Last week, on a hydrofoil from Naples to Ischia, I met a woman who was taking her parrot on holiday. When we asked her why, she said that he needed a break and she thought he’d enjoy himself on the island.
Ischia is a volcanic island in the Bay of Naples, famous for thermal springs and restorative spas. German tourists love the thermal waters, and Italian tourists love the fact that it’s much less expensive than its swanky neighbour, Capri. As there were very few Brits on holiday there, I’ve taken it upon myself to act as spokesperson and declare that the British tourists love the sunsets.
But I’m by no means the first British tourist to appreciate the island. William Walton, the composer, bought a house here in 1947, and while he was busy composing for the next 35 years, his wife created a beautiful garden. She was Argentinian, and obviously decided not to limit herself to Mediterranean flora, as her garden is full of exotic plants and flowers.
I even saw pitcher plants, which I hadn’t seen since I left Malaysia. I’m impressed by pitcher plants because I like a plant to be proactive, rather than just sit around waiting to be watered and pollinated. The pitcher plants actively lure insects inside with nectar or water, but the rim is very slippery and they tumble to the bottom. There they find slippery waxy scales, downward facing hairs and protruding crystals, all designed to prevent them getting out again. Only a fly with James Bond’s skill and determination could fight his way out of such a perilous situation. And yet they look so innocent and blameless, just hanging from a tree …
Mrs Walton went on holiday and saw a crocodile in Thailand which caught her fancy, so she had him shipped back to Ischia, where he seems very happy.
We could wander down from our hotel to the Poseidon Thermal springs, which are set in an idyllic location on the coast and have a selection of pools to wallow in, ranging in temperature from 28 to 40 degrees. After trying them all, I can faithfully report that 34 degrees is the perfect temperature for wallowing.
Less idyllic is the Japanese massage pool – a doughnut-shaped ring of torture which you circumnavigate by walking on a bed of stones knee-deep in water. Just to add to your misery, half the ring has boiling hot water and the other half is freezing cold. To lessen the pain of the stones, people cling to the central wall, trying to take as much weight off their feet as possible whilst gasping from the heat/cold and whimpering with pain.
Ischia also has picturesque villages, sandy beaches, a large volcano and lots of delicious food. I had hoped to catch up with the parrot on the way back, to find out which aspects of Ischia he’d liked the best, but sadly he was nowhere to be seen.