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Ischia Travel Guide
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Capo D'Anno or New Year's Eve
After young people celebrate the midnight hour with their families, they head into the streets for dancing and fun. They often end up at Valentino, the island's premier discothèque where there is usually live music to usher in January 1.
This is Italy's version of Fat Tuesday. Although Ischia's celebrations can not compare to those in Venice or Rio, one can still enjoy the holiday here. In fact, the Ischitani celebration is a great fit for families. Young children dress up in costumes as they would for Halloween in the States. At night, even the young adults get in on the act by dressing up to go dancing. Families gather for meals of lasagna and other indulgences ahead of the Lent season.
If Carnevale and Easter don't fall in March, then the Ischitani usually use this month to prepare for the upcoming tourist season. This is usually a good time to travel if you're interested in avoiding crowds and getting breaks on your airfare.
Easter and Pasquetta (or Easter Monday)
Visitors are welcome to attend Mass throughout Holy Week and on Easter Sunday at any of the churches on the island. Many Italians - especially those from Naples - come to Ischia during this period, so the island tends to be full. And on Pasquetta the natives have picnics in places like Mount Epomeo, Maronti or Buceto. You might want to do the same. In the evening of Pasquetta, you can almost always catch the dance of 'Ndrezzata in Buonopane.
The Feast of Santa Restituta, May 16
The games, vendors, and kiddie rides can be found in Lacco Ameno for almost the entire month. But on the 16th, visitors to the Bay of San Montano can witness a reenactment of the martyrdom and arrival of the saint in Lacco Ameno.
The Feast of San Giovanni Battista, June 24
The folk dance troupe in Buonopane performs 'Ndrezzata outside the San Giovanni Battista church and there is a celebration featuring vendors that sell food and toys in the piazza.
Ischia is getting in on the Italian act of hosting film festivals. The last one in 2006 was successful, so there will probably be another one next year.
The Feast of Sant' Anna, July 26
The most awe inspiring of all the feasts, this celebration takes place in the bay just under Castello Aragonese. It is like a parade on water, where different factions - including the island of Procida and the town of Ischia Ponte, for example - create massive barges to depict various scenes like you would see on a float. Past barge themes have included a Trojan horse and Carnevale. The unveiling of the barges is followed by an impressive fireworks display.
This is the most frenetic and chaotic month of the year in Ischia. All of Italy goes on vacation in August, which means many Italians head to the islands. The Ischitani are busy working during this period. That means they are offering lots for tourists to do. There are concerts, exhibits, parties, etc. Consult Web sites and travel agencies to get complete listings ahead of your trip if you plan to arrive anytime in August. You'll find plenty to do, but you might prefer just lounging on one of the fabulous beaches instead!
The Feast of San Giovan Giuseppe della Croce, first week in September
Many Ischitani, who moved to San Pedro, Calif., continue to celebrate this feast in honor of Saint Giovan Giuseppe, who was born in Ischia in the 1600s. The celebration in California is modeled after the original, which still takes place in Ischia Ponte annually. It includes all the usual bells and whistles and a particularly impressive procession.
Many towns celebrate the grape harvest with feasts in the piazza. There are also opportunities to learn more about wine making, which is a fairly large business in Ischia.
Festival of Mushrooms, Chestnuts and Tartufo Bianco d'Asti
This festival can take place either at the end of October or beginning of November. Throughout this period, Ischitani find more mushrooms and chestnuts than ever. They also import tartufo from other parts of Italy to make savory recipes. Restaurants like Foccolare in Cretaio are well known for participating.
Natale or Christmas
On Christmas Eve, the natives have elaborate fish-only meals that feature calamari, octopus, eel, baccala, and all the shellfish you can eat. During the holiday season, they also play Tombola Napoletana often, especially while waiting for the clock to strike midnight on Christmas Eve, when everyone heads for church. Tombola is like Bingo, but each number corresponds to an image - some are religious and others are downright naughty. All are lots of fun, so you should try and get in on a game. Visit the many churches and piazzas on the island to see the various nativity scenes. Most are ornate, and the locals will tell you the story behind each one if you ask.
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