We talked to the creative director and founder behind the iconic Milanese classic brand which bears the same name as its founder: meet Massimo Alba.
Based in Milan, but a passionate frequenter of Ischia due to his wife’s heritage, Massimo Alba is known worldwide for his timeless designs worn by celebrities and locals alike. Discover all about what Massimo and his wife Mari love about Ischia and its sun-soaked vintage vibes, in our latest insider’s guide to this volcanic island in the Gulf of Naples.
Your wife is from Ischia and you’ve been spending all summers there since forever. What makes Ischia special?
I came to know Ischia, the green island, through stories, then I visited it with Mari, my wife. It was a wonderful discovery, the island, the volcano, the boiling water on the shore and then into the sea, the kitchen, hospitality, friends.
In Ischia, we cultivate a Mediterranean garden, a citrus grove which lives near our terraces. The garden coexists alternating with ancient botanical roses, agapanthus to pelargoni to fragrant lemon trees and licorice, fig trees, apricots and succulents brought back to the garden from countless boat trips to discover the islands of the Campania archipelago or Pontine or down south from the Aeolian Islands. Our son Nicolò was born on the island, consolidating more than ever our deep bond with this land forged by fire.
Where to stay in Ischia?
I would suggest staying at each or any of these wonderful places: Botania Relais, Mezzatorre Hotel, Moresco, Il Convento, San Michele Hotel and Spa, Villa Livia; Celestino and Scannella. Moreover, the Regina Isabella in Lacco Ameno.
What are the best thermal baths?
The best thermal baths are of course Negombo, Poseidon and Cavascura. I would however add Nitrodi, even if it is not thermal water.
What do you think a person who’s never been to Ischia should see other than spending its time at the beach and strolling around for a gelato at night? Any historical sights?
Not to be missed, for those who have never been to Ischia are the Castello Aragonese, Sant' Angelo, Villa Arbusto (nestore cup), Monte Epomeo, Giardini La Mortella and Giardini Ravino.
Best traditional trattorias?
My secret spots are the following: Peppina di Renato, La vigna di Alberto, Monte Corvo, Ristorante l'Arca, Il Focolare, Torre di mezzo, Trattoria casa Colonica, La Cantina di Zio Jack. However, if you want to have dinner after a day spent at the thermal park Negombo, I suggest going to Casa Colonica, a wonderful little restaurant (ask for Giacchino!).
Ischia is quite a wild island - where to go for a stroll or a hike in nature? Can you suggest any paths?
There are plenty of walks one can take around the island. The first of which is Pizzi Bianchi, which starts from the village of Noia and leads to the beach of Maronti. Other great hikes follow the Piano Liguori, la Camminata della Scarrupata (up to the restaurant La Pace), La Bocca di Tifeo, Monte Epomeo up to the Restaurant da Fiore, and Baia della Pelara - However my favourite is the walk of the Bosco della Maddalena that also leads to the Carpino Nero (on which it is said there is a particular energy, I have been there and I can confirm that it is so).
What are the best hidden bays and beaches?
My favourite hidden coves and beaches are La Spiaggia degli Inglesi, Cartaromana beach, Spiaggia Zaro, Baia della Pelara, Spiaggia delle Fumarole, Baia Sorgeto, Scannella, Sgarrupata.
Best beach restaurants where one can enjoy a lovely lunch?
Lunches at the beach should be enjoyed and indulged. I suggest paying a visit to Hotel Ferdinando alle fumarole (where they cook octopus and chicken under the sand), Da Nicola alle Fumarole (don't miss the eggplant parmigiana and the fig or wild strawberry tarts), Guarracino Restaurant, Giardini Eden, Cap e Fierr, Il Ricciulillo, Zi Nannina a mare. And finally, Il Delfino in Laccoameno.
We’ve heard that Ischia is becoming a new wine-destination. Where to go to visit interesting wineries and vineyards?
My favourite vineyards and wineries are Vini D'ambra, Crateca, Cenatiempo, Mazzella, Tenuta Piromallo. Each have a wonderful history and are cultivating interesting wines which taste so particular because they soak minerals from the volcanic territory.
Any shops (apart from Massimo Alba) that should be checked out?
I love shopping at Stella di Mare, which is a boutique located in Laccoameno and sells traditional summer clothing, from timeless espadrilles, to straw hats and my classic foulards bearing our wonderful Massimo Alba prints.