Favorite Quote

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel,
read only one page." St. Augustine of Hippo

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Aragon Castle of Ischia, Italy Part 1

I was going to continue on with our trip to Den Haag, but this week we are in Naples and yesterday I went to Ischia.  I was talking to several people about my trip at lunch today so I decided to blog about that trip so if any of the people here for the conference have time, they could see how beautiful it is there.

I started off taking a taxi from our hotel to Pozzuoli.  The hotel called the taxi for me, and even though the meter on the taxi said 12€, he charged me 25€.  According to the hotel, it's because we traveled out of "county".  It was a short 10 minute taxi ride.

When I got out of the taxi, I went here (photo below) to buy my ferry tickets.  They were 11.10€ each way.  Since I waited until the day that I was leaving to buy my tickets, some of the return ferries were already full.  I took the 09.40 ferry there, and the 15.05 ferry back.

Once I came out of the ticket office, I crossed over to the water and turned left until I came to the ferry.

Here are a couple of pictures that I took from the deck of the hour long trip to Ischia.

The castle is at the top of the hill in this next picture (hazy pictures ... sorry).

Arriving in port.

When you arrive in Ischia, this is what you will see as you exit the ferry.

Turn left and follow the water, walking by the boats.

On your right hand side will be a Tourist Information place where you can find out how to get to the bus, information about hotels, etc.  Here is the sign to look for.

Keep following the road, which will turn to the right until you see these steps.

At the top of the steps, you'll see the buses.  The number 7 bus will take you to the castle in about 10 minutes.  You can buy  your ticket from the bus driver or at the tobacco store.  From the bus driver, it was 1.50€.

You can also take a taxi which will be 15€.  Here is one of the cute taxis  you can take.

I had not heard of this castle before Friday of last week.  I was trying to find something to do, and in my research I read of Ischia.  Most of the people that go there, go for the spas or the beaches.  The ferry I took was FULL but as you will see from my pictures, there was hardly anybody at the castle.  There are people on the bridge to the castle, but they were mainly swimming right outside the castle doors.

First a little history about the castle.  The information that I give in the following comments were provided in a brochure from the castle.  The first fortress was built in 474 B.C. by the Greek-Syracusan Hiero I.  In 315 B.C. the Romans founded the town of Aenaria in Ischia and most probably, used the castle as a defense building for some dwellings.  In the next centuries, the plunders and the long rules of the Visigoths, the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, the Arabs, the Normans, the Suebi and the Angevins completely transformed the fortress.  The eruption of Mount Epomeo in 1301 gave a boost to the development of the settlement.  The Ischians took refuge on the small island.  In 1441 Alphonse of Aragon rebuilt the old Angevin stronghold, connected the rock to the main island with a bridge and erected mighty walls and fortifications, inside which nearly all the inhabitants of Ischia found shelter and protection from the forays of pirates.  The most splendid period for the castle was at the end of the 16th century, when the islet hosted 1892 families, along with the Clarisses' Convent, the Abbey of Basilians from Greece, the Bishop with the Chapter and the Seminar, the Prince with the garrison.  There were 13 churches, 7 of which were parishes.  Around 1750, once the danger of the pirates was over, the inhabitants moved to the more comfortable dwellings in the cities.  In 1809 the English besieged the fortress, held by the French, and shelled it, almost destroying it.  In 1823, Ferdinand, King of Naples, expelled the last 30 inhabitants and transformed the castle into a prison for lifers.  In 1851 the Castle became a political prison for those who opposed the Burbons power.  In 1860 the political prison was closed and Ischia became part of the Kingdom of Italy.

To get to the castle, you need to walk across the bridge that is 220 meters long, built by Alphonse of Aragon in wood and later replaced by a stone one.  Before the building of the bridge, the access to the castle was from the sea through an external stairway.

When you get to the castle, you have to pay an entrance fee.  It was 10€.  Then you can take the elevator to the top, or climb.  Since I'm planning to hike Kjerag, I figured I could climb.  It was easy BUT you start at the end of the tour.  If you take the elevator, you start at point #1.  If you want to take the elevator, take this hallway.


Instead, I took the stairs.  The info from the castle says "You enter the imposing tunnel chiseled into the rocks, wanted by Alphonse of Aragon in 1441.  It receives light from skylights which were also used for defense.  They allowed soldiers to throw stones and boiling pitch on the enemies."

The first stop this way is the torture museum.  I was not allowed to take pictures inside, but I took a picture of the list telling you what you would see inside.

My first stop was # 24.  This is a small panoramic balcony that offers a beautiful view of Ischia Point, the Mount Epomeo and the hill of Campagnano.

Next is #23.  The Gentilitial crypt of the Cathedral that is dedicated to Saint Peter.  It is located 2 flights of stairs beneath the Cathedral of the Assunta.  It was built between the 11th and 12th centuries and it was originally a chapel.  It was then transformed into a crypt after the construction of the Cathedral which was built on top of it.  It contains the remains of frescoes of the Giotto school that are considered to be very valuable.  They are from the 14th century. 

Next is #22 - The Cathedral of the Assunta.  This was built by the people of Ischia after the volcanic eruption of Arso in 1301.  It reached its greatest splendor on 27 December 1509 when Vittoria Colonna and Ferrante d'Avalos were married. It collapsed in 1809 under fire from the English cannons which destroyed most of the buildings within the castle, then held by the French.

Not sure how, but next I came across #7 which is the House of Sun.  This old structure contains pieces of modern art (not my cup of tea). The first picture below is from Bolivar.  Through here you have access to beautiful paths and terraces, the cafe, old churches and monuments. 

Next is stop #8 - the Church of S. Pietro a Pantaniello. It is called a Pantaniello because a statue of the saint came from an old little and abandoned church on a hill near the present harbor of Ischia, which was in that period a small lake, called the pantaniello (the small marsh).  This lake was cut on 1851 on the side towards the sea by Ferdinand II of Bourbon, king of Naples, in order to transform it into a harbor.  It was opened for worship in 1564.

Next is stop #9 - Millstone for wine-making and the cellars.  Once the danger of pirates was over, the people went back to living on the main island.  They cultivated grapevines on the ruins of the old buildings which had collapsed because of earthquakes and English shelling.

Next up is #10 - millstone alley.  In the past, this alley led to an ancient church and to various buildings transformed into a prison in 1823. 

I'm having trouble getting my pictures to my blog downloaded so I think it's because of problems to the internet here.  I will stop this for now, and continue it in a post tomorrow .... and I will have some REALLY gross pictures to share then!  Ciao!

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