Shipscook’s Italian Job- the Soggy Gardens of Ischia

Before we left for Italy I had booked three excursions from Thomson’s website to make the best use of our time.

Our first trip was to the rather beautiful Island of Ischia where Ibsen is said to have completed Peer Gynt and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton filmed Cleopatra.

Ischia emerges from the sea

The day didn’t start well though when instead of a Thomson coach a municipal bus turned up to collect us from the hotel. Now although we got seats by the time it had collected people from a couple of hotels people were hanging from straps which I thought was pretty poor at the price we paid for the excursion. The bus dropped us in the harbour where we would have paid our respects to the harbour master,

The Harbour Master

if he hadn’t been asleep. The catamaran  to Ischia is operated by Paul and Shark, fortunately we never got to meat Paul’s business partner on the 50 minute crossing.

On reaching the island it was getting a bit stormy as we were shown the Fungo in the harbour of Forio.

The Fungo

The rock is so called because it looks like a mushroom although as Nick remarked it could easily have escaped from one of Roger Dean’s Yes album covers back in the early 1970s. From the Fungo we were whisked up the mountain to the Oasis restaurant for lunch with an incredible view of Forio, complete with lightning,

View from the Oasis restaurant

before heading for Forio-San Francesco and the beautiful  La Mortella Gardens.

La Mortella Gardens

The La Mortella Gardens were founded by the composer William Walton when he settled on the island in 1946, although much of the design was created by Russell Page in 1956. The gardens are built into the side of the mountain and we managed to get about half the way to the top to the magnificent Temple of the Sun.

The Temple of the Sun

Reminding me of some of the monumental architecture of  Mexico’s Yucatan, the interior was full of wonderful plants including these pitcher plants.

Pitcher Plant Temple of the Sun

We then visited the bird house where the love birds and cockatiels where busy hiding from the threatening storm.

Lutino Cockatiel

Which duly arrived in quite epic proportions. Fortunately we were able to take shelter in the tea house, which is one of the few places in Italy where they are able to make tea properly. The rain sheeted down for ages and eventually we decided to brave the downpour to see the Victoria House with its giant water lily pads.

Lily pads Victoria House

Frankly the only thing that could have made this sight any better would have been some giant frogs sitting in the middle of them! Fortunately the rain then left off for long enough for us to get back to the coach for our return journey to the port.

So how much did it cost? Thomson’s trip was £55.50 but did not include entrance to the gardens (an extra €12) and a rather overpriced pasta lunch (a further €13), so quite an expensive day out for a family.

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