Ischia (Italian pronunciation: ['ISS-kia]) is a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples.
The roughly trapezoidal island lies about 18 miles from Naples and measures around 6 miles east to west and 4 miles north to south
with a 21 mile coastline and a surface area of 18 sq miles (compare to Manhattan Island = 20 square miles). It is almost entirely mountainous, with the highest peak being
Mount Epomeo at 2,585 feet. The island has a population of over 60,000 people.
Ischia is not only the name of the island, but also the name of the main comune and port, located on
the northeastern end, next to Ischia Ponte. The island was formed 56,000 years ago when Mount Epomeo erupted and formed the large
caldera in the center of the island. The latest eruption, in 1302 AD, produced a lava flow that reached the NE coast.
There is evidence of human habitation during the Bronze Age, from 2750 to 750 BC. By the 8th Century BC, the island was
populated primarily with Greeks, plus Etruscans from the Italian mainland, and Phoenicians from the Middle East.
The Greeks called the island "Pithekoussa", which is Greek for "Island of the Apes (or Monkeys)." There are no monkeys on the
island today, and no evidence has ever been found that there ever were. But, the Greeks must have had some reason for giving
it that name. When the Romans took over in 322 BC, they named it Aenaria, after one of the Greek heroes of the Trojan War, Aeneas.
The current name appears for the first time in a letter from Pope Leo III to the Emperor Charlemagne in 813 AD, in which the pope refers
to it as Iscla, which some sources say means "Black Island."
At its peak,
the island was home to about 10,000 people. Most of them fled or were killed in the volcanic eruptions of 470 BC. Eventually,
the island was repopulated with Neapolitans (people from Naples). The Romans seized Ischia (and Naples) in 322 BC.
From 6 AD through the 16th Century, Ischia was ruled and inhabited by barbarians, Byzantines, Muslim Saracens, Germans, French, and
Spaniards (Aragon). When Mount Epomeo erupted for the last time, in 1302, the population fled to the mainland and settled along the
southwestern coast of Naples, where they remained for four years before returning to the island.
For the next 400 years, the island had a violent and disruptive history, constantly being invaded by one country after another, including
Barbary pirates, until natural disasters returned, this time in the form of massive earthquakes. The great earthquake of 1883 killed more
than 1700 people on the island and completely destroyed the towns of Lacco Ameno and Casamicciola Terme on the northern coast.
Today, the island is known for its wine, corn, oil, fruit, tiles, pottery, and fishing. Its main industry, however, is tourism, centering on
thermal spas that cater mostly to European (especially German) and Asian tourists eager to enjoy the fruits of the island's natural volcanic
activity, its thermal hot springs, and its volcanic mud. For many of the inhabitants on the Italian-speaking island, German and English are
second languages. This is because of the large number of German- and English-speaking tourists who visit the island each year.
Photos of the port town of Ischia
Town of Ischia Ponte with Aragonese Castle island
View of Ischia Ponte from the castle
Town of Sant'Angelo on the southern coast
Town of Forio on the western coast
LANZARA-LANZARO FAMILY HISTORY