Ischia’s history is long and extremely complex.

Despite being a small area which has broken away from the mainland, its position on Mediterranean trading routes was an ideal one and this made it especially interesting in ancient, medieval and modern geo-politics.


An important date is the 8th century BC when Greek colonists from Eubea settled on the island and founded Pithecusae. The name derived from ‘pithos’, ‘jug’, and Ischian pottery was one of the main products of the Greek colonists in this prevalently Greek mercantile community in which many Etruscans and Phoenician colonies also lived. Pithecusae was founded as a great multi-ethnic emporium and mid-20th century excavations unearthed the oldest surviving Greek pot, the Cup of Nestor. Contacts and trade with the Syrian coast were frequent, as the enormous number of Oriental finds show: engraved seals, Phoenician pottery and Egyptian scarabs.



In the 4th century AD the island passed under Roman control and continued to be a centre of trading and manufacturing activity.

In this era the Ischia emporium shifted eastwards to the Carta Romana area in front of Castello Aragonese where an industrial settlement named Aenaria was discovered. The site sunk as a result of bradyseism in around 130-150 and is now 5-7 metres below the sea. It can be visited aboard boats with a transparent bottom.



In the Byzantine era the island had its own governor with the status of a count who was directly dependent on the Duchy of Naples. Archaeological findings have been unearthed for this period too: ‘Byzantine ceramics’ and metal objects.

Castello Aragonese

The Middle Ages was the island’s darkest hour with Saracen raids lasting hundreds of years. Its population began taking refuge at Castello Aragonese where a veritable fortified citadel was built. In the meantime the island’s name was no longer Aenaria nor Pithecusa but Iscla, an abbreviation of the word insula for island. For this period, too, we have sources, this time a document dating to 812. It is a letter which Pope Leo III sent to Emperor Charles the Great to plead for the fate of the inhabitants of Iscla Maior, i.e. the big island. He called it this to distinguish it from the castle’s little island, called Insula Minor. During the Aragon-Angevin wars the castle was the site of fighting and was fortified even further.


In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance many Catalan kings set foot on the island, a sign of its importance. In 1320 King Robert of the Angevins stayed at Castello Aragonese with his wife Sancia. In the 15th century Alfonse of Aragon visited Ischia frequently together with his beautiful favourite, Lucrezia d’Alagno, who later became the castle’s mistress. Years later Frederick I withdrew to Ischia for a period.

In the 16th century Ferdinand the Catholic granted rule over the island to Costanza d’Avalos.

We are now in the midst of the Renaissance, an especially wealthy period for Castello Aragonese thanks to the Humanist court which developed there around Vittoria Colonna. Vittoria had married Ferrante d’Avalos on 27th December 1509 in a ceremony famous for its pomp and splendour.


The sixteenth century was an up and down period for the island, however, with Redbeard the pirate sacking and destroying every corner of the island alongside other pirates. 


To defend itself Forio built various watch towers which are still extant in the town, the most famous of which is the Torrione.

In its long history Ischia followed Naples’ fate and thus became a Bourbon dominion in 1734 together with Naples.

In the meantime these were the centuries in which Castello Aragonese gradually emptied out and various other centres sprang up across the island generating its current six towns. The 19th century was an important one for Ischia. On 17th September 1853 Ischia’s volcanic lake was transformed into a port at the behest of Ferdinand II of Bourbon who presided over the inauguration from his ship.


Ischia port was also a metaphor for the Island’s opening up to the modern world and a new era, the tourist era. The arrival of eminent individuals over the last two centuries has marked a new and important chapter in the island’s history.




Spa Baths