Most Famous Residents & Guests: Michelangelo, Vittoria Colonna, Ludovico Ariosto.
The inspiration behind House Greyjoy of Pyke from Game of Thrones, Ischia Island’s 15th century Castello Aragonese is a stunning hilltop fortress with equally stunning views over the Gulf of Naples.
Within the walls of this incredible building are the labyrinth like guest quarters of Albergo Il Monastero, a former convent now converted into a very unique hotel.
Built at the end of the 16th century and originally dedicated to Santa Maria della Consolazione, the convent at Castello Aragonese, having been upgraded to suit the 21st century traveller, naturally looks a lot different today.
The layout is old; the same rooms and hallways have been used for centuries and the interior design and decor, though relatively modern, are carefully simple and unassuming with a lack of overt modernism that allows the place to retain a distinct historical atmosphere.
The have a range of single and double/twin rooms, all of which are, again, simple and unassuming. Check your options on the booking page here. The accommodation is generally neat, crisp and clean, with white walls and traditional tiled floors and all have an outside patio with views back towards Ischia Island or out to sea, and the Gulf of Naples.
They all have WiFi and nice private bathrooms too but none of the extra niceties that would allow the place to compete in the modern luxury hotel department. What it may lack there though it makes up for in sheer beauty and ambience.
It is a thoroughly romantic place to stay; the views are jaw dropping and an evening stroll around the labyrinth like complex of the old convent and castle is quite inspiring.
The large terrace is a lovely place to dine, drink or just relax. It has the choicest of views; encompassing the sea, the village of Ischia Ponte and the beach of Cartaromana.
There are gardens to discover; of flowers, fruit and vegetables and even a small vineyard from which they make their own wines, and if you take a walk all the way down the steps (or take the elevator) you can swim and snorkel in crystal clear waters.
Internally there are many common spaces and you can admire some of their nice period features along with mid 20th century art work from the likes of Gabriele Mattera, Elio Waschimps and Leonardo Cremonini.
There is a restaurant at the hotel, and the food is excellent; from the generous breakfast (included in the room rate) to the lavish evening meals to be taken inside, or outside on the terrace which, as mentioned, has perhaps the finest views of the entire property.
Much of the ingredients are taken fresh from source at the castle’s organic gardens and you also have the chance to pair each dish with the wines produced from their aforementioned private vineyards.
Overall you’ll find prices at the restaurant reasonable; they are generally on a par with other local restaurants, restaurants which may compete in terms of food quality but lack the extraordinary splendour of this venue.
You’ll find the service throughout the hotel impeccable. The staff are friendly and helpful and can help out with practical things like tours and recommendations, transfers etc.
Note: no children and no pets allowed!
Ischia is the largest of the islands of the Gulf of Naples. The main village of Ischia Ponte is just below the castle and though the main draw for most visitors to the island and to the village is Castello Aragonese itself, Ischia Ponte is a lovely, very atmospheric, village to explore; a classic seaside Italian village of narrow lanes, white washed walls and tiny balconies, with the sound and the the smell of the sea never far away.
The coast of Ischia is well appreciated, and not just around Ischia Ponte. All around the island you’ll find some lovely coastal scenery. The kilometer long beach at Maronti is the Island’s most famous, deservedly so, though it can get quite busy. You’ll also find very nice beaches at Sant’Angelo, Forio, Citara and Cava dell’isola though too for example.
Visitors seem less inclined to explore the interior of the island but there you have some wonderful hiking. Unlike many Mediterranean Islands there are many wooded areas on Ischia which lead to the moniker ‘the green island’ and there are probably hundreds of pathways and trails to follow all around the hills and through the woods.
You’ll undoubtedly be stopped in your tracks here and there by some stunning views, none more so than around the 800m high Mount Epomeo, the highest point on the island.
There are direct ferries from Naples to Ischia Ponte. You can get direct shuttles (Alibus) from Naples Capodichino International Airport to Molo Beverello harbour or alternatively take a taxi. You also have the option of going the slower route from Calata Porta di Massa, Naples’ city harbour, which also has car ferries.
If coming on foot, from Ischia Ponte harbour you can take the number 7 bus at the small bus terminus just a few meters from the harbour, take a taxi or, if you’re light on luggage and light on your feet, walk it. It can take up to a half an hour, with the final stretch very much uphill, but it is a beautiful walk.
Though the present castle dates back to the 15th century the first fortress on the site was built in 474 B.C. by the Greek King Hieron I of Syracuse during his conquest of the island, before then the domain of the Etruscans.
In 326 B.C. the Romans took the fortress, and the island, before it changed hands on numerous occasions through the years between Visigoths, Vandals, Goths, Arabs, Normans and Swabians.
The present fortress was built for the then King of Naples, Ferdinand II of Aragon, in 1496 with the seven-towered design being attributed to Francesco di Giorgio Martini of Siena.
The castle would become most synonymous with Vittoria Colonna, the most popular female poet of sixteenth-century Italy, who lived here between 1501 and 1536. She was also something of a poet mentor to the likes of Ludovico Ariosto and the infamous Michelangelo, both of them visiting Castello Aragonese on many occasions.
During the latter end of that century a convent was built on the site; the convent of Santa Maria della Consolazione, now known as Il monastero, which is of course were the guest accommodation is located today.
Castello Aragonese was a famously tough place to conquer and amongst others, saw off a strong Ottoman attack in 1594. By the early 1700s it was in the hands of the Hapsburgs who converted it into a prison before renewing its role as a fortress when the French took it, under Napoleon around 100 years later. They were ousted by the British in 1809 during the Napoleonic Wars with the structure, during the preceding siege, seeing heavy damage from shelling.
From 1883 onwards it became the property of the Italian Navy, who in the last few decades began archeological and restorative work on the building before ceding it to private ownership.
WHAT OTHER GUESTS SAY:
“Loved the unique setting and beautiful architecture and art, plus the most amazing view of Ischia for sunsets from the terrace. The staff were wonderful and attentive. The complementary breakfast is excellent, and I reserved one dinner for a memorable meal. I highly recommend this place…”
“This is a very unique property on the order of a parador in an ancient building. Everything about this property is first class including atmosphere, views, service, food at the restaurant. Staying at this property is reason enough to come to Ischia…”
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- Castello Aragonese