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Little more than half way through the steep climb, hikers round a curve and finally catch a glimpse of the summit of Mount Epomeo, the highest point on the Italian island of Ischia near Naples, Italy. The volcano's peak stands about 2,588 feet above sea level and is topped with an Italian flag.

Little more than half way through the steep climb, hikers round a curve and finally catch a glimpse of the summit of Mount Epomeo, the highest point on the Italian island of Ischia near Naples, Italy. The volcano's peak stands about 2,588 feet above sea level and is topped with an Italian flag. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

Little more than half way through the steep climb, hikers round a curve and finally catch a glimpse of the summit of Mount Epomeo, the highest point on the Italian island of Ischia near Naples, Italy. The volcano's peak stands about 2,588 feet above sea level and is topped with an Italian flag.

Little more than half way through the steep climb, hikers round a curve and finally catch a glimpse of the summit of Mount Epomeo, the highest point on the Italian island of Ischia near Naples, Italy. The volcano's peak stands about 2,588 feet above sea level and is topped with an Italian flag. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

A good luck horseshoe welcomes visitors to a base camp and Miscillo Souvenir shop on the way to the peak of Mount Epomeo. Those who might not want to hike can rent horses and, for 20 euros, ride their way to the 2,588-foot summit. The hike, though steep, takes roughly an hour.

A good luck horseshoe welcomes visitors to a base camp and Miscillo Souvenir shop on the way to the peak of Mount Epomeo. Those who might not want to hike can rent horses and, for 20 euros, ride their way to the 2,588-foot summit. The hike, though steep, takes roughly an hour. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

A handler makes his way down the narrow trail to the Miscillo Souvenir shop and base camp with Concita the horse after taking trekkers to the summit of Mount Epomeo, the volcano on the island of Ischia. All'Epomeo in Sella (To Epomeo in the Saddle) restarted the tradition of taking hikers to the summit by animal. Once done by mules, the trek is now done on horseback for 20 euros.

A handler makes his way down the narrow trail to the Miscillo Souvenir shop and base camp with Concita the horse after taking trekkers to the summit of Mount Epomeo, the volcano on the island of Ischia. All'Epomeo in Sella (To Epomeo in the Saddle) restarted the tradition of taking hikers to the summit by animal. Once done by mules, the trek is now done on horseback for 20 euros. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

About midway through the roughly hour-long hike up Mount Epomeo from the town of Fontana sits the church of San Nicola. It's carved in the volcano's tufa rock and was built around 1587. While the inside of the church now is closed to visitors, trekkers still can stop and ring the tower bell.

About midway through the roughly hour-long hike up Mount Epomeo from the town of Fontana sits the church of San Nicola. It's carved in the volcano's tufa rock and was built around 1587. While the inside of the church now is closed to visitors, trekkers still can stop and ring the tower bell. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

It's dubbed "il panorama piu bello del mondo" (The world's most beautiful panorama). Mount Epomeo is the highest peak on the island of Ischia, reaching about 2,588 feet. It dominates the entire island and from its summit, visitors can see the Sorrentina peninsula; the islands of Capri, Procida and Ponza; and catch a glimpse of rival volcano Mount Vesuvius.

It's dubbed "il panorama piu bello del mondo" (The world's most beautiful panorama). Mount Epomeo is the highest peak on the island of Ischia, reaching about 2,588 feet. It dominates the entire island and from its summit, visitors can see the Sorrentina peninsula; the islands of Capri, Procida and Ponza; and catch a glimpse of rival volcano Mount Vesuvius. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

Mount Epomeo is the highest peak on the Italian island of Ischia. The hike is short but steep.

Mount Epomeo is the highest peak on the Italian island of Ischia. The hike is short but steep. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

Trekkers to Mount Epomeo are rewarded with a mountain-top restaurant, Olimpo, which serves refreshing, chilled white wine and a delectable bruschetta, among other typically Ischian fare -- such as rabbit.

Trekkers to Mount Epomeo are rewarded with a mountain-top restaurant, Olimpo, which serves refreshing, chilled white wine and a delectable bruschetta, among other typically Ischian fare -- such as rabbit. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

Hikers who make it to the top of Mount Epomeo on the Italian island of Ischia are greeted with stunning views of the Sorrentina peninsula.

Hikers who make it to the top of Mount Epomeo on the Italian island of Ischia are greeted with stunning views of the Sorrentina peninsula. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

Mount Epomeo doesn't seem so daunting from the port of Casamicciola, does it? But the summit of the dormant volcano is the highest point on the Italian resort island of Ischia, about an hour's ferry ride from Naples and Pozzuoli.

Mount Epomeo doesn't seem so daunting from the port of Casamicciola, does it? But the summit of the dormant volcano is the highest point on the Italian resort island of Ischia, about an hour's ferry ride from Naples and Pozzuoli. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

So it wasn’t quite the top of the world, and frankly, it took only an hour of sweat-induced trekking to reach the summit, but we might as well have been on top of the world looking down from atop Mount Epomeo — described by some as a “heavenly place” that offers spectacular views of the beautiful southern Italian landscape on the island of Ischia.

Ischia’s tourism officials have dubbed the view from the top of the dormant volcano “Il panorama piu bello del mondo” (the world’s most beautiful panorama).

Mount Epomeo is the highest peak on Ischia, roughly an hour’s ferry ride from the port cities of Naples and Pozzuoli.

Stretching about 2,588 feet above sea level, Epomeo barely tickles the sky compared to other mountains that trekkers scale routinely, but the volcano dominates the Mediterranean island of Ischia. From its summit, visitors can see the Sorrentina peninsula, the islands of Capri, Procida and Ponza; and catch a glimpse of rival volcano Mount Vesuvius in the east.

The hike is short but steep, with a number of trails that wind up the slopes and past a few vineyards, narrowing and widening and narrowing again, as trekkers twist and meander up the mountain, past tufa rock and even white lava.

Hikers are greeted with a few crags at the pinnacle, upon which they can perch, rest and take in the magnificent panorama.

Those who don’t want to hoof it to the summit can rent a horse from the operators of the Miscillo Souvenir shop, located less than a quarter into the trek from the town of Fontana.

The company, All’Epomeo in Sella (To Epomeo in the Saddle), resurrected the tradition of taking hikers to the summit on horseback this year after a lull of nearly two decades, said operator Agostino Iacono, who runs the business with two friends. Historically, the trek was done on mules, but the tradition died as fewer residents on the island took time to domesticate the hardworking and rugged animals.

“We thought it was a shame to see this tradition die,” Iacono said. The trio started the company thinking elderly people might take advantage of the chance to climb the volcano without having to do so on foot. Turns out, senior citizens today are a hearty bunch, Iacono jested. Most of the clients who spend the 20 euros to ascend on one of the company’s three horses are families and young people — those, perhaps, who wanted to say, “been there, done that.”

Roughly midway up one trail, trekkers are greeted by a surprising landmark: the church of San Nicola, built in 1587, which is carved in the crumbly tufa rock of the mountain. The church is closed to visitors; but trekkers still can stop and ring the tower bell.

As if the view itself wasn’t enough of a treat, a quaint restaurant at the top, Olimpo, offers hungry and thirsty hikers hearty fare. Dishes range from traditional rabbit to delectable bruschetta or refreshing, chilled white wine.

jontzs@estripes.osd.mil

On the QTDirections: Ferries for Ischia leave from the ports of Naples and Pozzuoli and sail to the ports of Ischia Porto and Casamicciola. Or take the city bus for “Serrara Fontana,” about a 30-minute commute from the ports. A cab ride will cost roughly 30 euros.Times: Ferry times are seasonal, with more running in the summer months. Currently, ferries from Pozzuoli to Ischia Porto leave at 6:10 a.m., 9 a.m., 9:40 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Ferries from Pozzuoli to Casamicciola leave at 8:15 a.m., 10:15 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Ferries leave from Naples to Ischia Porto at 6:25 a.m., 8:35 a.m., 8:40 a.m., 9:40 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 12:50 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5:20 p.m., 5:55 p.m. and 7 p.m. Ferries leave from Naples to Casamicciola at 8:25 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 4:20 p.m. and 7 p.m. Three companies that make the run are Medmar, Caremar and SNAV. (Hiking should be done during daylight hours.)Food: There are a few eateries and coffee shops in the town of Fontana, at the base of the trails and along the path. At the summit of Mount Epomeo, the restaurant Olimpo offers outdoor seating overlooking vineyards, or indoor seating overlooking spectacular views.

— Sandra Jontz


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