Ischia, the municipality with most inhabitants (about 18.000 residents), is situated in the northeast of the island between the sea and the hills of the Montagnone.
In every day’s life Ischia has assumed the role of the island’s capitol as most of the public administration offices are situated here, together with banks, insurance companies and exclusive shops. The port is the largest one in Italy used by small craft sailors, and it is the most important of the Ischitan ports.
The municipality is divided into two centres: Porto (port) and Ponte (bridge). It covers an area of 8,05 square kilometres including the villages of Campagnano, San Michele and Sant’Antuono.
The two centres, “modern” Porto (once known as Villa Bagni) and “antique” Ponte (once called Borgo di Celsa) are united; but have maintained their own atmosphere, their rhythm of life, their rapport with the sea and with tourism, and even their own style in architecture, creating an enchanting contrast.
This delightful municipality is the capitol of the island with streets full of chaotic, joyful life, but also charming historical borough, where fishermen work below the ancient Aragonese Castle. It is beaches and monuments, fast developing but aware of ancient traditions. In summer watch the huge ferries, hydrofoils and tiny fisher boats as they enter and move around the port – you cannot fail to appreciate the artistry of the local captains!
Ischia is the largest town with population of the island, with numerous hotels of every category and an intense tourist movement. It has a shopping center, which extends between the Via Roma and the course Vittoria Colonna. Do not miss the fun and different type of tourist attractions: Just think, among other things, the so-called "rive droite" (the right bank of the port) with a night club, piano bar, disco, folk taverns, wine bars, restaurants, shops with local crafts and boutiques.
The name derives from Ischia Insula Maior corrupted then in Iscla from which the present-day Ischia.
The town has a main town divided into two parts, the capital, only officially named "Ischia" but commonly known as "Ischia Porto", and the area of "Ischia Ponte", which takes its name from the wooden bridge (today in masonry ) that until the eighteenth century, linking the village with the Aragonese castle. Few know that the current port of Ischia was originally a small lake Pantaniello said that welcomed inside a small island, on which the Tondo Basilian erected a chapel to St. Nicholas. The lake was little more than two meters deep and there we caught fish fine. In 1670, to eliminate the odor, opened a small mouth. The transformation of the pond, however, the port must be the will of King Ferdinand II. A plaque at the entrance of the harbor recalls the opening of the port by the sovereign in September of 1854. Always to the will of the sovereign is due Portosalvo church, inaugurated in 1857, which opens the port with its Ionic peristyle. Not far away is found, the Thermal Force, the former Royal Palace of Ischia.
PLACES TO VISIT
MARINE MUSEUM (Museo del Mare) Ischia Ponte - Palazzo dell’Orologio.
Local fishermen and sailors have lovingly collected this display of marine life. On 3 floors you can see nautical and fishing equipment, antique anchors, findings from the seabed, model ships, but also postcards from 1880 to 1960. Open to the public April to October…
TOWER OF MICHELANGELO – Bay of Cartaromana
Built at the end of the 15th century by the Dukes Guevara of Bovino this tower formed a defence system together with the Aragonese Castle. Legend tells that Michelangelo watched the admired Lady of the Castle, Vittoria Colonna, from its windows. Today art exhibitions and Gala evenings are held in the Tower during the summer.
AQUEDUCT – I Pilastri
The impressing arches locally know as The Columns (i Pilastri) or as the Roman Aqueduct, were built in the 16th century by order of an Ischitan bishop. For the construction a special tax on flour was imposed on the population. Until the 1930’s the aqueduct transported water from the Buceto spring to the Castle and to Ischia Ponte.
CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF GRACE – Via Roma
Better known as St. Peter’s this church with a central aisle, side chapels and a lovely churchyard strikes for the elegance of its architecture. Its dome is covered with gleaming enamelled tiles, while the building itself is decorated with stuccos of the 18th century. Inside 5 important canvases by Carlo Borelli Ponticelli.
CHURCH OF PORTOSALVO – port of Ischia
Following the transformation of a volcanic lake into today’s port King Federico II of Bourbon had this church “of the save port” built in 1854-1856.
ROYAL PALACE – port of Ischia
Built by a prominent Ischitan in the 19th century and later used by the Bourbons as summer villa, the building later passed to the government and is today used as spa for military.
WEAPON MUSEUM – Museo delle Armi – Aragonese Castle
In an old guard house of the Aragonese Castle a small collection of weapons and torture instruments from the 14th to the 19th century are on display.
WINE CELLAR - LIQUEUR DISTILLERY – PERFUME LABORATORY
In the side lanes of Corso V. Colonna and on the right bank of the port these small factories can be visited, where you can taste typical local products and purchase a nice souvenir.
THE ARAGONESE CASTLE
In 474 BC the Greek Gerone of Syrakus, who came to the aid of the people of Cumae in their war against the Tyrrhenians, had the first fortress constructed on an islet some 200 metres off the island of Ischia.
After Gerone the Partenopeans took possession of the island and later the Romans, whose nobility came to Ischia seeking thermal cures, but also Visigoths, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Arabians, Normans, and the Anjous left their traces and transformed the original fortress.
When the last volcanic eruption destroyed the village of Geronda in 1301 thousands of people fled to the rock.