Ischia is an enchanting island and holds secrets deep in its past. It’s the largest of the Phlegraean Islands in Italy and much of what tourists see are the lovely beaches, quiet, tranquil surroundings and the thermal waters. Yet, there are many ancient treasures, off the beaten path in hidden Ischia.
The bubblegum pink church, Basilica di Santa Restituta (Piazza Santa Restituta, Lacco Ameno, Ischia), can’t be missed. It sits at the end of a turnaround in Lacco Ameno, right next to our favorite luxury hotel, L’Albergo Regina Isabella. Yet, this is no ordinary church. It holds the kind of secrets Indiana Jones would search out in a quest of the Holy Grail. It sits just steps above an ancient archaeological site, where the dead will literally take their secrets to the grave.
A wonderful surprise awaits the curious traveler just inside the church’s gate. You cross a small courtyard and discover the Museo & Scavi Archeologici S. Restituta where a lovely old woman gladly accepts your small entry fee.
Don’t be put off by the dusty old rooms full of odd curiosities and religious garments in glass cases. There are shards of pottery also tossed in among some paintings. But the true treasure here lies deep below street level.
At first it’s hard to describe the feeling of seeing dozens and dozens of burial crypts for infants and children. The little clay teepee type huts over their tiny remains gives one pause. Life is indeed short and death holds no age limit.
Mixed among the graves are the baking huts and the pottery, wine jugs and tools dating to the 3rd Century B.C. This is hidden Ischia and remained undiscovered until the 1950s when they were renovating the basilica. It’s truly off the beaten path but worth every effort it takes you to step deep into the island’s history.