The Epic Adventure of Ischia

For my own part, it began much to early...
N jumped on me at 4:30 am on Friday morning, while the few Geneva students who had not traveled to Milan or Budapest still slept. Very sanely, they slept…and very insanely, N woke me up. Rolling over, I groaned, but she continued to shake me and chant in a high pitched whisper, “ We are going to an island!” I wanted to curse all morning people, at that moment in time, and shrink from her excessive perkiness, but instead, I gave her a tired nod of my head, half a smile, and got out of bed. After all, I thought to myself once I had fully regained consciousness, we were travelling to an island in the Mediterranean for the weekend. An island; what a happy thought indeed.

Bus 90 was late arriving at the stop in front of the convent, and so we began our trip running. (Not that I blame it…were I a bus I would have no desire to be punctual at 5:15am either). Our bus pulled into Termini at 5:40am. Our train was scheduled to leave at 5:41am. We ran. Backpacks slapping at our hips and tickets held high in the air. I spotted the train at platform nine, and we hopped on the last car 50 seconds before the wheels began to turn on the tracks. We collapsed into a fit of giggles as we sat down in the nearly empty car and thanked God for helping us catch our train. For the next three hours we slept, until the train pulled into the Naples train station and we truly began our adventure.

This was my second trip to Naples, and I had hoped that it my opinion of it would improve upon this second acquaintance. Not so. Naples is dirty, unfriendly and grey, and the looming buildings are covered in a thick cloud of smog and smoke. Standing on the deck of the ferry, we were not sad to leave this coastal city. 

One hour and twenty minutes later, we arrived in Ischia. The ferry slowed and the majority of passengers crowded the step stairwell, preparing to disembark as soon as was possible. E, N and I, however, clung to the railing and hung out over the side of the boat as high mountains and colourful island hills, swathed in cotton fog loomed before us. White, flat-roofed buildings nestled up the sides of the hills, and narrow streets inched their war around the stone abodes in seemingly random patterns with no rhyme or reason to the construction. It was beautiful, and charming. 

Carefully, we climbed down the ramp leading off the ferry. Salty mist blew off the water and fisherman stood on decks of their small wooden boats, shouting across the cove to their friends. A wheelbarrow of ice and pesce had spilled on the side of the dock and we sidestepped the poor creatures still flipping their fins and slowly walked to the bus stop, with eyes wide open and breathing in deeply.

We crossed the island by bus to a down called Forio along the western coastline. The buss looped its way along the jagged coastline, along high roads with sudden drops and through narrow streets lined with fuchsia bougainvillea and grapes vines. With precise footing, we exited the bus, and looking around us, we sighed. Boats lined along the docks, protruding form the road like an octopus’s many tentacles and the sun shone off the blue and white exteriors. As we walked down the narrow cobblestones streets we passes shops full of hanging garlic and crates of lemons, and in the windows, bottles of the island’s famous limoncello were displayed in slim glass bottles. Compared to the hustle and bustle of Rome, Ischia was incredibly quiet. There was a stillness that touched your very soul, and we has calm smiles on our faces as we trekked our way up the mountain to our hostel.

Friday afternoon we swam in the Mediterranean and slept on the beach. That evening the owner of our hostel drove us to his Mama’s restaurant and we ate eggplant parmigianno, delicious pasta and succulent seafood with two travelers from Australia until the restaurant closed and we were asked to leave. We were full, happy and slept soundly once we returned to our beds. 

Saturday was a day that I can better describe in one word than in 500: It was unbelievable. E, N and I decided to climb to the top of the mountain in the center of the island. The locals said that we could see Naples and Capri from there and loading our camera’s in our bags, we ventured off. 

Somehow we never quite made it. Two wrong buses and a long walk later, we found ourselves on the peninsular of San Angelo, at the southern most part of the island, the central mountain looming high above and far away from us. But San Anglo was charming as well, and we decide do walk down the streets and see what we could find. What we found was breathtaking.

An outcropping of rocks stretch far out into the sea, away from land, and we climbed up, over and around them till we were sitting on a cliff looking down at the blue green sea splash and foam around the jetty below. Behind us sat the town nestled between mountain and sand, and there on the rocks we were utterly alone. The sea breeze blew through our hair as we sat and talked, prayed and though, watched and listened, breathing in deeply the clear island air and closing our eyes as the sun warmed the rocks on which we sat. For hours we sat there on the peninsula.
“This is far better than climbing a mountain,” E remarked, “I never want to leave.”
But leave we did. We had to.

We wanted to see some hot springs the Australians had told us about and our afternoon ferry was scheduled to leave in a few short hours. After climbing down and returning to San Angelo, we each bought a cannoli and snacked on the sugary goodness as we walked back up the winding road to where the bus had dropped us off. But the bus never arrived. 

We waited. 
And waited.

And finally, at the recommendation of the man selling juice across the street who had apparently noticed our dilemma, took a taxi.

Who knew that a taxi ride could be so much fun?

Marco was a large man with curly grey hair sticking out from under his brimless cap. His tazi was covered in soth American blankets and bead, and I think I caught a glimpse of a combrero beside a random wooden chair in the trunk.

“Is this your first time in Ischia?” He asked us in Italian, as he drove up the coast towards Forio.
“Si,” We replied, “ We’ve never been here before.”
Marco was taken aback that we had managed to live nearly 20 years without EVER laying eyes on his beautiful Ischia and for he rest of the journey to the hot springs, he sang us native Ischian songs about limoncello and the sea. We laughed and applauded him when he had finished and we climbed out of the hippy van. 

The hot spring were interesting, and the water was strangely warm, but after getting wet, we did not linger long in that cove, for though The sun is home to Ischia, and the water pure, we needed to return to our hostel, cross the island and catch our ferry that we return us to the continent.

Suddenly we realized that since a taxi had dropped us off, we did not know where a bus stop would be. It didn’t take us long to discovered after that, that there was not a bus stop for miles. 

The hill was steep and we were wet, but we kept climbing. Walking up the raod, we passes elegant villas and vineyards laden with unripe grapes. Pausing on the road side we caught sight of a cluster of fruit hanging over a low stone wall and each tried one. The grapes were very sour and we spit them out, chuckling. 

We continued walking. The sun was so hot that our wet closes started to steam, and E and I took our shoes off because walking up steep roads is easier to do barefoot. After a very long while, we approached a town and as soon as we saw a bus we boarded it.
It was the wrong bus.

It took us in the opposite direction we wanted to.
Sighing we climbed disembarked and began walking again. Old men in small trucks puttered past us as we trudged single file between the main road and a sharp drop down a side of the cliff. One wrong step and we would be flying through the air. We walked carefully.
It was approached 3 oclock when we found the right bus stop and collapsed on the sidewalk. The sugar rush from our cannoli at San Angelo has long since worn off, and we were hot tired and very hungry. We waited. The bus never came.

A small car pulled off to the side of the road and two men climbed out. One was dropping off the other at his house, and when they had said goodbye the driver of the car called out to us. E and I were wary and had no wish to talk to a stranger. N was her regular friendly self and struck up a conversation. 3 minutes later I found myself in the back of this man’s car, wondering what on earth we were thinking accepting rides from a perfect stranger. But we were tired, and he was headed home to Forio and somehow we accepted his offer of a lift.
As it turned out, he was such a blessing and was the perfect gentleman, helping out three damsels in distress. 

Alexandro drove us to Fornio, stopped at the dock, bought us tickets for the ferry since, as a resident, he could purchase tickets for half the price we could, and after wishing us safe travels, he continued on his way. We stood by a fruit stand, utterly bewildered that someone would show us such kindness without asking anything in return and marvelous and at the many ways God has shown his grace to us over the course of this short trip, when glancing down at the ticket, I gasped.

“Guys, he bought us tickets for the next ferry.”
“Yes, the 4:20 one like we asked, right?. That plenty of time for us to return to the hostel, change and return to the dock.”
“No. The 3:45 ferry. Our ferry leaves in 12 minutes!”

In an instant, we were off, running like children up the narrow streets and around sharp corners, all the way to the hostel. Women hanging laundry out their windows, and men smoking cigars along the road, paused to stare as three crazy girls ran past, the sound of their flip flops slapping on the stone streets, echoing off the tall buildings. Hurriedly, we grabbed our bags out of our lockers, and shouting goodbye to our new Australian friends, ran outside.

It was raining.
Yet we could have cared less; our swim suits were still wet from our dip in eh hot springs and we felt like a sweaty, salty, bedraggled mess.

Down the streets we ran, around corners and through narrow alleyways, slipping on the slick stones, our backpacks thumping against our backs with no rhythm.

The Ferry was pulling out as we reached the dock and we yelled and rushed as fast as we could toward it. What a sight we were! I’m much too embarrassed to picture what we might have looked like to all the Italians peeking out of their windows and staring at us as we climbed aboard the ferry, just as the horn blew and it began to back away from the port.
We had made. We were covered in sand and sweat and salty sea rain and had had no time to buy souvenirs of postcards of any sort, but we had made it on the ferry and were on our way to Naples. Once back on the continent, we were able change into respectable clothing and find our way back to the train station in plenty of time to catch the 6:20 train to Rome. Rome felt like home when we arrived, and rode bus 90 back to the convent. Familiar and very much like home. 

In the room that E and I share, I turned on my computer as I began to unpack and unload our wet clothes and crushed cookies from my soaked luggage. Bonnie was online and we began to Skype. 

“How are you doing, love?” she asked me, smiling from across the Atlantic at me.
“I am tired,” I replied chuckling, “How are you?”
“But why are you tired?” 

I gave her an exhausted grin, sat down at my desk and began…
“ Well…let me tell you what I did today…”


Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to leave a note!

Popular Posts