Isle of Ischia beaches
Less glamorous (and less expensive) than its near neighbour Capri, Ischia is the largest island in the Bay of Naples. An extinct volcano, Ischia's craggy mountain slopes are covered with pine and chestnut forests, and fragrant Mediterranean scrub. This lush vegetation has earned it the name the 'green isle', and it was used for some scenes in the film The Talented Mr Ripley. The island's main town is Ischia on the east coast: divided into Ischia Porto, the ferry port, and Ischia Ponte, the quieter historic heart. The liveliest resort is Forio in the west. With an abundance of thermal springs, a legacy of its volcanic origins, Ischia has long been famed as a health resort and now the island's main attraction is its many spas.
Ischia has plenty of golden, sandy beaches and 37km (23 miles) of coastline to explore. The best are around the resort of Forio: Citara, to the south, reached by a longish walk along Via G Mazzella, and Chiaia, just a short walk to the north. Further away is San Montano Bay, a strikingly unspoilt bay. Beaches closest to Ischia Porto are the Spiaggia degli Inglese and Spiaggia San Pietro.
The island's main historic attraction is the Castello Aragonese, a medieval castle perched on an islet. It's close to Ischia Ponte and reached by a causeway. Forio has a pleasant historic centre and is close to the lush gardens of La Mortella (Via F Calise), created by the widow of the composer William Walton. Energetic visitors can take a bus to Montana, from where it is possible to walk up Monte Epomeo - the island's extinct volcano.
Although it is primarily a spa resort, Ischia's lovely beaches make it a good holiday destination for families. Pedalo hire is available, and there are water-skiing opportunities as well as clear water for snorkelling. The Museo del Mare (Palazzo dell'Orologio) in Ischia Ponte, is devoted to the life of the sea and should occupy kids for an hour or so. The more gruesome ones will also enjoy the remains of a convent, near the Castello Aragonese. You can see the rooms with seats on which the dead nuns were placed, sitting upright.
The closest place to visit from Ischia is Procida, a small island with several sandy beaches. Ferries also run to the glamorous island of Capri, on the southern side of the Bay of Naples. The best day trip is probably a visit to Naples, no more than a 40-minute hydrofoil ride away. This bustling city has good transport links to historic Pompeii.
Check yourself in to one of Ischia's many spas for a pampering health or beauty treatment. The Mezzatorre Resort (Via Mezzatorre, near Forio) (www.mezzatorre.it) for example, offers one or two-day revitalizing and body purifying treatments.