THE CHARM OF AN ISLAND WITHIN THE ISLAND
Forio is the largest municipality of the island of Ischia, and one of the most picturesque. On the western coast, Forio is famous for its beaches and thermal springs. The bay of Citara hosts the largest thermal park of the island and its territory, from the interior to the coast, is filled with natural steam pools and underground springs of healing water. Forio takes its name from the flowers (fiori) that cover the fields and fertile hills that face the coast. The municipality stretches from the slopes of Mount Epomeo to the sea, through a variety of landscapes ranging from cultivated terraces on the side of the mountain, to the vineyards of the large wine makers, to the coastline that winds into the village centres, until it reaches the port and beaches. The historic centre is filled with churches, artisan shops, and little alleyways to explore on foot. Because of all this, Forio has always been the home of artists and great men, as evidenced by The Villa of Luchino Visconti, today a museum and film school, and La Mortella Gardens, a 2-acre botanical garden, commissioned by English musician William Walton, which is home to rare and exotic plants, extinct in other parts of the world. The history of Forio reflects the Arab domination of the island. The territory has many small watchtowers erected for defence, which, at the time of the Saracens, were used to control the entire gulf. Today, the most famous tower ‘Il Torrione’ hosts a museum and is the symbol of Forio, along with the small white church of Santa Maria del Soccorso, which overlooks the sea and offers an unbeatable view. Forio is a generous place, just like its inhabitants: A vacation here is remembered for its gorgeous sunsets, great wines, and delicious recipes that incorporate sea and land, the stillness of the villages, and the beauty of the beaches.
WHAT TO SEE IN FORIO: MUSEUMS, HISTORY, NATURE
This 17th century tower is one of the symbols of Forio, along with the Soccorso Church.
Built to defend the territory from Turkish invasions, today the tower has a dominant presence in the village and hosts the civic museum of the municipality of Forio. The sculptures of Forian artist Giovanni Maltese, who lived in the town his whole life, are worth the trip.
Il Torrione is in the centre of Forio, on Via Torrione – tel.: 081 3332126. It is open all year, Tuesday through Sunday, from 9:30 to 12:30 and from 18:00 to 21:00.
The little white Soccorso Church is a dominant feature of the village of Forio and its seascape, making it one of the best places from which to view the famous sunset on the horizon. The church, with its unmistakeable white facade, is dedicated to Santa Maria of the Snow, and was erected on the remains of an ancient Augustinian convent. Inside there is an interesting collection of ex-votos of sailors and emigrants, while the external staircase contains a series of crucifixes, one for each 100 years since its construction. Today, the Soccorso Church is the symbol of Forio and in the large piazza in front of the church are organized concerts and events.
The Soccorso Church is open all year, every day, and the entry is free. The church is on Via Soccorso and is easily reached on foot from the centre of Forio.
La Mortella Botanical Garden
This magnificent botanical garden looms above the Bay of San Francesco (Saint Francis), and houses over 3000 rare and exotic plants from around the world. Commissioned by Susana Walton, wife of English musician William Walton, the garden covers 2 acres overlooking the sea, and is full of fountains, pools, and lakes. The villa museum’s collection includes photographs by Cecil Beaton and drawings by Luzzatti, along with Walton’s personal records. During summer the garden hosts a rich season of concerts.
Directions and visiting hours
The Botanical Garden is located at Via F. Calise 39, on the Zaro promenade, in Forio – tel.: 081 986220. It can be reached by bus from the centre of Forio on line CD, or on Giraforio line B, and from Ischia and Casamicciola on line CS. The garden is open Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, from April through mid-November, from 9:00 to 19:00.