Though a small island Ischia has always had strong cultural traditions

1950s archaeological excavations in the San Montano valley by Giorgio Buchner cast light on the marvels of the ancient city of Pithecusa, founded in Lacco Ameno in the 8th century BC by Eubean colonists.


Pithecusa was the first Greek colony in the West.


Here excavations unearthed an exceptional find: the Cup of Nestor, a kotyle which was part of a boy’s funeral accoutrements with verses engraved on the sides which, as well as being one of the oldest surviving examples of Greek writing, are also the first known poetry fragment dating to Homer’s day in its original form.


“Nestor’s cup... good to drink from. Whoever drinks from this cup will immediately be the object of beautiful crowned Aphrodite’s desire”. These are the verses engraved into the famous cup, now kept at the Villa Arbusto Archaeological Museum in Lacco Ameno. The verses speak of a highly evolved, sophisticated and cultured society: it was at Pithecusa that we met Homer. It was the beginning of a long cultural tradition on the island of Ischia.


Taking a leap forward to the Middle Ages, Boccaccio, one of the fathers of Italian literature, chose Ischia island as the setting for one of the Decameron’s books, the sixth book of the fifth day and the story is that of Restituta Bulgaro.


The Renaissance then saw Ischia’s Castello Aragonese being the setting for one of Europe’s most important cultural debating societies, that of poetess Vittoria Colonna. Important men of letters and artists came to the island and gathered at the court of cultured Vittoria for what we might now call cultural conferences in which every form of knowledge was discussed.


After a pause lasting a few centuries in which constant pirate raids made the island dangerous, the 18th and 19th centuries are the centuries in which Ischia was rediscovered by European artists who never left a visit to the green island off their grand tour itineraries. The list is a long one and these are just some of the names: Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun, Queen Marie Antoinette’s favourite painter; celebrated French writer Stendhal who described his stay in Ischia in "Rome, Naples, Florence" a travel journal published in 1826; the great Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen who landed in Ischia in the spring of 1867, staying here some time and possibly being inspired to write Peer Gynt here.




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