Michael Lo Sordo on Where to Eat, Stay and Play on This Little-Known Italian Island

Ischia Italy

Michael Lo Sordo is one of Australia’s most prominent fashion designers, and so it’s fair to say he has good taste. As such, we’re all ears when it comes to Lo Sordo’s recommendation for where to go in Europe to escape the crowds.

Lo Sordo suggests his favourite spot, the Italian island of Ischia. Located in the southern part of Italy, in the Campania region, the island is best known for its mineral-rich thermal waters.

“I was completely infatuated by Ischia,” Lo Sordo says. He suggests visiting between April and June as it’s when the flowers are blooming, the weather’s just right and the Mediterranean waters are an ideal temperature for a first swim of the season. It’s also a time when you can avoid the intense tourist rush of July and August.

Ischia Italy
Image: Unsplash

Ahead, Lo Sordo shares his picks for how best to experience the island.

Best Accommodation in Ischia

“The property Mezzatorre Hotel and Thermal Spa has been meticulously restored under the expert guidance of Marie-Louise Sciò from the Pelicano hotel group,” Lo Sordo says. “It captured my heart with all its detail.

“Ischia exudes an authentic Italian essence, a rarity that some neighbouring Amalfi coast islands have lost. Its untouched state, free from mainstream commercial development, preserves its genuine character.

“The sunsets here are nothing short of enchanting, especially as they paint the medieval Castle Castello Aragonese, perched on volcanic rock. These views seem to breathe life into myths surrounding the earth’s mystical attributes, evoking thoughts of a rejuvenating fountain of youth.”

Best Restaurants in Ischia

“There is this special spot up in the hills above Ischia Porto: the cosy and rustic La Vigna di Alberto,” says Lo Sordo. “Run by the talented Franco di Scala, a third-gen restaurateur who came back to Ischia from Rome, this place used to be his family’s wine haven. Imagine dining under a charming grape arbor — it’s pure casual magic.”

Ischia Italy
Image: Unsplash

“Its menu is a love letter to Ischia’s flavours. You’ll find everything from fresh seafood to hearty meat dishes, and they’ve got some vegetarian options too. Creamy risotto and perfect pasta are stars here, and don’t forget their house-made wine. It’s that local, off-the-beaten-path gem, tucked away in the hills near Barano.

“For fine diners, there’s Danì Maison, a two Michelin-starred spot that’s all about the high-end dining experience. Chef Nino Di Costanzo’s dishes are more like edible masterpieces than just food. And if you’re right by the sea at the Regina Isabella hotel, don’t miss Indaco. Chef Pasquale Palamaro’s sustainable approach is impressive, and his twist on cured seafood charcuterie, known as ‘salumi di mare’, will truly blow you away.”

Best Nature Spots in Ischia

As you unwind in Ischia — whether soaking in thermal spas, beach lounging, or enjoying a cocktail — reflect on the island’s captivating backstory. In myth, Tifeo, angered by Zeus’ Titan imprisonment, battled to overthrow the “Father of Gods and Men.” After a fierce struggle, Zeus triumphed, trapping Tifeo beneath Ischia. His wrath now fuels the scalding waters that pump into the hot springs.

Ischia Italy
Image: Unsplash

“And about Ischia’s charm? The year-round treatment of its therapeutic thermal springs can’t be overlooked. The Nitrodi Nymph Park boasts the world’s oldest spa, an immersive journey through time. Since ancient Greek times, Ischia’s hot springs have enchanted visitors, celebrated for their remarkable benefits.

Best Shops in Ischia

“For excellent artisan ceramics, I recommend a visit to Franco Calise’s boutique in Forio. It’s conveniently located on Via Marina, near the charming San Gaetano church. Franco Calise stands as the island’s most renowned ceramic artist, with his captivating creations gracing collections around the world.

“Strolling around Ischia, you can’t help but be captivated by the vibrant ceramics adorning the island. They paint a colourful picture from windowsills to doorways, street signs to restaurant markers, and even breathtaking murals on building fronts down to the tiniest tiles bearing house numbers.

“And if you peer closely, you might notice a recurring signature: Keramos d’Ischia. These distinctive, hand-crafted signs hail from Forio’s Keramos d’Ischia, the brainchild of Gaetano De Nigris and Nello Di Leva.

“The name ‘Keramos’ draws from the Greek word for pottery, and it pays homage to Ischia’s Greek origins, formerly known as Pithecusae. Back in ancient Greek times, the island thrived as a ceramics hub, largely thanks to its volcanic soil that’s perfectly suited for natural clay. It’s no wonder that the island boasts an abundance of ceramic studios today.”

Best Souvenir

“When I’m about to leave, a handful of must-haves naturally make their way into my bag:

  • Fuelling my ceramic passion, I absolutely can’t resist snagging a few pieces from local artists — they’re perfect for gifting.
  • And of course, there’s no way I’m leaving without a stash of the iconic limoncello, plus my newfound love, mellonchello — a rockmelon concoction that’s simply irresistible.
  • To top it off, in the piazza, you’ll spot the cutest sandal artisan at Sandali artigianali di Adriano Rainone. This guy’s lightning fast, and I always treat myself to a couple of fresh pairs for my Euro summer style.”

All images supplied by Michael Lo Sordo.

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