Ischia, Italy’s Gem.
Everyone has memories of their “first times.” There’s your first kiss, your first speech, your first time on stage, your first new years, your first taste of freedom. For me, Ischia was an island of many firsts. Ischia is an island located on the western edge of the Gulf of Naples. While prices on the island can be a little steep, I would say that Ischia is a must for any traveler. After spending two weeks travelling down from Northern Italy, stopping in all of the top Italian cities, I was eager to spend some time with nothing but beach, sun, and ocean. On June 27, 2010, I said goodbye to my two friends in Naples and boarded a ferry that would take me away on my own. This was my first venture alone in Italy and though I was beyond excited, I couldn’t help but let myself think of all the what if’s running through my mind. By the time I stepped onto solid ground, my hands were shaky and all I could think about was that I had no idea what to do next. Backpack strapped to my back, I stood in the middle of the port for a good fifteen minutes before walking.
While Ischia will always be one of my favorite adventures, it was an adventure that started off pretty overwhelming. Finding the hostel was an experience in itself. After getting lost trying to find the bus stop, completely forgetting to buy a bus ticket resulting in the bus driver yelling at me in angry Italian in front of the other fifty bodies squished in amongst me, and spending another hour wandering through back alleys in search of The Ring Hostel, I finally arrived. I was greeted before I even stepped through the doors by a young, charming Italian man who goes by the name Lorenzo. His firm handshake, comforting smile and laid back persona made me feel instantly relieved and put me in a much better mood.
The Ring Hostel, in Forio, is one of the best hostels I’ve been to. Run by Lorenzo and his two brothers, the hostel is geared toward young budget travellers and is within walking distance to beaches, restaurants and bus stops. Every evening, Lorenzo or one of his brothers would pick up those of us staying in the hostel and drive us to their family’s restaurant. Be warned if you do accept a ride: you will want to close your eyes and hang on for dear life, but it’s an exhilarating ride none the less! If you are someone looking for interactive hosts, clean and comfortable budget accommodation, and a place that simply feels like home in a foreign country, I would highly recommend The Ring Hostel.
Those words embody everything that Ischia is. It was on this island that I had many of my own “firsts”. My first time swimming in the ocean, my first time being passenger in a small, overcrowded car speeding down the narrow alleys, my first time drinking red wine, my first experience in a volcanic hot spring(Sorgeto Hot Springs in Forio), my first beach bonfire. The list goes on.
Although many young travelers come here because Ischia is so eloquently nicknamed the “Party Island,” there is so much more to it than that. People of all ages could find something of interest here. Unfortunately, everything exciting costs money, and money was not something I had at the time, but there are endless possibilities. Renting boats, sailing, exploring gardens and mountains and beaches. The locals are friendly and inviting, willing to help you the best they can with the language barrier. The men, for example, are much more polite than the ones I experienced in the big cities.