Today is the feast of Epifania, which is known in Italy simply as “Befana.” In fact, many people in Italy will greet each other on the street today with the words, “Buon Befana.” This salutation refers to La Befana, the Italian Christmas witch. She is still searching for Baby Jesus, whom she learned about from the Three Kings. Throughout her journey every Jan. 6, she offers gifts to other Italian children in the hopes she will one day find Gesu. Or at least that is how one of our story books tells the story. There are a few theories about how she came into this job.
Befana – From Whence She Came
Indeed, she made a stop at our house this morning. When my son awakes, he will be surprised. He went to bed early with visions of the Italian Christmas witch in his mind. Now, Befana is no Santa. She is a poor old lady. Before this gig, Befana was best known for sweeping inside and outside her home everyday. She mostly kept to herself. So, she offers up one or two small gifts to each child. When my father was a kid in Italy in the 1950s, he received tangerines, walnuts, a piece of chocolate, and pencils for school in his socks from Befana. Back then, she was the only gift giver of the season. Times have changed.
Even though Santa has since grown more popular than Befana even in Italy, she still makes her rounds on Jan. 6. This, in fact, marks the end of the holiday season and work and school breaks, which is different from the United States. Many families will gather again today for one more special meal. Children will recite poems for pennies — err euro. And Befana will leave a little something for them. Sometimes, adults even give each other little tokens of their love on Befana’s day. The Epiphany, after all, is about the arrival of the three kings, also known as three wise men. They had brought little gifts to baby Jesus and his family in Bethlehem.
One Last Hurrah
Throughout the holiday season, we keep a Befana doll hanging over our window. Some of our American friends think we’ve forgotten her there since Halloween. But Italians know better. You can read more about Befana in my previous stories:
The G7 interior ministers are gathering in Ischia, Italy, the Neapolitan island that is home of my ancestors and husband, Oct. 18 to 20, 2017. Reports indicate that these world leaders will be discussing counter-terrorism efforts. Specifically, they will talk about cybersecurity and combatting online recruitment on the part of terrorists.
On a Lighter Note at the G7
But what’s more interesting to someone like me, with ties to the island, is what a high-profile gig this is for the natives. Hotels, restaurants, and local politicians are rolling out the red carpet, practically literally. Ischia Porto’s mayor established a defined path to welcome G7 guests upon arrival at the port. Security is in full force. News reports indicate that schools will be closed during the height of the meetings. Journalists are beginning to arrive and take stock.
Good for a Laugh
One of the funnier reports I read comes from La Reppublica Napoli. It published a photo of a fruit stand in Ischia. Attached to the tomatoes is a sign that reads, “Nun facite guaie cu stu G7.” This more or less translates to “Don’t make a mess at this G7.” While this gives me a giggle, I think the message has two audiences actually.
For one, the fruit seller is warning natives to be gracious and responsible hosts. Having this assignment is a chance for Ischia to get some publicity. The place is beautiful, but few people outside of Italy and some other select areas (parts of Germany and Europe, Russia, Ukraine) know about it. Americans, in fact, are much more familiar with neighboring Capri.
Second, the sign is a message to protesters, who are expected to descend on the island, too. In speaking to natives, I know that’s a concern.
Italy holds the G7 presidency at the moment. In fact, it welcomed the G7’s prime ministers and presidents, including U.S. President Donald Trump, in Taormina, Sicily earlier in the year. As an outsider looking in, I can’t help but imagine that Italy is trying to flaunt the beauty of the south. The mezzogiorno as it is sometimes called is notorious for its economic challenges, crime syndicates, and political corruption.
Lately, there has been more of a trend toward undoing some of that ugliness. Some leaders want to put a spotlight on the positive aspects. Instead of calling for secession, some Italians want to show the promise of the south. Just to look at the splendid sea, lush vegetation, and rich history is to see what could be. For at least the next few days, it is Ischia’s turn to shine on the world stage. That can only be a good thing. After all, to know Ischia is to love it. Perhaps no one recognizes this as much as I do.
Visit Italy, and you will be mesmerized. Regardless of the time of year, you will see its beauty and history. And you will taste its delicious food and wine. Still, each season provides a different perspective and therefore a unique experience. Deciding when is the best time for your visit depends on a number of factors. For instance, if you are planning to travel to Italian islands, the winter is pretty much dead. But if Florence or Venice is calling your name, any time would work.
Discover what each season offers to tourists:
In general, fall is my favorite time of year to head to Italy. Airfare is cheaper than it is at the height of summer. The crowds have all returned to school and work. And the weather remains delightful, especially down south. In fact, I’ve been to the beach in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, well into September and even October. In addition, all the thermal pools are open through November. The rest of the country is usually cooling off, at least compared to the hot temperatures of July and August. The most popular sites, such as the museums or the Colosseum in Rome, have fewer visitors. People traffic is no longer an issue in the big cities and hot spots. To visit Italy in fall, is to take a real vacation. It allows you the time to truly relax.
Colder weather is a deal breaker for some visitors. But others long for the snow in the north. In fact, many come to cities, such as Torino, just for the skiing and other snow sports. There’s no question that you can avoid crowds during this season in Italy. Also, the prices for airfare and hotels is usually the lowest in January and February after the holiday season.
While I’ve been in Ischia and Naples during the winter months, I wouldn’t advise people to go there during the dead season. Few natives are on the islands, and many of the hotels, restaurants, and other sites are either closed or open only sporadically during winter. The holidays are an exception; hotels and even some restaurants will open for the Christmas season, even on the islands. The hiking and swimming in the oceans are pretty much impossible because of the temperatures. Still, if you have family there as I do, it might be a nice time to go to spend uninterrupted time with them.
One warning, however, is about the heating available. I find myself cold to the bone whenever I’m in Ischia in the winter. Much of the south is similar. Though the temperatures never drop as much as they do in my hometown in New Jersey, the homes are made of cement. And no one uses heat 24 hours per day. There’s high humidity, which makes it a wet cold instead of a dry one. Babies and older people and those susceptible to ailments, such as bronchitis, might not want to be even in the warmer south during the winter.
Europe, in general, is a popular destination come springtime. Spring break and Easter are popular dates for travel during this period. Because demand is up, the airfare and hotels tend to charge more. This is a lovely time of year to visit Italy. But you have to be prepared for a range of weather. In the north and central parts of the country, you may still experience snow or low temperatures. In the south, don’t be surprised if you get lots of rain. The dampness has gotten to me at this time of year more than once.
Still, this can be a nice time to visit. First, you get to see some of the spring rituals – beginning the gardening, preparing for holidays, such as Easter, and seeing the buds come to life. Second, you also don’t have to deal with the heavy crowds you’ll find in the summer. In late spring, on the islands and coast in the south, you might even get a few beach days. For instance, the thermal spas and pools in Ischia are usually open by late spring, weather permitting.
Hiking is optimal because the weather is usually not too cold or too hot. While the sites, such as museums, might be packed during the week of Easter and the week after (especially in Rome and Vatican City), the rest of the spring is usually less crowded. What I always love about being in Italy during this spring is that the whole nation is coming back to life.
Summer is the most popular season for travelers for a reason. Obviously, in many places, schools are out, so families prefer this time of year. Also, the warmer temperatures mean less uncertainty about the weather. This is appealing whether you’re heading south for the beaches or looking to discover beautiful cities and historic sites. The downside is that sometimes Italy experiences major heat waves. Because electricity is so costly and the people believe too much air conditioning can make you sick, you don’t always have easy access to AC. It is, however, becoming more available, especially in major cities.
While I go to Italy just about every year in the summer, I can’t recommend it for everyone. It is super crowded. Estimates have shown that the population on the small island of Ischia, where I stay, triples in August. Indeed, most Italians have either the entire month or a significant portion of it off from work, which means they are all on vacation, too. Often, they visit parts of their own country. I have referred to it as the siesta on steroids.
But the summer is full of fun, especially if you’re heading to any of Italy’s incredible beaches. You can experience the pagan holiday of Ferragosto that is uniquely Italian. The sun and sand are essential for serenity. So, if you’re willing to deal with human traffic jams while walking down the street or bathing in the ocean, then you might pick summer for your journey.
Bagno Corrado is where my husband, son, and I go to the beach in Ischia, Italy. We rent chairs and umbrellas from the owner, and then we have lunch or dinner at the quaint beach eatery. The place is simple – a small kitchen with a deck for diners to eat and take in a view of open umbrellas as far as the eye can see. During the summer, you can actually have dinner there, too, on some nights.
It’s one of my son’s favorite places because he loves the chicken cutlet and fries. We kind of can’t go to the beach anymore without taking him there. But today we’re going to show you the showstoppers of the kitchen. Sample the dishes that make this unlike any beach grub you’ve ever eaten. Promise.
From Your Table
The deliciousness begins with the natural wonder all around you. There’s the perfume of the sea, the beautiful people lounging on the beach, and the air of relaxation.
Earth and Sea
One of my favorite dishes from this latest trip to Ischia was this long pasta with porcini mushrooms and clams. The combination of the earthy mushrooms with the sweet seafood was unexpected and delicious. It also brings together two of Ischia’s culinary treasures. My people have been foraging for porcini in the hills of Ischia for generations. And the clams of the sea are the freshest you’ll ever taste.
In the heat of August in Ischia, you don’t really want to eat a heavy meal of pasta. In those moments, a dish like this seafood salad is a welcome respite. With a touch of olive oil and lemon, these mussels, clams, octopus, and more are refreshing and light. I can’t stress enough how friggin’ good the seafood is here.
A Little Mussel
Mussels and toasted Italian bread in this slightly spicy tomato broth is a little piece of heaven on Earth. A good friend of mine once visited Ischia and ate these shellfish in these soupy sauces. Her reaction was that she’d like to bathe in it and drink all the bath water. Indeed, I can’t argue with her. It would be divine.
Pot of Gold
The beauty of eating octopus in Ischia is that almost all the professionals know how to cook it properly. You never chew on rubber here. The octopus is soft and delicious. This one was no exception. Mixed in with the mussels, the octopus was extra special. You felt like you stumbled upon treasure with every bite of it.
Seeing Red, Tasting Red
Tomatoes in the summer in Ischia are the ultimate in juiciness and taste. Team them up with baby octopus and squid and al dente pasta and you have a winner.
A Real Pick Me Up
Tiramisu – the original with espresso – is on just about every dessert menu and mamma’s repertoire in Ischia. This is a unique take that replaces espresso with a pistachio-based cream. It’s addictive and delightful. Made by the owner’s wife, this tiramisu also has heaps of love in it. And it’s adorable presentation never goes unnoticed.
Get Over Here
Pull up a lounge chair on the beach before, after, or even during your meal. (That’s right, Bagno Corrado serves small bites and drinks right on the beach.) What are you waiting for?
Leonardo da Vinci was a true Renaissance man. He was an inventor, painter, sculptor, scientist, architect, and mathematician. Certainly, his work was complex. Life, during any era, is complicated. Perhaps, that’s why da Vinci recognized the importance of simplicity.
This image of a red touring bicycle leaning against the railings overlooking the sea in Ischia, Italy speaks to that message. In an era of hot cars and roaring trucks, a bicycle is simple. In a time when everyone is throwing themselves into the rat race, people wading in the sea or sunbathing on a rock are the picture of simplicity.
Truly, that’s what the sweet life, especially on an island, is all about. What has been devastating to me in recent days is how Mother Nature has attacked that simplicity. The earthquake that took down homes and a church in Casamicciola in Ischia is one example. But now I am watching the decimation of islands all across the Caribbean and Florida Keys, not to mention cities in Florida, all the victims of Hurricane Irma.
Still, there is beauty to be found in this tragedy. Neighbors helping neighbors, political leaders on different sides of the aisle coming together to support victims, the deer and birds roaming among the debris in the Keys are all reminders of peace. They are all part of that simplicity that island life usually brings to people. As a result, you can feel the hope in your being.
Granted, a storm that causes this much devastation causes stress. None of these islands are immune to stress, especially at this time. But Mother Nature giveth and Mother Nature taketh away. In this moment, she has taken away but the giving is just around the corner. A bit of sunshine and some elbow grease may go a long way to making a comeback. The islanders know their vulnerability. But they realize their strength more.
Eggplant parmigiana is a favorite dish in Italy and the United States alike. But you might be surprised to learn about the differences between the two versions in each country. For starters, in Italy it is a contorno or side dish, not a main dish. Indeed, the waiters in Italy might look at you funny if that’s all you order. It’s like asking just for a side of broccoli and nothing else.
In any event, there are many other differences, too. In the United States, we sometimes refer to the dish as eggplant parmesan or eggplant parm. We need to differentiate it from chicken or veal parm, which don’t really exist in Italy. On the other hand, Italians call the dish la parmigiana. They don’t even have to confirm it’s eggplant. That’s already understood.
The Biggest Difference Lies in the Recipe
Italians cook up eggplant parmigiana in a different way than Americans. To begin, the ingredients are different. Italians use fresh mozzarella, which is wetter than the blocks of mozzarella many Americans use. Italians make the marinara sauce from scratch. Some Americans do, too, but many home cooks use jars of the stuff.
But by far the widest gap between Italian eggplant parmigiana and the American version is breadcrumbs. Italians never coat the eggplant in breadcrumbs first, which means no eggs or anything else. Instead, they thinly slice and fry the naked suckers in olive oil. When you get comfortable breaking the rules, you can use Nonno’s Sunday Funday sauce instead of the marinara. The meat makes it a heartier dish.
If you want to make traditional, genuine Italian eggplant parmigiana like I did as evidenced by the photo above, then here are your instructions:
Recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana
Eggplants (about 3 medium to large eggplants)
Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese (the real stuff imported from Italy, not Parmesan)
Marinara sauce (see recipe below)
Thinly slice the eggplants. You can keep the skin on if you like them that way. Most Italians keep the skin. I don’t like it, so I peel it off first. It’s up to you. Make sure to generously salt both sides of the eggplant and place it between paper towels to remove excess water. You should leave this about an hour at least. Some people leave it for up to three hours. Removing the water will make your eggplant parm less soggy. The eggplant itself will be crispier, too.
Heat about an inch of olive oil in a frying pan. When the oil is nice and hot, fry those slices of eggplant. After they become lightly browned on both sides, place them on a dish with paper towels to remove excess oil. Continue to fry until all the eggplant is done.
Sprinkle some marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Add a layer of fried plant on top of that sauce. Next, add pieces of mozzarella and a layer of Parmigiano cheese. Keep making those layers in that order until you hit the top of the baking dish. Be generous with the Parmigiano on the top layer, so it makes a sort of crust on top. It also looks more delectable.
Finally, put it in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F. (You know your oven; if it gets too hot, you might opt for 350 instead of 375). You want everything to blend together nicely and for the cheese to melt. I cover it with aluminum foil initially. About halfway through cooking, I take off the aluminum. The reason is I don’t want the cheese to get burned, just bubbly and browned. It usually needs to cook between 40 minutes and an hour, depending on the size of your baking dish and oven. I was using an Italian oven in Italy when I made the one in the photo. It took about 50 minutes at 150 C.
Many Italians like to make la parmigiana a day ahead because it usually tastes better after a day. In that case, you can just heat it the next day, and you might take it out of the oven a bit earlier the first time around.
Recipe for Marinara Sauce
Tomatoes (chopped, about 2 to 3 lbs., preferably from your garden – or Nonno’s)
Olive oil (about a tablespoon)
Garlic (2 cloves)
Fresh basil (a handful, preferably from your garden – or Nonno’s)
Salt (1 to 2 tsp., depending on how many tomatoes you are using)
Americans often include onions in their marinara sauce. Italians do not. In fact, they don’t even always keep the garlic in the sauce until the end. This is the Italian version. Saute smashed garlic (not minced) in a thin layer of olive oil in a saucepan. Remove the browned garlic. Then, add the chopped tomatoes and the juice that spilled out onto the cutting board. I don’t worry so much about the seeds because I use a mesh sieve to strain the sauce when I’m done cooking.
Next, add the salt to the tomatoes. If you’d like, you can add a little more olive oil for flavor, too. Then, bring the tomatoes in their juices to a boil. Lower the flame, so that the sauce simmers and thickens. Stir frequently. When the sauce is about 10 minutes from being done, add the basil.
Finally, pass the sauce through a sieve. I use the bottom of my wooden spoon push it through. Then, I toss the seeds and skins. Your sauce is ready. You can keep it in a jar in the fridge for a day or two. Or you can just put it to work immediately on top of gnocchi, pasta, or in this case, in eggplant parmigiana.
Zi Nannina a Mare in Ischia Italy offers guests a sophisticated menu and incredible island views. I’ve taken you to this restaurant before in this blog. But it’s always a new and memorable experience. It is uniquely Ischitano. The culture there epitomizes the sweet life, spending time with friends and family amid lovely ambiance and over delicious food.
The restaurant is small. There is room for a just a couple of tables inside. You eat outside on the terrace with an overhang or right on the lawn as you see in the photo above. This meal was in mid August, the height of the tourist season. There were many guests on hand. Everyone seemed relaxed. Indeed, that’s the emotion this place brings to you.
While the views are lovely – both during the day when you can take in the scene and at night when the setting becomes more romantic – the food is still the star. Without further ado, here’s a look at the meal we enjoyed.
Flavorful, Unique Combinations
This salad of arugula and calamari in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and topped with shaved Parmigiano cheese is the reason my husband loves this restaurant. So, when he didn’t see it on the menu in August, he asked if the chef could make it, and he obliged. The peppery arugula and sweet balsamic drenched calamari are a wonderful contrast. And the Parmigiano is the cherry on top.
Spice and Tradition
A refreshing and light appetizer, octopus and potato salad is a typical dish. This one was lightly dressed in olive oil and lemon, and the octopus was perfectly cooked. It was soft and delicate, not at all rubbery or chewy.
My husband, son, and I went to Zi Nannina’s days before our departure. That’s why we felt compelled to order some of the more traditional dishes on the menu. It’s always as though it’s the last chance to eat them. When I’m away from Ischia, I dream of mussels and clams on a bed of long pasta just like this.
Saute of mussels or clams is my absolute favorite dish in Ischia. One of my foodie friends, who has visited me on the island a few times, put it best; she says she would like to drown herself in the simple soup under the shellfish. Usually, it consists of olive oil, garlic, some Italian spices and white wine. When you order the zuppa instead of the saute, you’re going to get a a similar sauce with tomatoes. This one was a zuppa and it was spicy with some some hot pepper to give it kick. There’s nothing like dipping grilled Italian bread into this feast and chowing down.
This tiramisu, an ever-popular Italian dessert, was beautifully presented in a martini glass with some coffee to pour on top. I’m not a fan of coffee (not even espresso). I know it’s sacrilege to admit this. Sorry! But my husband thoroughly enjoyed it.
Fruit and gelato are easy ways to make my belly happy. The heat in Ischia throughout the summer was tremendous, worse than I’ve ever experienced. As a result, a refreshing dish of juicy fruit was the perfect ending to this meal. It was coated in a creamy, sweet sauce that reminded me of zabaglione. It was paired with homemade gelato, my drug of choice. Indeed, the ending was perfect.
Scalinatella a Mare is a restaurant in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples in Italy, which sits on the beach. Its name, which translates to Stairs to the Sea, describes its location. Indeed, there are stairs that take you down to the beach in Ischia Porto, the island’s capital, and right into the restaurant. While the dining area is nothing fancy, the food and the view out to the ocean more than makes up for it. Before you go down the stairs, you should take a look at the beach and the glorious sun. This was our view when we went there in early August 2017:
We sat outside on the porch of the restaurant. A lovely sea breeze passed through, which made the meal all the more pleasurable. A family runs this place. The children wait on you, and their parents cook and serve. It really felt like we were guests in their home. This is a great place for tourists to go for a taste of Ischia’s home cooking. Couples will be swept away by the naturally romantic setting, even if their kid is with them.
It’s All about the Food at Scalinatella a Mare
The view is nice. The digs are humble. But the food elevates this restaurant from anything you’d expect to eat down the shore. Beach food in Ischia is way different from beach food in the United States. While this restaurant was not gourmet, it delivered in style and taste, and it matches the food Nonna would have made for you.
To go to Ischia is to answer the call of the seafood gods. If you don’t like shellfish, there’s plenty of other stuff for you. But you’re missing out. At Scalinatella a Mare, we ordered seafood for the entire meal. Neither of us was disappointed. Of course, our son had his usual chicken cutlet and hand-cut french fries. The calamari salad in the photo above was refreshing and whet our appetite for what was to come.
We also sampled this other seafood salad, which included octopus, shrimp, and calamari. Topped with olive oil and a touch of lemon, the salad had pretty tomato florets as edible decorations. This was another refreshing antipasto, perfect for the hot day we had been experiencing.
A Heavy Fork
Italy is all into toast nowadays, too. This version, which is similar to bruschetta, featured warm octopus in a tomato sauce. There was just a hint of spice, presumably from fresh hot pepper. This was quite filling and delicious, which is why we canceled our pasta order. Even with the “heavy fork” my husband and I have when we go out to eat, we had filled up too much in the heat. Honestly, my stomach could have stopped here. But who can resist the mussels that were to come?
These babies get me every time. I can’t resist saute di cozze (mussels) or vongole (clams). Most restaurants on the island offer up a version of this classic. Chefs steam mussels or clams in olive oil, garlic, and white wine. Then, they top the dish with parsley and serve it all with grilled bread. It never disappoints and this was no exception. “Yum,” is all I can say at this vision of beauty.
Golden fried calamari and shrimp were so tempting that we almost did not take a photo at all. Luckily, I remembered in the nick of time. What’s interesting about the shrimp is they are fried without being cleaned first. In other words, the head and shell are still intact and the batter is around it. The belief is that cooking the shrimp without cleaning it gives it more flavor, even if you don’t end up eating any of the fried batter. While it’s more work to clean the shrimp at the table, they are delicate and delicious.
Overall, Scalinatella a Mare in Ischia Porto offers lovely ambiance and home cooking worthy of your attention. Be sure to take a walk in the sand with your beloved to work off the meal.
Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples in Italy, is more than a vacation destination. It’s a state of mind. There is an entire culture built around this little piece of land in the sea. Truly, the sweet life of Italians – as Americans have come to know it – begins and ends here.
The photo above says it all. After all, who can resist the romantic ambiance of a real life castle in the middle of the sea positioned next to bronzed sunbathers and swimmers? There’s even a grapevine and all that greenery. It is the picture of a place that soothes the body and opens the mind to endless possibilities.
A Melody Like No Other
Life’s rhythm is different here. There is no frenetic pace of workers pounding the pavement. Instead, the tourists and natives alike are swayed by the sea. So, their step is gentler, their sense of purpose less directed. The breeze moves them. By the way, that’s not always a bad thing. It takes some getting used to for an American such as I. But once you stop fighting it and let your body relax, you flow like the waves kissing the shore.
Stepping lightly is foreshadowing for the siesta of every afternoon. Families gather for long lunches that they follow with a nap. The force of the sun and the pull of the waves unleashes unbridled passion. You’ll find yourself making love in the middle of the afternoon. Maybe you’ll sleep, too. In the evening, the people return to work. But first they share a coffee with their friends at the bar. After all, there’s always time for espresso.
Friends become family. Family becomes friends. Everyone gets in everyone else’s business, but that’s the way it is supposed to be. Neighbors still help each other. If you stay long enough, you might feel suffocated by their love. If you leave, however, you long for their affection and can never replicate it.
Food That’s Better Than Sex
Your whole world revolves around food when in Ischia or with people from Ischia. For it is food that unites you with lovers and neighbors. It is food that sustains you. You will feed each other endlessly for food is love. Love is food. Biting into the island’s lush vegetation – peaches, tomatoes, figs, and more – is a revelation. It is as though you’ve never eaten before.
Bottomless plates of pasta doused in the finest sauces, shellfish and octopus plucked right from the sea in front of you before arriving at your table, and the coniglio Ischitano (Ischia rabbit) dressed in its glorious simplicity will fill your heart as much as your belly. Indeed, you will feel healthy and indulged all at once. And don’t forget to top it off with fresh, artisanal gelato.
Green hills, fragrant flowers, luxurious spas and hotels, sexy beaches, and pretty people are lovely distractions. Your brain will take a vacation. When you carve out time to sleep, you will restfully doze. You drift away from everyday worries and the person you are in the real world. You become someone else. When you look in the mirror, you see someone you like better. She is prettier, smarter, more capable, and she knows it. The people all around you will look at you differently, as though they are finally seeing you. No matter how hard you try, you can never replicate this experience anywhere else.
Ischia State of Mind
Perhaps, that is why island life becomes a drug for many. You can never have enough of that feeling it induces deep inside you. It has a grip on your heart because Ischia makes you stronger, more desirable, more beautiful, more alive than ever. The earth in Ischia will move you but only in the best of ways for it is a force of nature that never really leaves you.
The Ischia Italy earthquake struck Aug. 21 and registered a magnitude of 4.0. Many of the residents of the island (which is the home of my ancestors and husband and where I live during the summer) describe a loud noise that sounded like a bomb. Seismologists on various Italian news programs explained that this is common when an earthquake hits a volcanic territory. Indeed, Ischia is a volcano.
Damage Was Limited to One Town
After the loud noise, the earth shook and the electricity went out briefly. Many of the people in Barano say they didn’t even realize anything – let alone an earthquake – had just happened. However, the town of Casamicciola faced more serious damage. The natives say that Casamicciola, which is a port town where tourists often arrive, is more vulnerable to earthquakes than the rest of the island.
Some homes collapsed in Casamicciola. Others experienced damage that rendered them inhabitable for the time being. Lacco Ameno and Forio, two other towns, also experienced some damage but it was minor in comparison to Casamicciola. In the aftermath, 2,600 people were left without homes in Ischia. Still, outside of Casamicciola there is little evidence an earthquake ever hit. Life carries on as usual.
A Miraculous Rescue
News that three brothers, ages 11, 7, and 7 months, were stuck under the rubble of their home devastated everyone. The oldest boy had put them under a mattress, and they were able to communicate with the rescue workers the entire time, which lasted through the night and into the next day.
Rescue workers successfully pulled out 7-month-old Pasquale first. Next, came 7-year-old Mattia and 11-year-old Ciro, who was hailed a hero by news outlets for quick thinking that saved his brothers and him. You can view the emotional rescue of the baby on YouTube.
Two Women Lost Their Lives
Tragically, the earthquake did result in the deaths of two people. One woman was outside the church, where she had just worshipped. The quake hit and the church bell fell and killed her. Another succumbed to the rubble in Casamicciola.
Authorities are investigating to determine if the houses in Casamicciola collapsed because they were not properly built. In other words, they want to make sure builders obtained the proper permits and completed construction up to code for protection against earthquakes. Because the 4.0 magnitude was not as big as other quakes, authorities are raising suspicion. The people of Ischia are railing against these accusations.
Asking for Support
Anyone who wants to help the people of Ischia with the rebuilding efforts in Casamicciola can donate to this gofundme page. (I personally can vouch for Dario Pinto, the person who started this fund. He is a family friend and native of Ischia.) In addition, you can visit the beautiful island of Ischia. Many tourists fled in the wake of the earthquake. Others canceled upcoming reservations.
While I understand the tourist’s concerns, I also feel for the people of Ischia. This is their busy season; if no one comes now, they lose serious income. An island reliant on tourism, many of the natives only have six months of secure work. Those who really want to support Ischia amid this tragedy should spend their vacation money there.
In addition, the overwhelming majority of the island is functioning as usual. The damage was limited to one small hamlet of the island. There have been no aftershocks. Natives are making swift, energetic campaigns on social media to demonstrate the sun is still shining. The beach is still welcoming. And you should join in the fun.