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Ischia & Sorrento

Star-studded resorts in the Gulf of Naples

Photos by Yvonne Yorke

The Gulf of Naples has captivated sailors throughout the centuries with its crystalline blue waters of the Mediterranean, the majestic sweep of the grand bay with Vesuvius looming in the distance, and the picturesque towns along the Sorrentine peninsula and the Amalfi Coast. Lying just 33 kilometers from Naples in the mainland, and neighboring the better-known Capri, the island of Ischia is blessed with a rugged coastline accentuated with breathtaking coves, lemon groves and romantic islets – some of which is only reachable by boat.  The long-extinct volcano, Mount Epomeo, is the island’s highest point at 788 meters above sea level, and offers a stunning panoramic view of the Gulf. 

Colonized by the Greeks in 8th century BC, it was under Roman rule that Ischia first became a popular resort island- prized for its temperate climate throughout the year, and the wealth of thermal hot springs with renowned curative properties. Notable scientists including Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie have come to study the water’s beneficial qualities.

Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella was so enchanted with the striking beauty of the island that he filmed parts of The Talented Mr. Ripley on Ischia, having it stand for the movie’s fictional Italian seacoast town of Mongibello.  Unlike the other islands in the Gulf of Naples (such as Capri) which have a rocky terrain, Ischia boasts long stretches of natural sandy beaches. Film buffs will note that it was on Ischia that Matt Damon’s character Tom Ripley walks across the sand in his disastrous lime-green swim-shorts to engineer his first meeting with Jude Law’s Dickie Greenleaf.

L’Albergo della Regina Isabella is an exclusive, luxury five-star hotel and spa located in the seaside town of Lacco Ameno, on the northern coast of Ischia. Nestled on a tranquil cove framed by rocky cliffs and Mediterranean pinewoods, guests can sail into the resort’s private dock past Lacco Ameno’s distinctive landmark, the Fungo – a ten meter (33 feet) tall volcanic rock in the shape of a mushroom which sits in the water off the town’s seafront promenade.

The Hotel Regina Isabella was built in the 1950s by publisher Angelo Rizzoli, and is decorated in the style of a Neapolitan palazzo - furnished with authentic Capodimote ceramic floors, Murano glass chandeliers and exquisite baroque antiques.  There are 20 suites, and the seven Royal Suites each named after a Hollywood screen icon come with terraces with private plunge pools overlooking the bay of Lacco Ameno.

Since its opening, the resort has attracted the international jet-set and Hollywood royalty, along with generations of in-the-know Europeans who come every year to one of Italy’s most luxurious wellness destination. The Regina Isabella has played host to Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin and Maria Callas, as well as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton during the filming of Cleopatra on Ischia. Recent Hollywood A-list stars and directors include the cast of the Talented Mr. Ripley, and in July - Joseph Fiennes, Francis Ford Coppola, Terry Gilliam and Norman Jewison were in town for the annual Ischia Global Film Festival hosted at the property.

As the world’s only five star deluxe property with an original seafront spa, guests can luxuriate in individualized wellness and integrated medical programs under the direction of a full-time medical director. The thermal-mineral waters and muds produced from Ischia’s volcanic rock form the core of the spa’s therapeutic and regenerative treatments. There’s an extensive menu of sophisticated spa offerings: osteopathy, thermal mud applications, respiratory cures, and ancient massage disciplines (the Indo-Asian massage is highly recommended). Advanced plastic dermatology procedures include linfodith, a lymphatic drainage technique, and resonage, which utilizes radio waves to stimulate the formation of collagen in the skin and currently unavailable in the U.S.

Everyone at the Regina Isabella from owner Giancarlo Carriero to the spa’s medical director to the chef is passionate about their contribution to the guests’ healthy lifestyle and well-being. The hotel’s culture of gastronomy optimizes the finest local ingredients in light Mediterranean dishes based on fresh fish. The open-air Sporting restaurant overlooks the sea and serves a Neapolitan lunch buffet, while the elegant Regina Isabella dining room with a panoramic window facing the bay features traditional and inventive seafood specialties. Try the pasta alla limone made from organic lemons from the island’s lemon groves, or the Neapolitan classic: fish all’acqua pazza (fish in crazy water) with garlic and chilies in a light tomato sauce.

More Stories By Yvonne Yorke

Yvonne Yorke is an established international travel writer and photographer specializing in travel destinations, luxury resorts and spas, yachting and cruise travel. Her work has been featured in leading travel and lifestyle publications in the U.S, Europe, Asia, Australia and South America including CNN Traveller, Departures, InStyle, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, and many others. She has also been a foreign correspondent for W and Women's Wear Daily.

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