, this Orchid House, complete with a giant water lily:

The next day was our spa day at Negombo. Ischia has some spas that are not like American spas. Negombo and Poseidon (another popular spot) are landscaped, pool-ridden places for day-trips. One pays an entry for the day, sets up camp at one of the hundreds of lounge chairs (with umbrella!) scattered about, then visits all the pools, saunas, and beach whenever. Many of the pools are heated with the naturally occurring thermal water, which is also slightly radioactive in some places - we found that out after we were already there. Negombo had pools that look like regular pools, pools that were carved out of the cliffside where we sat on rock ledges, small tunnels sized for a couple of people to sit in a natural sauna, a "Labyrinth" walk with river stones as the bottom for foot massage and one side was really hot water, the other side really cold, pools with strong waterfalls for neck and shoulder massage, and a Turkish bath that was essentially a two room sauna. And a beach. The day was a bit overcast, making it chilly to try to sunbathe and read, so we focused on exploring the thermal waters before heading home on an early boat in order to pick up Gimpy, formerly known as Crazy Dog. What a great birthday weekend!
Our hotel was underneath a beautiful church with a great view.

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