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Ischia, Province of Napoli, Campania

The main center on the volcanic island of Ischia in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the biggest island in the bay of Naples belonging to the Flegree Group at the northern end of the Gulf, considered to be the most beautiful.
The town is divided into Ischia Ponte and Ischia Porto. Its main industry is tourism, centering on thermal facilities and the astounding beauty of the surroundings, as well as a wealth of art and music events, crafts and food fairs, traditional markets all the year round.

Info

  • Population: about 17,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 80077
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 081
  • Patron Saint: St. Giovan Giuseppe della Croce, celebrated on 5 march
  • Frazioni & Localities: Campagnano, San Domenico, San Michele, Sant'Antuono.

The Territory

The island of Ischia can be reached by ferry, about 17.5 miles from Naples, and has an area of 46.3 km2; it spans around 10 km East to West and 7 km North to South with a 34 km coastline; it is almost entirely mountainous with the highest peak being Mt. Epomeo at 788 meters. Italians like the island for its volcanically-driven thermal spas and as well as its beaches and food.

History - Antiquity

The current name appears for the first time in a letter from Pope Leo III to Charlemagne in 813 as "iscla"(=island) though there is a possible Semitic origin from "I-schra" (=black island). It is unknown whether the island was inhabited in the prehistoric period.

In the 8th century BC Ischia was settled by Greeks from Euboea who called it Pithecoussai (Island of the Monkeys). The ceramic Euboean artifact "Nestor's cup" was discovered in a grave on the island in 1953, with a few lines written in the Cumae alphabet. Dating from 730 BC, it is the oldest written reference to Homer's Iliad.

In 474 BC Hiero I of Syracuse came to the aid of the Cumeans against the Etruscans and occupied Ischia leaving behind a garrison to build a fortress before the city of Ischia itself. The Romans seized Naples and Ischia in 322 BC, and called it Aenaria.

History - the Middle Ages

Ischia suffered from the barbarian invasions, being taken first by the Heruli then by the Ostrogoths, and finally absorbed into the Eastern Roman Empire. The Byzantines gave the island over to Naples in 588 and by 661 it was being administered by 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, was raided by the Pisans in 1135 and 1137 and subsequently fell under the Swabians and then Angevin rule.

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, sent by Charles II from the Holy See to govern the island in 1306 who was, by this time, nearly 100 years of age.

In 1422 Joan II gave the island to her adoptive son Alfonso V of Aragon. In 1438 Alfonso 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 1464 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, then left the island under the control of Innico D'Avalos, Marquis of Pescara and del Vasto. With him came his sister Costanza and through them they founded the D'Avalos dynasty which would last on the island into the 1700's.

History - Modern Times

Throughout the 15th century, the island suffered raids of pirates. With the construction of better defenses, the islanders began to venture out of the castle and at that time the historic center of the town of Ischia was begun. With the extinction of the D'Avalos line in 1729, the island reverted to state property. In 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 in March 1799 but in April Commodore Trowbridge under the command of Lord Nelson put down the revolt on Ischia. Many of the rebels were hung in a square on Procida now called Piazza dei Martiri.

What to see

  • The Castello Aragonese at Ischia Ponte, a most striking monument about 113 meters high, built on an islet near Ischia Ponte to which it is connected by a stone bridge. The castle was built in 1441 by Alfonso D'Aragona on top of the ruins of an old fort dated 474 BC, to protect the population from pirate attacks,.
  • The Guevara or Michelangelo's Tower, one of the best known symbols of the island, just in front of the Castle, rebuilt on the ruins of an ancient fortress, likely one of the defence towers built from the XV century as a protection against pirates. The tower derives its name from the Dukes of Guevara, the owners since the beginning of 1800. Its second name derives from a legend which tells that Michael Angelo, a friend of the poet Vittoria Colonna, stayed in the tower when he was visiting the island.
  • The Bay of Saint Montano with the thermal park of the Negombo, with clear sea water, very warm and shallow;
  • The beach of Cartaromana located between the Castello Aragonese and the Sant'Anna cliffs, renowned for its natural hot thermal watersprings spilling out on the shore, allowing tourists to swim in the sea in winter too.
  • The 3km-long beach at Marina dei Maronti, near the hamlet of Barano, the largest on the island, full of thermal springs, natural spas and fumaroles; the beach can be reached by a charming panoramic road or taking a water taxi from the picturesque port of Sant’Angelo.

Events

    Every month of the year there musical events and festivals, as well as the handicrafts markets in the historical center and sports events.
  • Easter Monday: Festa della Ndrezzata held in the village of Buonopane, near Barano, a typical folk dance taking the form of a rhythmic, picturesque fight where the dancers are dressed in traditional island costumes and fight each other with wooden swords.
  • June, Ischia Film Festival, a cinema festival with premieres and retrospective themes dedicated to films located in Europe, especially Italy.
  • July, Vinischia, dedicated to food and wine and Campania regional crafts at Torre Guevara, Ischia Ponte, a festival with shows, concerts and dances, food and wine tastings.
  • 26 July, Festa di Sant'Anna in Ischia Porto with a sea parade of picturesque boats from the island's various boroughs and also from Procida, under the Castello Aragonese, ending with a prize-giving ceremony and fireworks.
  • August and September: Settembre sul Sagrato, a festival held at Piazzale Battistessa opposite the Church of San Pietro, with painting exhibitions, parades of traditional costumes, wine tasting, fagiolate (bean stew tasting), concerts and shows.

[the text above is freely derived from Wikipedia and is subject to the GNU licence]

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