The island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples, is more than colorful palazzi and vertiginous lanes: It’s a renowned hydrotherapy site with volcano-heated waters thought to have great curative powers.
It was raining when we arrived on the ever-so-charming island of Ischia for the first time. An incredibly fragrant and beautiful smell of jasmine overwhelmed us as we stepped off the ferry. Despite the rain, the majestic nature of this little island was immediately apparent. With a history spanning more than 2,000 years, Ischia has an abundance of art and architecture at its core. While exploring Ischia by local bus, we passed by spectacular old palazzi, some built in the 1700s, together with cute and colorful fisherman houses and old castles. Many local Ischians we met have lived on the island forever – never leaving –, extremely proud and passionate about their island and its history.
We oftentimes heard Ischia referred to as the more relaxed and somewhat less pretentious version of its glitzy neighbor, Capri. And yes, we certainly concur. Where Capri is all dolled-up and fancy, Ischia is casual and laid-back. Ischia is also home to its famed natural thermal spas and healing waters. It was the Romans that created these thermal baths way back when, cleverly pumping the naturally hot water into cavernous rock saunas or grottos - thermal water that, when heated by volcanic action, became known as radioactive and therefore excellent for treating all sorts of health ailments, including rheumatism.
At the five-star Terme Manzi Hotel & Spa, housed in an impressive 1800s architectural treasure of a building in the charming little village of Casamicciola, guests are encouraged to experience a treatment at the hotel’s renowned thermal spa. With direct access to their very own natural thermal spring “del Gurgitello” (dating back to the Roman age), the spa covers a massive 1,600-square-meter space inside the hotel and features swimming pools, a fitness area, and exclusive face/body treatments and wellness rituals. After a consultation with the hotel’s in-house doctor to ensure we were suitable for the Mud Therapy treatment, we were lucky enough to enjoy a 15-minute Full Body Thermal Mud Therapy (only performed in the mornings), where thermal mud was applied to our bodies - along the entire spine and on a variety of pressure points. An unusual feeling, but a relaxing one, and a treatment that is incredibly powerful and popular for treating ailments of the bones and joints, metabolic imbalances, and inflammations. The Mud Therapy was then followed by a Thermal Hydro-Massage - a 20-minute bath in pure thermal waters. With their extraordinary therapeutic properties, the thermal waters were jet-pressured throughout the bath to stimulate venous circulation while easing heavy and swollen legs, while firming, toning, and relaxing the muscles. The final part of the journey was a 30-minute circulatory massage, which was heavenly. The ideal finale to the therapeutic sequence.
Together with the beautiful Italian-tiled floors and private balconies off each suite, and an excellent dining offering as well, the Terme Manzi was a wonderful accommodation experience.
While on the island, if you are looking to try out some additional thermal spas, we recommend paying a visit to both Negombo and Poseidon. We also recommend going to the spectacular Castello Aragonese (a must) – a privately-owned property since 1912 – and the La Mortella Garden (just be sure to check the opening hours before you go). This beautiful garden was created by Argentinian Susana Walton, wife of the composer Sir Willian Walton. Lastly, and if you are up for a challenge, we highly recommend the hike up to Mount Epomeo. Starting from the tiny village of Fontana, it is a steep and rather challenging 30-minute scramble up, but the views are most certainly worth it.