Who wouldn’t want to go on a boat ride on a day like this?
Captain Ciro in white shirt with stripes, prepares to take us out on a glorious day.

Much of Ischia can only be seen by foot or by boat. Last year I went on a number of great walks on the island. This year I went by boat. What a treat! A boat trip allows you to visit the most incredible grottoes, caves and landscapes which cannot be seen in any other way. While it was too cool to swim, I look forward to a summer swimming trip and more exploration of the island’s marvelous coastline.

The trip was impulsive, my friends and I had a bit of time before we were scheduled to have a lunch specially prepared for us at Al Pontile Ristorante…but I digress…more about food later.

We found that Ciro, our able captain in Ischia Ponte  had a bit of time available for us, so we set off for an hour to visit something I have wanted to see, the Grotto del Mago, Grotto of the Magician. As we pulled out, we went close to the lava dome that forms the foundation of the Castello Aragonese. The beautiful bands of folded lava were mixed with the ash and rock of the eruptions which have formed the island for millennia.

As we pulled around the castello we could see Procida, Vivara and the whole Gulf of Napoli from a different perspective. Most impressive was Vesuvius which looked like it was rising in all its majesty right out of the water. Breathtaking is the only way to describe it.

Vesuvius watching over everything in the Gulf of Naples, with the island of Vivara in the foreground.

We continued traveling in a clockwise direction to the southeast. This is the oldest part of the island formed about 150,000 years ago. There are five volcanic craters on the land above us, but by boat we can see the marvelous land forms caused by the eruptions which were so violent they actually blew Ischia apart. Fortunately for us, it rose from the sea again.  Here are some of the marvelous landscapes we saw.

Rounding the bend in the coastline, we are frightened by this Bocca di Leone, Lion’s mouth, wide open and appearing very hungry! It is made of jagged lava.

We are proceeding toward the place I really want to see, the Grotta del Mago. Why this name? Ciro explains it: This grotto is known for the mysterious voices which are heard within it. When the wind blows, it creates a reverberation that sounds like real voices wailing and howling. Ciro knows, as his family, fishermen, came back home and told him about the strange goings on in the grotto. Regardless of how scary it is, it has also been a place of refuge for fishermen caught out in a storm. They could ride it out in the grotto, even with the spooky sounds.

On our way into the Grotta del Mago …Hmm…just noticed…is that a ghost in the grotto?

As we came out of the grotto we were in for a treat. We got to see Capri from an entirely different perspective.

As we leave the spooky grotto we are in for another treat, beautiful volcanic rock formations, evidence of the turbulent geologic history of this island.

Various strata of tuff and ash have been weathered into beautiful land forms.

Detail of the different types of material emitted from the volcanoes. On the bottom, fine ash, above it, rough, larger material with rocks interspersed within the finer ash, evidence of a more forceful eruption. Above that layer, finer material appears once again, indicating the volcano had calmed down.

Here are the (lava) Rocks of St. Ann, with Michelangelo’s Tower in the background.

As we head back, Ciro points out this house. Remember the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley? Well, this is the one they used, and it’s in Ischia Ponte. Check out youtube for clips of the movie showing this coastline and beach. Really cool!  By the way, Cleopatra was also filmed in Ischia between Casamicciola and Lacco Ameno.

Well, all that excitement sure worked up our appetites. We had reserved a specialty at Al Pontile Ristorante, Coniglio alla Ischitana, the renowed plate of the island, Rabbit alla Ischitana. When we arrived they proceeded to buttare la pasta, so it was perfectly cooked for the primo piatto of paccheri with rabbit ragu’. The secondo was the rabbit itself, finger-lickin’ good.

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Al Pontile Ristorante is located right near the Castello Aragonese and has a seaside terrace for dining al fresco. It is located at Via Luigi Mazzella, 15 and the number is 081-19517657. Their food is all freshly prepared to order, but if you want something special like the rabbit or a particular fish, call them a day in advance and they’ll have it ready for you.

Ciro can be contacted at the Societa’ Cooperativa Ischia Barche, Via Pontano 3 (right near the Hotel Miramare e Castello) and their number is 081-984854. They will take you wherever you want to go and now that the weather is getting warmer you can visit marvelous places to swim, sun and eat (they’ll organize an onboard lunch).

This is a terrific day trip during most of the year. It is especially nice if you have guests and want to treat them to something fun and unusual.