This week’s dream: Elena Ferrante’s island escape
A captivating tale of friendship is luring a new generation of visitors to the Italian island of Ischia, said Joy Wang in the Los Angeles Times. This “vibrant, accessible paradise” in the Gulf of Naples “received its first dose of glamour in the 1960s when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were photographed kissing here.” Interest in Ischia has been revived by Elena Ferrante’s best-selling novel My Brilliant Friend—the first volume of her Neapolitan quartet—because the book’s narrator, Elena, visits Ischia the first time she leaves her hardscrabble Naples neighborhood. Inspired by Ferrante, five friends and I recently rented an apartment hidden off a winding sidewalk in Ischia Porto, the island’s main town. We followed no itinerary during our four-day stay. When we weren’t dining out or relaxing at the many hot springs, we swam at a small white-sand beach outside our rental.
Using our broken Italian, we arranged a taxi ride from Ischio Porto to the thermal springs at Sorgeto, on the island’s southwest side. In My Brilliant Friend, Elena says that Ischia revealed to her “the joy of the new,” and I felt that joy as I descended the 214 steps to join Italian tourists “soaking in the springs amid sharp, slippery rocks” and smearing themselves with gray mud. At spa complexes like Negombo Thermal Gardens, “a more lavish way to experience Ischia’s heated water” can be found. More than a dozen pools and showers are scattered about Negombo’s lush grounds, and from its long, shallow private beach adults and kids can wade far out into the sea. “A visit there can easily take an entire day.”
From Sorgeto, we hopped on a boat to the hip beach town of Sant’Angelo. Wandering the streets, we sipped Aperol Spritzes as the sun sank lazily into the Mediterranean. Our nights in Ischia Porto were similarly relaxed affairs. We perused the stores along Via Roma, or strolled the waterfront along Via Porto. Then, like true Italians, we’d enjoy a late meal of fresh seafood—maybe octopus, fried whole small fish, or spaghetti with clams. We lingered over wine, our conversation “punctuated by the occasional blast of a ship’s horn or the heavy rumble of a ferry drawing anchor.”
At Hotel della Baia (baiahotel.com/en), located at Negombo Thermal Gardens, doubles start at $165 per person.