Picture this: I’m sitting down in a somewhat-sauna-looking-room, a towel wrapped around my waist. A swirling fog of mist and steam makes me feel like this is something out of a dream. All the while, a certified masseuse is covering me from head to tow in greenish clay-like mud. Welcome to the thermal spa’s of Ischia Island, baby! It doesn’t get any better then this.
Ischia, the largest island off the coast of Naples, Italy. Forty six square miles of fun-in-the sun. One of triad of volcanic islands that sit in the Gulf of Naples, its thermo-mineral hot springs; make Ischia one of the most renowned health and vacation resorts of the world.
Ischia – along with the other two islands – sit just 45 minutes off the coast of Naples:
– Capri – known for its VIP’s and expensive holiday villas that cater to the rich and famous.
– Procida, well known for its trekking opportunities and beaches
– Ischia, famous for its “Terme” or natural steam and mud baths.
Sure you can spend your time sightseeing on the mainland. Spend a day hiking to the top of Mt. Vesuvius and hope it doesn’t erupt before you reach the top. Nothing wrong with that. But for something completely different – why not hop a ferryboat to the island of Ischia and treat yourself to a soothing sauna/massage treatment or hot mud bath! Are you with me? Come onÃ¢Â?Â¦!!
Your first order of business is getting there. The port of Naples is the most popular point of departure. But if you want to get a jump on things and avoid a lot of long lines and confusion, the nearby city of Pozzuoli is the debarkation point-of-choice for spa-lovers.
My recommendation is to get your tickets ahead of time at any number of local travel offices (check out Coco La Palm, Via N.Fasano 32, (+39) 0818531469 ). If you purchase at the port ticket counter, again arrive early and you’ll enjoy the flexibility of choosing your departure time. As a rule, the family and I try to arrive in Pozzuoli around 8am. That gives me time to park the car in a safe place, purchase tickets for the 9:10 ferry boat, and still have time left over for a walk or a cappuccino.
The island of Ischia beckons. Go by foot or take your car. For my money it’s more convenient to pay the single passenger fare (30 euro round-trip) rather than pay the additional money for a vehicle (60 euro round trip). Apart from saving a few bucks, the roads on Ischia are narrow and always congested (especially during the summer). It’s much easier to hoof it. You can get anywhere you need to on foot, and if you have to go any great distance; a tricycle cab is only about 5 euro.
Ferry boats leave the port of Pozzuoli every 50 minutes, every day of the week. You’re free to get some sun on the deck or sit indoors and enjoy the air conditioning. The trip to Ischia lasts less than an hour. There are 3 different ferries. While one is departing Pozzuoli, another is departing Ischia while yet another takes a more circuitous route hopping from island to island.
And now a few words about mud baths.
Why mud? And why mud on Ischia? A long time ago the Greeks or the Romans or whoever was hanging out in Ischia was on to something. As Ischia was a volcanic island the “hot mud” that was indicative of such a place was found to be relaxing, cleansing and detoxifying. Now, how the heck someone had it in his mind to wipe hot mud all his body is beyond me. But I can tell you this: when you’re covered in mud you perspire like a race horse. And all that perspiration flushes your body of impurities, oil and dirt and anything else you have tucked away. Mud baths are known to increase blood circulation, and tone up the body. Men and women who suffer from muscular aches and arthritis seem to find a mud bath particularly soothing. Once you’re covered, you let it stand for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour., and afterwards you’re sprayed off with warm water.
In most establishments in Ischia, you either pay “by the service” or pay a one-time cover charge that allows you to enjoy several treatments over the course of your stay. I have found that most massage/mud bath combo’s can be yours for about 30 euro. And that same price allows you to bask in a hot tub as well.
The off-season lasts from mid-January until late April. Travelers can get great “Spa Weekends” for less than 200 dollars which will include 2 days and 1 night in a 4 start hotel, meals and a massage or mud bath. Check out the internet (a great site to find “spa holidays” is: www.ischiatravelweb.it), but virtually every travel agency I’ve ever been to will post these weekend or weekday deals in their store-front windows.
There are dozens of thermal spas in and around Ischia. Here are some of my favorites:
Ischia Thermal Center (Via delle Terme, 15 Ischia, Tel.39-081-984376) is a modern, fully – equipped complex situated in the center of Ischia They have a great staff and offer a wide range of services besides just a mud bath. The center has a great reputation as “rehabilitation complex” almost more than a vacation site.
Hotel Le Querce (Via B. Cossa, 55, Tel. +39.081.982378) This is a relatively new hotel and sits only about 100 meters from the beach. Great panoramic view of the Gulf of Naples. Two “thermal” swimming pools and a fully equipped “beauty farm”.
Hotel Cristallo Palace Terme(Casamicciola Terme, Via Eddomade, 1, Tel. 081994377). Located on the north face of the island, in the port city most famous for its thermal baths. Three “thermal Swimming pools’ and a wide range of beauty farm accommodations. The city of Casamicciola Terme is also a great vacation spot for those wanting to do more than sit in a tub of mud.
You won’t spend ALL your time at the spa, and that’s a good thing. Ischia has lots to offer visitors. Clean beaches, great restaurants, shopping and a decent nightlife. But those are stories for another day (after all, I want you coming back for more!) The unfortunate part about “just passing through” is your overall limited time. When you’re in a “visitor’ status you just can’t do it all. The best you can hope for is (apart from taking my advice) is to try to do some research ahead of time, scout around with your tour operator or on-line (again, a great site is: www.ischiatravelweb.it) and look for the best deals out there. And believe me, they ARE there!
Ischia Island. Who’d have thought being covered in mud could be so much fun!