November 3, 2006
This week has really felt more like spring than a cool, brisk autumn. And these warm, sunny days remind me of this glorious, almost mystical island in Italy called Ischia.
Take a 60-minute ferry ride from Napoli to this little island off the western coast. While on the ferry, you can see the islands of Capri and Procida. If youve seen the movie Il Postino, then you have already taken a visual tour of the latter. The movie is loosely based on the poet Pablo Neruda, who was exiled from Chile and took refuge on the beautiful picture-perfect Procida. The only way on or off this island is by boat.
I usually am in Ischia during the month of August and early September, working on my cooking program for German and Asian tourists. I can hardly call it working the ambiance alone keeps me relaxed and rested despite my demanding schedule.
You know you are in Ischia when the stark contrast of bright, white Mediterranean buildings, crystal-blue waters and the deep, rich colors of the flowers are feasted upon your eyes. There is more than I can ever describe here the sounds of bicyclists pedaling from port, the salty smell of the ocean and blooming flowers, and the warm embrace of the sun. When Im in Ischia, I feel as if I have found my inner soul and awakened my imagination. This seems to be the place where legends and tales were born in the castles, volcanoes, thermal springs (more on that later!). The magnificent view of the Gulf of Naples from my terrace at the vineyard is a live three-dimensional painting that should be in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Aside from doing my cooking program, I always leave at least five extra days to take in the waters from the thermal baths. Legend has it that these waters can cure any ailment. Many Italians take what is known as a wellness vacation to Ischia just to experience the waters and treatments of local mud baths. It is my yearly treat to pause and take a few days break from the rat race we call life and just exist in this paradise for five days.
It is no wonder the worlds famous have all loved this paradise. From Aristotle Onassis to Henrik Ibsen, Peer Gynt to Jackie O, Elizabeth Taylor and the myriad Italian movie stars. This small, practically untouched island is a veritable fountain of creativity and inspiration to all.
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