It was a hot August morning in Naples. I and a Chilean friend, we were ambling through the noisy and chaotic Neapolitan streets heading towards the port. We’d soon taken our place in the queue in front of the ticket counters of the ferry company; where we’d purchase our tickets to Ischia Island. The tickets cost us €36 per person both ways. Objectively, it was quite an insane price for such a short ferry trip. Being in Italy (which is in no way a cheap country), however, and going to such a popular destination as Ischia is, I wouldn’t be surprised even if it was more expensive than that.
Some 40 minutes later, the ferry was overlapping the promontory defining the northern end of the Gulf of Naples, and was approaching the port of Ischia. Ischia is a small, overpopulated and over-visited volcanic island. In the 46.3 sq km of its mountainous area, it hosts an impressive number of 60,000 permanent residents, and receives a stunning mass of 6 million tourists annually! who come there to enjoy its famous volcanic spas, its paradisal beaches, and its picturesque environs.
It was a bit before noontime when we were finally disembarking the boat and setting foot on the island of Ischia. As soon as we left the port area, the very first thing we met in front of us was a scooter renting agency. Until that point, renting a scooter hadn’t crossed my mind as a possibility; but, as the possibility now appeared, it was quite an enticing one. We inquired, and rented one of the scooters for €30. First thing, we stopped at a nice cafe in the town of Ischia where we had a cup of coffee and went through the map planning our itinerary.
We took the jammed with cars and small buses, narrow road moving along the island’s northern coast, and soon we’d reached the beautiful Lido Di San Montano beach, at the northwest corner of the island. It was a beach of unique beauty, indeed: a 200 m stretch of sand adjoined by tall, rocky cliffs on either end of the narrow bay hosting it. Most of the beach’s length -as usually in Italy- was privatized, crammed with sun-beds and lurking go-getters in readiness to deprive you of your pocket’s contents, as soon as you are to touch one of the sun-beds. Fortunately, a short piece of ground by the beach’s verge was reserved for the general public: people who do not want to pay for a sun-bed as if they were paying for a hotel room. That’s where we spent the next couple of hours, enjoying the sun and the clear Mediterranean waters.
Then, it was time to get moving. We followed a tiny, sketchy road circling the forested northwestern promontory of the island, which eventually led us to the village of Forio. There we had lunch with a sandwich and a cold beer by the view of the Tyrrhenian Sea. And then we continued towards the southwest.
There was something between a road and a path -basically a path broad enough for a scooter to get through- ascending up the tall hill marking the island’s southwestern end. Then, at the top of the hill, the road-path ended; and there was a stepped path going down the other side, towards a lighthouse. There was a metallic rail blocking the access further down, which we had to jump to continue. The actual lighthouse was standing atop a long-abandoned, two-storey, white edifice with putrified wooden doors and shutters; which whole thing, in its turn, was standing on a narrow flattened area by the verge of a deep vertical cliff. It was a creepy place. If the weather was a little gloomier and stormier, it could make a great set for a tragic-suicide scene of some drama movie.
The final destination of that day’s trip on Ischia, was no other than the very top of the island: the 788 m tall Mount Epomeo. We took the main road, meandering up and down the mountain slopes, until the village of Fontana. There is a small road leaving to the north from the village’s centre. Having followed it for a little more than a km, we encountered another small road by a lonely house/restaurant, where a sign directs to “Monte Epomeo”. We were requested by the house’s owners to leave the scooter there, and we started on the short hike to the summit. The road ended and gave its place to a trail carved in the rock. We passed through another restaurant located right below the peak; and, a few moments later, we were standing on that pointy rock formation, from where there is no higher to get to on the island of Ischia. The sun, by then, had progressed a good deal on the descending part of its daily course. The views to the entirety of the island, the Tyrrhenian Sea with Capri island protruding out of its midst in the distance, and the immensely inhabited Calabrese coast were the kind of views apt to be imprinted in one’s memory for a lifetime. We enjoyed this sublime spectacle in plenty, and we scurried down the mountain to make it back to the port on time for the last ferry.
When we made it back to Ischia’s capital, we still had another hour to spare. We headed to that castle-islet off the east coast of the town, which is bridged to the main island by a jetty. We used the remaining time to have a last swim under the view of that impressive castle-islet.
We, finally, drove to the port, returned the scooter, and marginally made it aboard the last ferry. We took our seats on the upper deck and indulged in marveling at the fantastic images unfolding themselves all around us, as we were approaching back to the port of Naples, perfectly synchronized with the sundown.