- ''For the comune, see Ischia (comune). For the part of the human hip, see Ischium
Ischia is a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples. The roughly trapezoidal island lies c. 30 km from Naples and measures around 10 km east to west and 7 km north to south with a 34 km coastline and a surface area of 46.3 km². It is almost entirely mountainous, with the highest peak being volcanic Mount Epomeo at 788 meters: the volcano was active in Classical times . The island has a population of over 60,000 people.
Ischia Porto is the name of the main comune of the island. Other community areas include Barano d'Ischia, Casamicciola Terme, Forio, Lacco Ameno and Serrara Fontana.
The main industry is tourism, centering on thermal spas that cater mostly to European (especially German) and Asian tourists eager to enjoy the fruits of the island's natural volcanic activity, its thermal hot springs, and its volcanic mud. For many of the inhabitants on the Italian-speaking island, German and English are second languages. This is because of the large number of German- and English-speaking tourists who visit the island each year.
poetically referred to it as Inarime
and still later as Arime Martianus Capella
followed Virgil in this allusive name, which was never in common circulation: the Romans
called it Aenaria
, the Greeks, Pithekoussai
rightly derives the Greek name from the local ceramic clay deposits, not from pithekos
(ape); he explains the Latin name as connected with Aeneas' beach-head" (Princeton Encyclopedia
) The current name appears for the first time in a letter from Pope Leo III
in 813 (iscla
) though there is an argument made for a Semitic
origin in I-schra
, "black island".
An acropolis site of the Monte Vico area was inhabited from the Bronze Age
, as Mycenaean
and Iron Age pottery finds attest. Euboean
Greeks from Eretria and Chalkis arrived in the 8th century BC to establish an emporium
for trade with the Etruscans
of the mainland. This settlement was home not only to Greeks, but a mixed population of Greek, Etruscan
inhabitants. Because of its fine harbor, the settlement of Pithecusae became successful through trade in iron and with mainland Italy; at its peak, Pithecusae was home to about 10,000 people.
The ceramic Euboean artifact inscribed with a reference to "Nestor's cup" was discovered in a grave on the island in 1953. Engraved upon the cup are a few lines written in the Cumae alphabet. Dating from c. 730 BC, it is the oldest written reference to the Iliad and may be the earliest extant precursor to the Latin alphabet.
In 474 BC, Hiero I of Syracuse came to the aid of the Cumaeans against the Etruscans and defeated them on the sea. He occupied Ischia and the surrounding Parthenopean islands and left behind a garrison to build a fortress before the city of Ischia itself. This was still extant in the Middle Ages, but the original garrison fled before the eruptions of 470 BC and the island was taken over by Neapolitans. The Romans seized Ischia (and Naples) in 322 BC.
Christian era until the 16th century
In 6 AD, Augustus
restored the island to Naples in exchange for Capri
. Ischia suffered from the barbarian
invasions, being taken first by the Heruli
then by the Ostrogoths
, being ultimately absorbed into the Eastern Roman Empire
. The Byzantines gave the island over to Naples in 588 and by 661 it was being administered by a Count
liege to the Duke of Naples
. The area was devastated by the Saracens
in 813 and 847; in 1004 it was occupied by Henry II of Germany
; the Norman Roger II of Sicily
took it in 1130 granting the island to the Norman Aldoyn de Candida created Count d’Ischia; the island was raided by the Pisans
in 1135 and 1137 and subsequently fell under the Suebi
and then Angevin
rule. After the Sicilian Vespers
in 1282, the island rebelled, recognizing Peter III of Aragon
, but was retaken by the Angevins the following year. It was conquered in 1284 by the forces of Aragon and Charles II
was unable to successfully retake it until 1299.
As a consequence of the island's last eruption, the population fled to Baia where they remained for 4 years. In 1320 Robert of Anjou and his wife Sancia visited the island and were hosted by Cesare Sterlich, who had been sent by Charles II from the Holy See to govern the island in 1306 and was by this time nearly 100 years of age.
Ischia suffered greatly in the struggles between the Angevin and Durazzo dynasties. It was taken by Carlo Durazzo in 1382, retaken by Louis II of Anjou in 1385 and captured yet again by Ladislav Durazzo in 1386; it was sacked by the fleet of the Antipope John XXIII under the command of Gaspare Cossa in 1410 only to be retaken by Ladislav the following year. In 1422 Joan II gave the island to her adoptive son Alfonso V of Aragon, though, when he fell into disgrace, she retook it with the help of Genoa in 1424. In 1438 Alfonso reoccupied the castle, kicking out all the men and proclaiming it a Castilian colony, marrying to his garrison the wives and daughters of the expelled. He set about building a bridge linking the castle to the rest of the island and he carved out a large gallery, both of which are still to be seen today. In 1442, he gave the island to one of his favorites, Lucretia d'Alagno, who in turn entrusted the island's governance to her brother-in-law, Giovanni Torella. Upon the death of Alfonso in 1458, they returned the island to the Angevin side. Ferdinand I of Naples ordered Alessandro Sforza to chase Torella out of the castle and gave the island over, in 1462, to Garceraldo Requesens. In 1464, after a brief Torellan insurrection, Marino Caracciolo was set up as governor.
In February 1495, with the arrival of Charles VIII, Ferdinand II landed on the island and took possession of the castle, and, after having killed the disloyal castellan Giusto di Candida with his own hands, left the island under the control of Innico d'Avalos, marquis of Pescara and Vasto, who ably defended the place from the French flotilla. With him came his sister Costanza and through them they founded the D'Avalos dynasty which would last on the island into the eighteenth century.
Throughout the 15th century, the island suffered the incursions of pirates
and Barbary privateers
- in 1543 and 1544 Khair ad Din
, called Barbarossa, laid waste to the island, taking 4,000 prisoners in the process. In 1548 and 1552, Ischia was beset by his successor Dragut Rais
. With the increasing rarity and diminishing severity of the piratical attacks later in the century and the construction of better defenses, the islanders began to venture out of the castle and it was then that the historic centre of the town of Ischia was begun. Even so, many inhabitants still ended up slaves to the pirates, the last known being taken in 1796. During the 1647 revolution of Masaniello
, there was an attempted rebellion against the feudal landowners.
From 18th century until today
With the extinction of the D'Avalos line in 1729, the island reverted to state property. In March, 1734 it was taken by the Bourbons
and administered by a royal governor seated within the castle. The island participated in the short-lived Republic of Naples
starting in March, 1799 but by April 3
, Commodore Trowbridge
- under the command of Lord Nelson
had put down the revolt on Ischia as well as on neighboring Procida
. By decree of the governor, many of the rebels were hung in a square on Procida now called Piazza dei martiri (Square of the Martyrs). Among these was Francesco Buonocore
who had received the island to administer from the French Championnet
in Naples. On February 13
, the island was occupied by the French and on the 24th was unsuccessfully attacked by the English.
On July 28, 1883, an earthquake destroyed the villages of Casamicciola Terme and Lacco Ameno.
In 1936 Ischia had a population of 30,418.
Today, Ischia is a popular tourist destination, welcoming up to 6 million visitors per year, mainly from the Italian mainland as well as Germany (approximately 5,000 Germans are resident on the island), although it has become an increasingly popular destination for the well-to-do Eastern Europeans (particularly Russia and Poland). Ischia is easily reached by ferry from Naples, journey time approx 40 minutes - 1 hour. The number of thermal spas on the islands makes it particularly popular with tourists seeking "wellness" holidays.
Ischia in literature and the arts
classical composer William Walton
settled in Ischia in 1949 and lived on the island for the remainder of his life, dying there in 1983.
In 1948, American author Truman Capote stayed in room number 3 in the Pensione Lustro in the town of Forio on the island. He wrote an essay about his stay there, which later appeared in Local Color, published in 1950 by Random House.
Parts of the Hollywood film The Talented Mr Ripley were filmed on the island. Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen lived on the island for a short period, and is said to have finished Peer Gynt there in 1867. The Hollywood Hit "Crimson Pirates" was also filmed on the island. French novelist Pascal Quignard set much of his book Villa Amalia on the island. Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor was also filmed on the island.
Hergé's The Adventures of Tintin ends in Ischia, which serves as the location of Endaddine Akass's villa in the unfinished book Tintin and Alph-Art.
W.H. Auden wrote his poem "In Praise of Limestone" here.
Castle (Castello Aragonese
, Ischia Ponte) was built in 474 BC
on a rock near the island, by Hiero I of Syracuse
. At the same time, two towers were built to control enemy fleet’s movements. The rock was then occupied by Parthenopeans
(the ancient inhabitants of Naples
). In 326 BC
the fortress was captured by Romans
, and then again by the Parthenopeans. Alfonso V of Aragon
in 1441 connected the rock to the island through a stone bridge instead of a previous wood bridge, and wanted the walls were fortified in order to defend the inhabitants against the raids of pirates
. About in 1700 on the islet, used to live about 2000 families, there was a larisses
Convent, the Abbey of Basilians from Greece, the Bishop and the Seminar, the Prince with a military garrison. On the same rock there were 13 churches. In 1912, the Castle was sold to a private owner. Today the Castle is the most visited monument of the island. You can access the Castle through a tunnel with large openings which let the light enter. Along the tunnel there is a small chapel consecrated to Saint John Joseph of the Cross
(San Giovan Giuseppe della Croce), the patron saint
of the island. Alternatively, a more comfortable access is possible by a modern lift. After arriving outside, it is possible to visit the Church of the Immacolata
and the Cathedral of Assunta
. The first was built in 1737 at the same place where there was a small chapel dedicated to Saint Francis, and closed after the suppression of Convents in 1806 as well as the Nunnery of Clarisses.
Gardens of La Mortella
The gardens, located in Forio-San Francesco, were originally the property of English composer William Walton
. Walton lived in the villa next to the gardens with his Argentinian wife Susanna. When the composer arrived on the island in 1946, he immediately called Russell Page
from England to lay out the garden. Wonderful tropical and Mediterranean plants were planted and some have now reached amazing proportions. The gardens include wonderful views over the city and harbour of Forio. A museum dedicated to the life and work of William Walton now comprises part of the garden complex.
Villa La Colombaia
Villa La Colombaia
is located in Lacco Ameno and Forio territories. Surrounded by a park, the villa (called "The Dovecote") was made by Luigi Patalano
, a famous local socialist
. It is now the seat of a cultural institution and museum dedicated to Luchino Visconti
. The institution promotes cultural activities such as music, cinema, theatre, art exhibitions, work-shops, and cinema reviews. The villa and the park are open to the public.
- Sant'Angelo (Sant'Angelo, in the comune of Serrara-Fontana)
- Maronti Beach (Barano d'Ischia)
- Church of the Soccorso' (Forio)