This summer, I spent 6 weeks in Italy; eating lavishly, meeting wonderful people and seeing some really extraordinary sights. I lived mainly in Naples, and during my time there I went to Sorrento, Salerno, Pompeii, Vesuvius, Rome and Florence. But my favourite place to visit was an island I never knew existed – the island of Ischia.
I was in Naples with a student run organisation called AIESEC, teaching at a primary school whilst living with a loving and welcoming host family. My two travelling companions were fellow volunteers from Canada and Colombia who were also doing a similar program at other summer camps. We had heard about the islands off the coast of Naples from the locals and since we had no plans for the weekend, my Canadian friend and I decided to pack our rucksacks and leave for Ischia on Friday evening, with not much further planning.
Our journey there was an ambiguous one. We managed to get lost whilst looking for the port, only because we missed the gigantic sign that said “PORTO”. We managed to get the last ferry to Ischia only to find everything closed once we arrived. We managed to find the nearest hostel, only it was about an hour and half away from the port (and not to mention the manager was rather creepy), the atmosphere of the hostel was eerie and the conditions were less than sanitary. But hey, not bad for 14 euros.
We decided to grab dinner and get out first thing in the morning; 8 hours in that hostel was enough.
We learnt of an ancient castle from a crepe vendor whilst we were having breakfast and decided to visit it after our beach session in the afternoon.
And what a wise decision going to the caste was. It was breath-taking; one of the most beautiful experiences either of us had ever had. The lift to the top of the castle was broken, so it took us about an hour to climb the castle and each time we got higher, the view got better.
“Oh My GOD. Is there any point going up there?!” shouted a lady with an American accent. “Uh… no! It’s just an empty white room!” we yelled back. We continued to walk up to the top of the castle together with the American lady, whilst she told us the history of the castle and how it had not changed in the 35 years since she last visited. The three of us shared a weird sense of déjà vu as she told us that she too was a student when she had come to Ischia for the first time: 19, just two girls trying to survive the 39 degree heat – just like us. When we got to the top, she talked to us about how she stood exactly where she standing now and predicted her life, and how her perspective changed through the following years.
We left in a haste because we had to catch the ferry back, but when we looked back at the castle and from the bottom we could see her gazing out nostalgically. She didn’t know it; but she too would become a part of our nostalgia.
Traveling is about getting inspired. It’s about who you meet and what you see and what the adventure teaches you. My adventure taught me the beauty of discovery. I liked Ischia because it was obscure. Unlike Rome or Florence, I had never planned on going there, I had discovered it. If Naples had become home, Ischia became my escape – a place I may never have found if I was simply a tourist.