Terme Manzi Hotel & Spa is a 5-Star Relais & Chateaux property on the small, picturesque Italian island of Ischia. “Where on earth is Ischia?” you say? It’s just off the coast from Naples and is larger than its much more renowned neighbor to the south, Capri. Located on the north side of the island in a little town called Casamicciola Terme, Terme Manzi has 58 rooms ranging from standard (they call them “Superior”) up to the luxurious Suite Garibaldi, named for historic Italian general and politician, Giuseppe Garibaldi. The property also has two pools, a spa and fitness center, three restaurants, and reserved access to a local beach (from March through September).
Our booking was a little unusual. I and my wife, Kari, had planned a nice, long vacation, stopping in a few different cities in Italy. However, after a system glitch (hotel system, not our system) left us without a hotel room at our final stop of Sorrento two weeks before we were scheduled to leave the United States, we had to call an audible and we looked into the island of Ischia. That’s not the news you want to get that late in the game but we’re both really flexible and we persevered. I had been eager to dive into Relais & Chateaux properties for a while so I figured this was as good a time as any. We booked a Superior room directly through the hotel website for just one night, Sept 25, and the rate was €246.50. It was a fully prepaid, nonrefundable rate — about 10% cheaper than the refundable rate — but it did not include the city tax, which was €2 per person, per night. This tax is typical when traveling abroad and usually, as in this case, it must be paid to the hotel in cash upon check-out. I thought the rate was great, considering it’s a highly regarded, 5-star hotel, and the city tax is was about as low as I’ve ever seen. The conversion from euro to dollar at $1.12 came out to a total cost of $278.05 plus the €4 tax in cash.
There is no airport on the island so pretty much the only way to get there is by boat. There is a high-speed ferry system that runs in this region between the various islands and coastal cities like Naples, Capri, Sorrento, Amalfi, Ischia, etc. We opted for this and took it from Sorrento, where we had stayed the two previous nights. We rode the ferry on two different occasions on our trip and both times it was efficient. It’s also affordable. I definitely recommend it. Both on their website and in their booking confirmation email, the hotel offers to arrange travel from the airport in Naples by private boat, the ferry that we took, or by helicopter. They also offer the complimentary hotel shuttle to pick us up at Ischia Porto, where the ferry docks. I took them up on this offer and advised them of our plans to take the ferry, noting our projected arrival time. They asked that I call to confirm we had arrived on the ferry, which I wasn’t bothered by. Once I called, the receptionist noted that the shuttle was already there and waiting for us. It was a pleasant surprise and nice touch of service to send the shuttle regardless of my call. She gave us good directions to where we could find the shuttle, only a few hundred feet from the dock. We were greeted by a smiling man in a black suit who loaded our bags into the hotel-branded silver Mercedes van. It was a smooth ride, as our driver, whose name I did not catch, did not drive like a European taxi driver. I don’t mind the urgent ride of a taxi but this was smooth, efficient, and mission-oriented, without being rushed. He offered us bottled water from the cooler, which we accepted. The shuttle was one of the best parts about the hotel. It was a nine-minute drive from Ischia Porto to the door of the hotel in a quaint, quiet neighborhood.
We arrived at the hotel just before 11:00am. We entered and were immediately stunned by the beauty. The lobby had a large, pyramid-shaped skylight providing generous amounts of Ischian sunlight. An ornate chandelier hung below it.
Straight ahead were the doors to the serene courtyard, where there was a fountain and more statues.
Adorning the lobby were marble sculptures, large vases, antique-style furniture, marble floors, and mosaic columns. It was something to behold and did not stop at the lobby, as we later learned. The reception desk was just to the right and was manned by three friendly, informative hotel representatives. To the left was a bar and lounge area, closed and dark at this time of day, beyond which were the steps to the central elevators, the main bar, and the restaurants. Our bags followed just behind us and as I gawked at the beauty of the interior, Kari got to business and approached the reception desk. Check-in wasn’t until 2:00pm and they didn’t have our room ready yet, which was no surprise. They offered us a place to change and freshen up and encouraged us to make use of the pools or spa while we waited for our room to be ready. We temporarily declined, as we had plans to visit one of the two biggest attractions of the island, Monte Epomeo or Mount Epomeo. They all spoke very good English and helped us plan our voyage to the top of the mountain, advising us as to how to get bus tickets, where to get on and off, and how long we could expect the trip to take. After our tutorial, they tagged and locked our bags in a closet next to the desk and we took the shuttle down the hill into Casamicciola to the bus stop. Off we went on our hiking journey, which, although exhausting, was a real treat. If you come to Ischia, make sure you allow time for hiking to the top and savoring the 360-degree views of the island and the surrounding Tyrrhenian Sea.
After our hike and delicious lunch at a small, family-run restaurant at the summit, we took the shuttle back from the bus stop again. We had a different driver, but the same kindness and smooth driving. Our room was ready at this point, so one of the receptionists gave us a tour of the hotel before showing us our room. We started with the entrance to the spa, which was just past the left side of the reception desk, fronted by a water wall and guarded by lion sculptures.
She also pointed us to Bar Mosaico, the main bar, along with two of the restaurants, including the newly-reopened Il Mosaico. Even though it was closed at that moment, she let me step inside for a picture:
It was as impressive as the rest of the hotel, with more tile, more mosaic work, especially on the columns, and an intricately molded ceiling. More on the restaurant later.
After showing us around the common areas, she showed us to our room. We stayed in room 333, which is on what we would call the 4th story here in the States. In Europe, the main level is floor 0, up one floor is the first floor, and so on. Our room was out of the main elevators and to the left, down the hall. Right outside our room as an auxiliary elevator, which, when taken up, let us out right by the pool and, when taken down, let us out just outside the spa. It was quite convenient.
Despite the decor of the hotel gearing toward antiquity, the room still had electronic keys. Not the slide-in kind but the one where we just had to wave the card over the sensor and it unlocked the door. Upon opening the door, we were in a small entryway accented with a blue curtain, with the bedroom straight ahead and bathroom door immediately to the left. The blue and gold color scheme that was so prominent all over the hotel carried into the rooms also. White walls and the simple chandelier made the color scheme pop.
I immediately went to the window to see the view. Though we did not have a balcony, looking down on the courtyard was incredible. Since the hotel was not tall enough for guests to see all the way to the sea and the residential area we were in didn’t offer much to look at, the courtyard is the best view here.
We also had a welcome gift and greeting card awaiting us. Kari was mad that I took three of the mini Nutella macaroons and left her only one.
The mattress was medium-firm and comfortable. Pillows were rather firm too, which I appreciate. Something Kevin always mentions is electrical outlets. This room had them not only on both sides of the bed, but also in plenty of other convenient locations in the room. There were several in the bathroom also. Light switches next to the bed are always appreciated too, as they were here, so you don’t have to get out of bed to turn them off at night. On the wall opposite the bed were an armoire for hanging clothes, the desk, the TV, and the minibar. We didn’t watch a single minute of in-room television during our entire 10 days in Italy so I have no idea what the channel selection was. If that’s important to you at a place like this, maybe save your money and avoid the whole European vacation thing.
The armoire housed the safe and had single use flip-flops to wear around the pools and spa. There was also a checklist for laundry service. I always find hotel laundry service prices to be absurd and these were no different: €9 for a shirt and €12 for a pair of pants. Maybe I’ll be in a bind one day and have to use it but I don’t have any plans to use hotel laundry service any time soon. The minibar was located under the TV, and prices were reasonable for a hotel of this caliber. A water was €3, beers started at €4, liquor €6-8, and half bottle of Prosecco was €15.
The bathroom was spacious but since were on a corner of the hall that was not quite 90 degrees, it led to an oddly shaped bathroom and slightly constricted space. If one of us was standing at the sink, the bathroom door could not be opened or closed. Small detail but a little annoying. The tile floor was the same from the bedroom to the bathroom and a blue sink dominated the space, in a good way.
As Terme Manzi did, most hotels in Europe have bidets, which are one of life’s great pleasures.
Spatially speaking, the shower was somewhat disappointing. It was just an average standup shower, with not a lot of room, tucked into the corner. And with the fixture on located on the back wall, you couldn’t adjust temperature before getting in the shower without reaching through the water and getting wet. The water pressure from the rainfall shower head, though, was right in the sweet spot between too much and too little. Hot water came in after only a few seconds, too.
Let’s talk robes. You know how many hotel robes are light, cheap, and as thin and abrasive as the hand towels at your local gym? Well these robes were the opposite of that. They were heavy, thick, plush, soft. And hoods! They had hoods! Basically, they were what every hotel robe should aspire to be. I basically wore one everywhere in the joint except to dinner.
There were two pools on the premises and, to me, the gem of this property was the outdoor rooftop pool. Just a floor up from our room and a couple of steps off the elevator, we were immediately engulfed in the Mediterranean motif of the hotel. Moroccan-inspired mosaic tile work adorned the perimeter. A stone sculpture lightly sprayed water out of its mouth into the pool. Pointed archways surrounded the entrances and exits. Monte Epomeo was in the distance. It really was something to behold.
As September is a shoulder month to August’s high season, the hotel was not very full. Subsequently, the pool was quiet and relaxing. I’d imagine there aren’t a lot of kids here at any point in time but on this particular day it was all adults, maybe 5 or so couples. The entrance steps to the blue mosaic tile pool itself were flanked by two stone statues of children and they descended slowly to a depth of about four feet. There was no real deep end in this pool. I didn’t get out the tape measure but using water level on my body there was almost no depth difference from one end to the other, maybe six inches at most. It was a gorgeous afternoon and the pool was really only used for people to refresh and swim a few quick laps in. There were two additional decks on the rooftop and I’d imagine these are only used during peak season in July and August, as there was only space for about 20 chairs on the deck surround the pool.
Just a few steps down from the pool was a terrace bar and Bouganville restaurant. This terrace was covered, so even on rainy days it would be a great spot to enjoy a drink.
Bouganville serves light Mediterranean fare from around lunch through the late afternoon or early evening. We did not get any food but I did order drinks from the cordial, well-dressed bartender and he encouraged me to go back to my spot at the pool, where our drinks would be delivered promptly. I had a Negroni and Kari had an aperol spritz, as was typical for us in Italy. They made both extra bitter, which I am fine with. Our drinks were served quickly and with a side of olives and nuts. It was a great snack as we enjoyed the scenery and the relaxed with a view of the mountain.
Once it was later in the afternoon, it started cooling off, so we headed inside to the thermal pool. This pool is sourced directly from one of the island’s many thermal springs, the Gurgitello spring. Known for healing properties, the thermal water stayed around 92 degrees, give or take a couple. To get to it, we took the elevator down and it let us off right at the spa where the thermal pool was located. The entire thermal pool, walls, floors, and columns included, was covered in mosaic tile. Each piece was probably a square centimeter. It was impressive. A stone statue greeted you at the steps into the pool and watched over it.
To give you an idea of how relaxing this was, once we finished our dip we wrapped ourselves in our robes and took a nap on the lounge chairs. Children under the age of 12 are not permitted in this pool and it’s open until 10:30pm.
After cleaning up we headed down to Bar Mosaico to grab a pre-dinner cocktail. Even though they share a name, Bar Mosaico is not connected to the restaurant, Il Mosaico, but is connected to the other hotel restaurant, Gli Ulivi. This caused us some confusion when going to dinner but we got it figured out. To get to the bar, we ascended some impressive marble stairs and entered to see what, on any other day, would’ve taken our breath away. At this point it was just another corner of the hotel exquisitely decorated.
We were greeted right away and offered our choice of a seat at the bar or on a sofa with a glass-topped table in front of it. Kari preferred the sofa and I ordered my usual, a Negroni, while Kari opted for a glass of bubbly. The bartender opened a fresh bottle and let her taste it before pouring her a full glass to see if it was to her liking. He did a full presentation of the wine, pointing out the region and vintage even. It was a small, impressive service touch that caught this wine lover and former restaurant server’s eye. We were again presented with a couple of light bites, this time some canapes, a cold soup topped with a clam, and some olives. All were delicious.
After figuring out the right restaurant, we sat down in Il Mosaico. From the moment we walked in, it was the best service experience I’d ever had at a restaurant. A trio greeted us warmly and shook our hands, while introducing themselves as our service team. They seated us, without letting us pull out our own chairs, of course, and place a small stool next to Kari so that her purse was not sitting on the floor. Small things like this make the difference between great service and world-class service. I ordered the seven course grand menu and Kari ordered the four course seafood menu. The restaurant just reopened in June after the prior chef left last year and the resulting decline in quality led to a temporary shuttering. The current chef has a Michelin star from a previous establishment so I had high expectations. The wine guidance was superb and service left no stone unturned.
The cork was presented in a branded box.
The food was exquisite, from the bread presentation:
all the way through the other courses. Some of them are pictured.
This is one of those places where there are the listed courses, but then there are small bites in addition. For instance, we had a sorbet for intermezzo, some one-bite desserts after the meal, and an appetizer course, sort of like an amuse-bouche but larger. At the end of the meal, the chef came out and introduced himself. He did not speak much English but our service team translated for us and we did a little small talk before he presented us with a jar of tomatoes from his family’s farm. For the money we paid, I’d say this is one of the best restaurants I’ve ever dined at. I’ve had service and food on the same level here in the States but it was a whole lot more expensive than Il Mosaico. I’m glad to see this place getting back on the right track.
Breakfast was served in Gli Ulivi and was included in the room price. Service was excellent and Kari got the purse stool again. They had a delicious-looking a la carte menu and also a massive buffet. It was probably the most extensive selection I’ve ever seen for a breakfast buffet:
Italian cold cuts, yogurt, fruits, hot and cold cereals, countless toppings for said cereals, pastries, breads, various eggs, juices, bottled still and sparkling water. The list goes on. I only have part of it pictured. The lighting wasn’t great so I couldn’t get decent pictures of everything. This was a great send off before we got on the ferry to head back to the U.S.
I did not use the fitness center but peaked my head in. The only way to get to it is through the spa and up a flight of stairs. It was a great gym as far as hotels are concerned. There were a lot of free weights, a lot of machines for both weights and cardio, and plenty of space to put a mat down for stretching and other floor exercises. There were people coming in and out and we were late for dinner so I didn’t get to investigate as much as I would’ve liked in here. If I were here for several days I would certainly have used this gym. The fitness center was open from 9:00am to 10:30pm.
Terme Manzi boasts the largest spa on the island, according to our introductory tour. Using the healing thermal waters from the Gurgitello spring, they have an extensive menu of treatments, with options for everyone. It was indeed quite large; I almost got lost. There was one central room where you can relax before, between, or after treatments. It’s dimly lit and soothing aromas float through the air.
Off of this room are a few hallways that have treatment rooms for massages, wraps, baths, scrubs, facials, and the like. You can see a list of their treatments here. They also have a thermal water pool where you can detox, unwind, or refresh while you’re there.
While we didn’t use the spa, I was certainly impressed. Spas typically don’t do much for me but Kari loves them and she undoubtedly would’ve gone here if we had more than one day in town.
I’d give service a 9.5/10. Beginning with communications via email regarding booking and shuttle pickup, everyone was inviting, charming, and eager to help. The complimentary, on-request shuttle was a huge asset, though it would’ve been nice to have more available hours. During the week, they only drive until 7:00pm and every day they don’t start driving until 8:30am. Combined with the lack of recognition from one of the desk staff when I went down to request something, I dock only a half point. The fact that the shuttle is on-request instead of running on a time schedule is how all shuttles should work. Combine all of this with the restaurant service that knocked it out of the park, complete hotel service gets really high marks.
I would look for any opportunity I could to return to this property. It was a fantastic intro into the world of Relais & Chateaux. If you ever fancy a trip to the Amalfi Coast or Capri or anywhere else in the area, I strongly urge you to consider Ischia and I can’t imagine there’s a better place than Terme Manzi for your stay.