Top Five Thermal Spas of Ischia
When I was a child my junior lifeguard program used to take these crazy day trips to our local water park, Wild Rivers. Every suburban American town has a variant of my Wild Rivers- usually located off a freeway overpass and boasting skyscraper tangles of industrial tubing suspiciously doubling as waterslides. The names of said water parks often feature an alliterative word combination of a swashbuckling adjective followed by an exciting reference to water. For example—Raging Waters (A+ for the audacious adjective use, C- for the unimaginative reference to water as well, water) or Boomerang Bay (not really sure what the boomerang is referring to but A+ for the bold use of alliteration) or Wet ‘n Wild! (which is both classically alliterative and vaguely sexual).
These are all real water park names mind you—I actually googled them for inspiration. Were I to be tasked with naming American water parks I might employ a Plathian Lugubrious Lakes or a Byronesque Serenity Springs or even better, in the spirit of Poe, I might call my water park Farewell Falls. The best-named park in the United States is, apropos of nothing, Dolly Parton’s straightforward Splash Country Water Adventure Park. I have never been there before, but as far as I am concerned, Dolly Parton can do no wrong. I am also sure that both water and adventure can be had at her park as promised.
All of that is to say, I as many of my peers, have rather outgrown the swarms of children, urine saturated lazy rivers and claustrophobic abyss tube water slides that can be found in American aquatic theme parks. The food at these places is predictably crap. So are the bathrooms- but who needs a toilet when you can defecate in chlorine drenched man-made bodies of water as God and Poseidon intended.
Unsurprisingly, Wild Rivers and waterparks in general no longer hold their siren call over me. But I still love water. And I still love bathing in it until my fingers turn into shriveled facsimiles of old man nut sacks. And that is why any adult who has matured beyond the urine carnival that is the suburban American waterpark will love the Phlegraean island of Ischia and its thermal baths. That and you can bet your fingers will look like geriatric testicles on Ischia too! Just minus the constitutional dip into a pool filled with toddler urine.
Since when the Greeks arrived on Ischia about 3,000 years ago, the Island has been highly prized for her volcanic waters. The Romans created thermal baths in grottos here cleverly pumping bubbling naturally hot water into cavernous rock saunas. After both world wars, veterans came to Ischia seeking rest and relaxation. Today, the island’s famous thermal baths feature fresh and saltwater pools as well as water and mud treatments of every type imaginable. That is not to mention access to the best water therapy there is- the beach! Below you will find my top five thermal parks on Ischia.
An aquatic paradise with private access to Citara beach, Poseidon has three massive saltwater pools, an indoor pool, saunas, Turkish baths and my favorite- the alternative Kneipp therapy system. The Kneipp therapy pools which require alternating between 40 degree Celsius Jacuzzis and 14 degree Celsius cold baths are what really make me love Poseidon. There are several -all perched high above the park with striking views of Citara beach. Poseidon also has a day spa for those seeking more intensive treatments. There are no shortage of thermal spas in Ischia- but Poseidon is both the largest and has the best beach access. Sunset on this side of the Island is not until after 8PM in the summer months. Plan on spending an entire day here. Also, be forewarned the food is shit here and you cannot bring in outside food (I know because I tried to sneak in a prosciutto sandwich once). The main self-service cafeteria Il Fauno offers flaccid Caprese salads and soggy pastas. From June until September, head to the smaller Grotta del Vino and order a mixed meat and cheese plate and a bottle of Casa D’Ambra Biancolella d’Ischia wine. The view from the Grotta is also amazing. Lastly, do not forget to wait precisely one hour after eating before swimming again. As any Italian will matter-of-factly tell you- certain death awaits if you swim too soon after eating!
COST: 33 EURO for all day access; 28 EURO for half-day access; 7 EURO for evening garden visit (don’t bother with this!) You must wear a bathing cap when accessing pools. Rental robes are available for 7 EURO. I do not suggest this. Bring your own robe if you must.
HOURS: April-October, 8:30AM-7PM
Located in the town of Casamicciola, Castiglione historically offered water therapy to tubercular patients and convalescing war veterans across Italy- and this was paid for by the State! To this day, many visit Castiglione for medical reasons (my visits are perhaps more leisurely but no less salubrious). The nice thing about Castiglione is that it also has lodging so if you are seeking an all-inclusive, stress-free trip to Ischia come to Castiglione and don’t leave for the duration of your stay on the island. Castiglione is smaller than Poseidon but in some ways more charming. It features 10 pools, including an Olympic size saltwater pool, 8 thermal pools, Kneipp therapy, saunas and Turkish baths. Bring a doctor’s note if you want to visit the spa for more intensive treatments including mud therapy and Ischia water inhalation. If not, prepare to pay 40 Euro to visit and onsite physician. Another plus for Castiglione, the food here is excellent.
COST: 27 EURO for all day access; 23 EURO for half-day access; Nightly hotel stays with all meals included range from 80 EURO per person in the low season and up to 150 EURO in the high season.
HOURS: April-October, 8:30AM-7PM
With private access to a secluded beach in the town of Lacco Ameno, Negombo is the new kid on the thermal park bloc and it shows—in a good way. The complex is ultra modern and features an haute cuisine kitchen in additional to the more traditional thermal baths. All of the typical treatments including Kneipp therapy and saltwater pools are available here. Many of the pools are built into natural rock outcroppings making a visit here all the more romantically suggestive. As a park, it is perhaps slightly more architecturally stunning than Poseidon. At the same time, the beach being more secluded here also receives less natural sunlight. The food here is vastly superior to that offered at Poseidon and is likely the best of all the thermal parks on the Island.
COST: 32 EURO for all day access; 25 EURO after 1PM; 16 EURO after 3:30PM
HOURS: April-October, 8:30AM-7:00PM
You come here for the unparalleled views of the Castello Aragonese and a day of complete relaxation. It is both a hotel and beach club with a perfectly lovely restaurant serving typical local cuisine including mussels, spaghetti and clams and wine from the nearby vineyard Tommasone. There are three saltwater pools, 1 freshwater pool, Turkish baths and a sauna. It is notably smaller than the three crown jewels of Ischia’s thermal parks: Poseidon, Castiglione and Negombo. It is also remarkably cheaper and boasts that iconic view of the castle. Giardino Eden is also a hotel and with easy access to the nearby port, it is the ideal location for a quick mini-break.
COST: 20 EURO for all day access; 16 EURO for half-day access; Nightly hotel stays with all meals included range from 80 EURO per person in the low season and up to 150 EURO in the high season.
HOURS: April-October 9AM-7PM
This place is lit. These are the remains of ancient Roman thermal baths and it is weird here- freaky even. There are no modern pools here. You take baths in personal tubs carved out of the side of a cave and they pump hot spring water into your tub. The staff here walks you through the suggested route. You begin with a hot spring shower, a cold shower and a 10-minute schvitz in the cave sauna, which is hotboxed with the insanely hot vapors of the nearby spring pumped into the grotta. The suggestion is to repeat this cycle three times and then there is the inhalation station- basically a curtain over a rock window where you inhale the steam of another hot spring. After all of this, I suggest having the famous Ischia fangoterapia or mud therapy before your personal tub soak. The muds of Ischia are mineral rich and detoxifying. A mud specialists paints it all over your body and then you bake on a deck until you look like an aging Shrek- I did all of this while sipping a glass of falanghina, which my boyfriend sagely pointed out would likely counteract all of the rejuvenating aspects of the morning’s hydrotherapy- to which I said tant pis! Drinking wine is its own kind of hydrotherapy. After your schvitz and spritz- take a soak in you private stone tub. The staff suggests a 30-minute soak so I prepared by ordering falanghina, olives and demanding that someone bring my cellphone so I could simultaneously check up on Blac Chyna’s pregnancy by an 18 year-old rapper. Shit is lit folks. I can fux the way the Romans did it at Cavascura. They probably even had their own Blac Chyna scandal to gossip about in the day. And the tub side falanghina service is just what this doctor ordered.
COST: Access to the saunas and showers are included in the price of selected treatment. Treaments start at 14 EURO for a simple tub soak. I suggest the tub and mud treatment which is 28 EURO and does not require a doctor’s note, thank God!
HOURS: April-October 9AM-7PM