Location Temptation :: Ischia, A Timeless Island

There are certain destinations in Italy that everyone knows by name. But when we started doing retreats in Ischia 8 years ago, no one was very familiar with this island. That’s changing, but lucky for us, the secret’s not totally out yet!

Ischia is a tiny island in the Gulf of Naples. While jet setters around the world plan vacations to the Amalfi Coast, Italians flock to the more relaxed Ischia, known as '“the green island.” While Jackie O was making Capri her holiday locale, Ischia has been favored by celebrities for decades: from Liz Taylor and Richard Burton to Jennifer Lopez and Nicole Kidman, the seclusion and tranquility of the less touristy Ischia are a huge draw.

The town of Ischia Ponte, as seen from Castello Aragonese

The town of Ischia Ponte, as seen from Castello Aragonese

Known for its thermal waters and volcanic mud, people have come here since Roman times for healing. Its spas, parks and wellness centers have made this a therapeutic destination, once prescribed by doctors. From steam rooms to hot springs to mud treatments, you can go home feeling like a new person!

Originally settled by the Greeks, according to ancient legend, the island was created when Zeus and the Titan monster Tifeo clashed. For many years it remained a sleepy fishing and agriculture base and was still relatively underdeveloped until the 1950s, when a publisher named Angelo Rizzoli saw the island’s potential and built hotels, spas and a hospital to create the infrastructure for growth. (In fact, our host hotel on retreat is one of Rizzoli’s creations!) His plan worked, and the island grew in popularity, leading to a boom in tourism and industry.

The town of Lacco Ameno, Alamy Stock Photos.

The town of Lacco Ameno, Alamy Stock Photos.

If the island looks familiar to you, it’s most likely because it became a popular filming location after Rizzoli’s development. In addition to many Italian films, scenes from Cleopatra were filmed on the island in 1963!

Film still from Cleopatra with Taylor + Burton

Film still from Cleopatra with Taylor + Burton

Perhaps most well known is the film The Talented Mr. Ripley, starring Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, when Ischia stood in for the fictional ‘Mongibello.’ The island was a perfect filming location for a movie set in the 1950s, due to its timeless nature. (To this day, the beach used in the iconic green bathing suit beach scene is relatively unchanged.)

Film still from The Talented Mr. Ripley

Film still from The Talented Mr. Ripley

In addition, a film version of Elena Ferrante’s novel My Brilliant Friend was just produced by HBO, which is set in Naples and Ischia! From travel magazines to Paltrow’s wellness site GOOP to the rise of Instagram influencers, this island wlll not be our little secret for much longer. But while it’s still a less touristy location, we will enjoy our solitude.

Film still from Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend

Film still from Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend

This island has so much to offer. There are small, endearing towns where you can shop from local artisans for leather goods and specialty liqueurs. (In addition to the region’s limoncello, the island makes an arugula based amaro called rucolino!) You can enjoy fresh caught seafood, try Michelin star restaurants and visit terraced hillside wineries that have been a staple of the island since roughly 700BC. There are volcanic mountains to hike, botanical gardens to stroll…and let’s not forget the beautiful Castle Aragonese to explore! The multitude of hot springs and spas offer a multitude of ways to relieve stress and ailments.

But mostly, this island is a true respite. The beaches and towns offer a quiet space to lay back, read a book and slow down. It’s a chance to go back in time, to a simpler, slower pace and way of life, a perfect place to practice mindfulness and presence.

We invite you to join our retreat to Ischia this fall!