Island’s history: from its origins to modern times
Ischia has been inhabited since prehistoric times and bears evidence of 4,000 years of Mediterranean civilization, from Neolithic age to present day tourism.
In many parts of the island, especially those more inland, flint and obsidian instruments dating from 300BC have been recovered.
Ceramic fragments from the Bronze Age have also been found, on the hill of Castiglione, thus proving ties with the Aegean – Anatolian world.
Pithecusa was founded by Greeks from Eubea (Calcidesi and Eretriesi) around 770BC (Iron Age). This colony is the recognised oldest in western Greece forming a crossroad for the antique world from the Geometric Age to the Dawn of the Magna Grecia.
As George Bucher recalls “Through the Eubei of Pithecusa, the Etruscan, Latin and Italian nations came into contact for the first time with the Hellenic civilization and products of the western craftsmen, especially the art of construction”.
A celebrated find from the Greek Age is the Cup of Nestor with its famous three verses, which confirm the beginning of the written alphabet (725BC) and the Crater of the Shipwrecked, the first example of a painted vase in the Western world. Later the Romans changed the name o the island to Aenaria and believing in the benefits of thermal waters and springs built many villas and temples particularly at Nitrodi in Barano, where bas-reliefs of the Nymphs of Nitrodi have been found.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, various Barbarian tribes invaded Ischia.
The island was first called “Insula” as recorded in a letter sent from Pope Leone III to Carlo Magno in 813 altering throughout the ages to Insla, Isla, Iscia and finally Ischia.
With the end of the Ducy of Naples, the island passed under the dominion of the Normans, Swedish, Agevin and Aragons.
Following the eruption of Mount Trippodi in 1301 the inhabitants fled to the mainland and 4 years later ventured back to the Castle. In 1320 Robert of Agevin visited the Castle, accompanied by his wife Sancia di Majorca.
With the new dynasty started by Alfonso I of Aragon the Castle became a fortified and unconquerable city. Ferdinando II escaped from the city of Naples, which was occupied by Charles VIII’s troops and took refuge in the Castle. Following a period o obscurity the island again found fame under the Bourbon Dynasty.
Carlo III actuated a social recovery, abolishing the feudal regime of the D’Avalos and suppressing the bands of brigades living in the hills of the island.
With this first reform the island fell under Royal domain and was administered and governed from the Castle. At the time of the Partenopean Republic many Ischitan intellectuals, mainly priests, actively participated in the Jacobean movement, but in March 1799 the patriots’ hopes were dashed in a blood bath.
Francesco Buonocore nephew of Doctor Buonocore Commander of Ischia was among the martyrs hung. Under the domain of Gioacchino Murat, the French occupied the island and defended it behind the Castle’s battlements against the attacking English/Bourbon fleet led by Admiral Nelson.
Ferdinando II of Bourbon enlarged the small lake in Ischia Port officially opening it 17th September 1854. He also had the Church of Porto Salvo built and the inland road that connects Lacco Ameno and Forio.
With the unity of Italy and an increasing interest in thermal waters, a tourism of the “elite” began initially at Casamicciola Terme, site of many important thermal establishments amongst which the Pio Monte della Misericordia.
It is important to remember the part played by Angelo Rizzoli in the 50’s and 60’s, who by building the now world famous luxury thermal hotel Regina Isabella and the hospital Anna Rizzoli at Lacco Ameno, launched Ischia in world tourism.