Mar
2015

ISCHIA

CAMPANIA

Ischia is an island lying off the Gulf of Napoli, some 30 kilometers WSW from Napoli, 35 kilometers west from Vesuvio and about 8 kilometers from the mainland coast at Capo Miseno. Its highest peak, Epomeo, is not a volcano (as which it is frequently described), but is made up of an uplifted and tilted block (horst) of green ash-flow tuff (possibly erupted from Campi Flegrei). Numerous youthful and historic eruptive centers are scattered on its flanks, the most recent of which is Arso, formed in 1302 (or 1301). Continuing volcano-tectonic activity was destructively demonstrated on 28 July 1883, when the famous thermal resort of Casamicciola was levelled by the most violent in a series of local earthquakes, killing more than 2213 people.

Numerous eruptions from various sites have occurred on Ischia during the past 2500 years, indicating that the island is volcanically active and may well erupt in the future. Ground deformation (uplift, subsidence and tilting) are continuing to the present day. It is very likely that a shallow magma body is present below the island, causing these deformations. The reconstructed and/or documented style of eruption implies great hazards in the case of renewed activity. Ischia, with a surface of about 46 km2, is the largest of the beautiful islands dotting the margins of the Gulf of Napoli, and it forms one of the most complex volcanoes of that region. Morphologically, it consists of the central-western highland (horst) of Epomeo which is surrounded by lower terrain punctuated by at least 40 volcanic centers. Most of these occur in the eastern half of the island, but a few are present in its SW and NW corners. Since the early 1980’s, an old caldera of unknown age has been suspected below Ischia by Chiesa et al. (1985), whose relic moat is constituted by Castello di Ischia, Punta Imperatore, and possibly Monte di Vico, forming a half-ring around the southern circumference of the island. Rocks of the pre-existing volcanic complex are exposed mostly in the southern and SE parts of Ischia.

Gastronomically speaking the dishes Ischia is most famous for include Coniglio all’Ischitana, rabbit braised with tomato paste and wine and a seafood soup called Cassuola, but the similarities to the great cooking of elsewhere in Campania are obvious. My fave restos are not fancy and represent more the deliciousness of the actual terroir than some fancy techno cooking. One of my faves is Umberto a Mare in Forio d’Ischia ( via soccorso 2 tel 081997171). Marinated and raw slightly dressed seafood and excellent pastas such as paccheri with tiny calamari in a slightly spicy tomato sauce and the only rendition of the classic dessert of eggplant and chocolate i really kind of liked. At Melograno, just down the street (via Giovanni Mazzella 110 tel 081998450) and a little bit fancier cooking including a scallopa of orata with pesto and potatoes, a linguine with small octopus and a killer deconstructed version of rabbit all’Ischitana where the saddle is grilled and served with hammered escarole and a light tomato sauce. In the main port town my fave is Alberto (passegiata C. Colombo tel 081 981259) with the traditional mixed seafood antipasti, fritto misto and taccole with bream, toasted almonds and black olives leading me down the path of simple tradition and local love… you cannot find a bad meal on the island, avoid the places with menus in German.