Here on Ischia we turn our backs on the sea,” says Riccardo d’Ambra, the owner of II Focolare restaurant high atop the island. “Ischia has always lived off the land,” explains this exuberant bear of a man as he leads me through the labyrinth of caves that make up his wine cellar.
“We leave the fishing to the other islands.” He waves a hand towards a stunning view down his hilltop in the direction of what I assume is either little, lesser-known Procida, or glamorous, cosmopolitan Capri. All I can see is the deep, serene blue of the Med on this late spring morning. Like travellers for thousands of years, I am tempted to just gaze at the view from his rustic, eyrie-like restaurant but Papa Riccardo wants to talk rabbit. It’s the speciality of his restaurant, where the walls are lined with posters of the films made here – Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor being the most famous.
Even if you don’t eat rabbit, and I don’t, II Focolare has other excellent dishes, but more than that, its owner’s dedication to the land, to rabbits, mushrooms, fresh herbs and fine wine confirms that Ischia digs and cultivates, while Procida sails and fishes, and Capri? Well, Capri is like the glamorous aunt just a bit past her prime who can still make you feel that life is full of elegance and romance.