The island of Capri is a really beautiful, exclusive and expensive tourist hot-spot off the Amalfi Coast; I don't expect that to be news to anybody! However, most people would not know (including me until two days ago) that Capri has a bigger brother that can be just as beautiful, just as vibrant and much kinder to your wallet.
The island of Ischia is in fact only a short 30 minute boat trip from Ischia and there are plenty of providers to choose from. We chose to stay at a beautiful hotel called 'Mezzatorre' which translates loosely to 'Half Tower' as the main building of the hotel was once a medieval watch tower for the Saracens (Turkish pirates) with an interesting history that speaks of pirate raids, invasions and occupancies like all islands of the Mediterranean. Set high up on its own private point between the main town of Forio and the closer (and arguably more charming) town of Lacco Ameno this hotel still certainly has that Amalfi Coast feel but mixed with the vibe you only get on an island. One of the many taxi's waiting at Ischia Porto drove us 15 minutes to the hotel and detailed all of the things to do and see along the way. It became clear quite quickly that two days on this island was not going to be enough as it is 5 times bigger than Capri! Although our taxi was a strange skinny van, the little old roads leading up to the hotel are in some places so small that at the front entrance they drop you off, take care of your luggage and pop you onto a golf buggy to zoom up to the reception. There the staff were lovely and showed us to our suite in the main tower. One of the biggest hotel rooms of our trip thus far I must add; with two separate doors opening out to our private balcony on the turrets, a huge ensuite and living area.
Just because it is less expensive than most hotels in Capri you should not be fooled, because Mezzatorre is deservedly a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group for the 'uncommon luxury' that it offers. Not many hotels can boast about having a heated private sea-water pool, let alone an entire private bay and beach! On top of this they have a wellness spa area with thermal baths included in the room rate making this hotel a beautiful retreat that you won't want to leave. I would however suggest hiring a scooter for the day to explore the island and all of its offerings from the amazing historical Castello Aroganese castle to the simply beautiful old town of Sant' Angelo (where you can enjoy a stroll as cars are not allowed).
Our second day on Ischia was a very lazy (perfect) day beginning with a delicious breakfast buffet, a trip to the wellness spa built into the bottom of the tower and some sun-tanning in our private bay! We skipped lunch for our dinner at the hotel restaurant 'Chandelier' was going to be more than enough food for a day! Sunset cocktails by the bar and as soon as we reached our dinner table we were treated to a delicious Vitello Tonnato appetiser (tiny version of the amazing one we had in Capri below). For entree a rabbit-stuffed agnolotti (like a tortellini) and hand-made three cheese ravioli. Rabbit is a very popular and very traditional dish in Ischia although Gianni's main, rabbit served three ways, was a very modern representation (a mince burger patty, mini roast rib rack and rolled pan seared loin). I savoured my cod fillet on lemon potato cream and spinach and chose chocolate profiteroles for dessert that had a delicious light pastry so thin it fell apart on the fork! The chef also got very creative with an absolutely delicious deconstructed rum baba which is another very traditional dessert from Napoli. We left very full, very happy and certainly keen to return to Ischia and the Mezzatorre again to see everything else we had missed!
After two nights in Ischia, our return boat trip to Amalfi took us via the infamous island of Capri so we hopped off to make the most of our day there too. Avoiding the massive crowds we had an amazing lunch at 'JK Kitchen' as soon as we arrived and then took a short trip on the funicular cable railway from the port up the cliff-side (I was a little terrified at first but it's very safe I am told). I could easily spend all day and all my money at the luxury boutiques up here (especially the cute little Louis Vuitton shop) but a few hours in the sun was more than enough for me and it was back to Amalfi on the afternoon boat for our a few more amazing places on the mainland!
Special Thanks to: