Friday, August 2, 2013

Mama Mia!

Fellow passengers on the ferry ride over from Naples.

Colorful caftans for sale at Citara spaggia (beach).

Yummy-looking, non-vegan sweets that were the local speciality.

The trip to Ischia was booked on a whim. It seemed like a nice alternative to its more glamorous sister island, Capri, and offered the added perk of thermal springs and lighter crowds. Beaches, too, were a big selling point (I swear I'll stop talking about sun, sea, and sand soon), but Italy wouldn't be nearly so tempting were it not for its most celebrated contribution to global culinary culture: Pizza. The combination of a crispy, chewy crust, salty tomato sauce, and olive oil is perpetual allure on a plate, and I couldn't wait to eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

The food of the (Roman) gods?
A two-hour hop by plane from Paris and a one-hour ferry ride from Naples later, there we were, deep in emphatic-hand-gesture land, surrounded by people who really do shout "mama mia!" with dramatic flair. We worked our way across the island to our funky hotel, where we were booked in a studio that came with a well-equipped kitchen and a spacious patio with room enough for a table, chairs, and giant umbrella to shade us from the fiery summer sun.

Ischia's picturesque port.
The chickens--no, make that roosters--were an unexpected surprise at our seaside lodgings. We might not have known they were there were it not for the round-the-clock cock-a-doodle-dooing. And the resident dog, who had a penchant for barking--loudly and on end--never failed to rouse Fanny into joining the chorus. (We're still debating whether we prefer the domestic barnyard cacophony or the symphony of screaming baby noises that blare night and day back at home.)

Noisy beasts aside, relaxation came easy on Ischia. You can't help but sync with island time when everyone around you is doing the same, and that means taking it easy during the hottest part of the day, swimming, sunning, eating, reading, writing--but definitely not working.  The best way to spend a day or a week or a lifetime on an island in the Mediterranean involves the following, in no particular order:

- eat like locals do, which, in this case, meant anything dressed with perfect, sun-ripened tomatoes

Mama mia! How can something so simple taste so flipping good?
The mobile fruit-and-veg stand near our guest house.

Our local pizzeria, wedged into the rocks next to our favorite beach (which WASN'T the crowded one seen here)
A few varieties of tomatoes at the local market
Homemade lunch on the patio.

- lap up the sunshine until your skin turns a much deeper shade of whatever you had do begin with

A heated game of football on the beach--pun totally intended.

Working on my tan and enjoying the views.

- drink what the locals drink, aka vino rosso e bianco, or elixirs made from artichokes or lemons

(Or, Campari-and-soda sold in little bottles like this)

- take post-siesta strolls through the cobbled pedestrian promenade of the old city center

One of Forio's many squares that come alive at night
One of the town's prettier churches

The evening stroll is an important local ritual
Forio is a study in ochre, terracotta, and sandy white
Pretty heavenly.

- eat pizza with artichokes

Artichokeylicious pizza

I could get used to this
- leap off of slippery sea-rocks into the clear, green, super-salty water

Come swim with me!
This is what 7pm should always look like.

- soak in a pool filled with thermal water from dormant volcanoes
A view over the hot pool to the Ischian mountain tops.
Practicing for a Palm Springs retirement, Italian style.
I loved the hotel's old-school hacienda vibe
- wander into shops and make impulse buys that you will never regret, even if it was a lot of money

Why yes, I did by this awesome vintage sign!

Where's your favorite place to travel? What do you like to do there? What do you eat and drink? Give me inspiration for my next trip!


  1. You make vicarious living easy. Just wish I could taste elixir of artichoke.

    1. I wish I'd tried it, too! I do know that it's bitter--one of the tastes the Italians really appreciate. Maybe I'll buy a bottle and share the experience here, if you can stand a bit of vicarious drinking!

  2. Gorgeous! I so want to go back to Italia. What a dolce vita.


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