It might have the dubious honour of playing a role in the latest Nicholas Coleridge novel, but the island of Ischia is a fittingly glamorous location for the unscrupulous cast of characters. Located just 15 miles off the coast in the Bay of Naples, the island’s pine-covered mountains are reminiscent of St Lucia. Capri shimmers in the distance, as does Mount Vesuvius, a reminder of the volcanic chain of which the island forms a part, and to which it owes much of its beauty. First colonised by the Greeks, Ischia came into its own in the 1950s, when Hollywood producer Angelo Rizzoli built the Albergo della Regina Isabella hotel.
The glitterati followed, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton having one of their famous rows there. The charm that drew these stars still brings holidaymakers today, but permanent homes are harder to come by. Often overshadowed by its flashier neighbour Capri, Ischia is quietly classy, and although it’s not ostentatious, there’s an enormous amount of wealth here one just has to look at the property prices. ‘Prices in Ischia give you a 20% discount on those in Capri,’ says Andrew Langton from Aylesford International, which puts them between €650 and €1,020 per square foot, and tight supply versus demand on this small volcanic outcrop means house prices retain value.
The island’s geography means that most of the property for sale is located around the coastline. Large private villas are further inland and sell for upwards of €5 million; most need a considerable amount of work. The main towns include Ischia, where the jetfoil docks, Lacco Ameno, Forio and Saint Angelo, and the island has some lovely beaches. The volcanic activity brings the added advantage of thermal baths, springs and mud pools, which are revitalising and enormous fun some residents even heat their houses with the geysers.
The owners of the Albergo della Regina Isabella are accustomed to receiving visits from rich Italians, Russians, Germans and a select few Britons, but now they’re offering a new breed of property owner the perfect Mediterranean escape for a smaller investment, and less of the fuss, of Capri
(00 39 081 333 0207; www.villaisabellaclub.net). ‘Visitors come here to completely relax,’ Carlo Cavandoli, sales manager for the Villa Isabella apartments, explains. ‘Some of the richest people in the world visit, but they don’t get special treatment Roman Abramovich brought his yacht here, but it was too large to dock in our bay. He wasn’t used to being told no!’
Short of moving heaven and seabed, the super-rich are quietly catered for: a private jetty extends into the water near the hotel so guests can disembark without running the gauntlet of arriving at the main port, and there’s a helipad for those who don’t come by sea. Mr Cavandoli says people return because they know they’re safe: ‘Crime’s so low that even royal families from the Middle East leave their bodyguards behind when they go for a stroll.’
The apartments themselves are perched high on a volcanic promontory above the hotel and are being fashioned from an imposing 22,600sq ft 1950s villa. They range between 2,200sq ft and 3,800 sq ft, and have been designed for luxury, comfort, and making the most of the sea views and gardens. For instance, Apartment three (€3.5 million) has 3,337sq ft of space, 260˚ views of the sea from all three bedrooms and a large outdoor terrace with its own private plunge pool.
Apartment one (€2.7 million) has two bedrooms and a private solarium on the top floor with private plunge pool and two terraces. Wellness is a focus for the properties: all come with their own hammam and thermal waters piped into the properties. Owners have a choice of buying outright or buying and then renting through the hotel rentals are expected to come in at more than €1,000 per night, with the profits split 50-50 between hotel and owner.