It’s a good thing that Ischia promises lux hotels with steaming natural hot baths, soothing massages, and meal plans that will leave you lulled into a state of relaxation fit for an Emperor’s consort. Because getting there can present quite a challenge.
If you’re driving to Ischia, you will need to take one of the large Ferry boats, leaving from the Naples port, Calata Porta di Massa. Other clients of mine prefer a private driver from Rome to whisk them right to the port (2 hours travel time). But, if you’re like me, and love train travel (and would rather avoid the roads – and more importantly, the Neapolitan drivers), well then, keep reading.
From Roma Termini or Roma Tiburtina stations you can hop a fast train to Naples that gets you into Napoli Centrale station in 1’15”. There are two companies:
- Trenitalia (whose website juggles between https://www.trenitalia.com and the misnomered https://www.lefrecce.it (a url listed in Marketing textbooks right there with New Coke).
But lately, I have good things to report from Trenitalia: The app is very good and user-friendly, and, once on board, they finally worked out how to let passengers log into wifi without first giving DNA samples and a blood pact with the train conductor. I can attest that since the onset of the internet, around 1990, I finally was able to get online for the very first time in October 2023, a day that will live in history.
- Treno Italo (or…now Italo Treno: https://www.italotreno.it/en) is my train line of choice, both for its supremely easy online booking as well as well-functioning wifi – since it first started operations – and a car exclusively for movie watching with a wide choice of content on offer.
Once you arrive at the Naples station, you head out front to the long line or queue waiting for official (white) taxis [Note: accept a ride from a random guy offering a “taxi” at your own risk – though I believe the City finally cracked down on these posers].
Here is where the fun begins. It’s about a 10 minute ride [10€-13€] to the port. So taxi drivers aren’t happy about a short fare. As a result, they will:
- Cover up their meter and shake you down for €30 upon arrival
- Negotiate a fare like €20 or so
- Run the meter but charge you extra fees for baggage, extra passengers, etc., all illegal.
After running the taxi driver gamut and over-paying their fares, American tourists will feel compelled to leave a generous tip. Just don’t.
The Ferries to Ischia
If you are taking the Ferry (large multi-level boats), they leave from the large port. If you wind up there, but prefer the faster hydrofoils, there’s actually a free shuttle bus running between the two. No need to ask your taxi driver for a lift.
For foot passengers, the hydrofoils leave from nearby Molo Beverello and they’re offered by a number of companies in high season, much fewer from October to March.
There is no need to pre-book a ticket, even if you’re the nervous type…It’s far less nerve wracking (imo) to get your ticket right at the port and walk up to the next hydrofoil or ferry boat departing.
Please keep in mind…hydrofoils are not for the faint of stomach. People who may have motion sickness should probably opt for the ferry boats instead.
Note: No need to book your return passage either. Some people love Ischia so much, they stay a bit longer. So it takes the time pressure off. Seats are on a first come, first served basis. Ask your concierge to pick up tickets for you and provide you with the departure times.
Most of the boats make a first stop on the isle of Procida before heading to one of two ports in Ischia.
For those traveling in high season, and with a good sense of when they might be able to reach the correct port / correct company / correct boat….(you get my drift), you can pre-book boat tickets at: DirectFerries.com (A UK Company, but I use them all over Italy – as they are super-reliable for timetables) or FerryHopper.com (which I’ve never used, but my clients have).
When you arrive at the port area, some people run up to any ticket vendor window. There doesn’t seem to be a discernible terminal / ticketing area for the hydrofoils. You will generally find kind customer service agents who will direct you to the next boat departing.
But if you’re in a pinch and want to make a run for the next boat, you can join a line of passengers boarding and actually purchase your ticket right from the boat purser. As previously stated, it all depends on your comfort (or anxiety) levels whilst traveling.
So, one last important caveat when heading to the ports: Be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecasts – or better yet, look for real time updates by the Port Authority. Choppy waters mean delays or cancellations altogether. This is more of an issue for off-season travel, but a delay can put a dent in your plans.
And what to do if you can’t get to Ischia that day? Treat yourself to a terrific Napoli pizza or a warm plate of spaghetti alle vongole instead. You’ll be able to dip your toes in the volcanic waters and book a much-needed masseuse before long…