Get your kicks in Ischia; Great Getaway.
IT'S a scene that brings new meaning to the beautiful game.
With a setting sun and happy holidaymakers for company, you'd be hardpushed to find a better spot than this peaceful sandy beach for a quick kickabout with pals.
Life doesn't get much better for this bronzed bunch of Italian football lovers, whose only interruption in play comes when a star striker is forced to dive into the gently-lapping waters to fetch a wayward shot.
And the venue for this makeshift match of the day? The pretty island of Ischia, an hour-and-a-half's ferry crossing from the teeming, bustling port city of Naples in the south west of Italy.
Often overlooked by tourists who head for the Gucci-lined streets of neighbouring Capri, Ischia has bags of charm all of its own.
Not least because it's a volcanic island whose soothing thermal waters have pulled in tourists for centuries. The Greeks made a beeline for Ischia as far back as the 7th century BC to restore body and soul.
Nowadays tourists come from all over the world, looking for a bit of rest and recuperation as well as fab food, scenery and Mediterranean sun.
The island has more than 100 thermal springs and many hotels have their own naturally-heated pools and spas offering all manner of treatments tailored to relax, rejuvenate or offer therapy.
The resort of Sant'Angelo on the island's south coast makes for the perfect family destination as traffic has been banned from its central streets creating a peaceful pedestrian haven - something of a rarity in Italy where in many cities the car is still very much king.
There are bars and restaurants aplenty and a short boat taxi ride will drop you off at the magical Maronti beach, on the southern shores between Sant'Angelo and Barano. The 3km-long stretch of golden sand has a delightful natural thermal spring at Cava Scura.
Open-air pools dug in the rock give holidaymakers the opportunity to bathe in therapeutic waters and legend has it that this was once a mooring spot for pirates who would dig pits in which to bury their loot.
Smart guys, those pirates.
GettingThere SNAV is one of several hydrofoil companies which run hourly crossings from the Italian mainland. All seats are comfortable and it's great fun for children. Go to www.snav.it for more information.
WhereToStay Hotel Romantica is a safe and secure family resort hotel which has its own waterpark featuring 13 thermal spa pools and bathing areas. The food is good and the hotel's executive suites offer sea views across Sant'Angelo. Go to www.
romantica.net for more information.
Casamicciola is a busy port town and one of the main gateways to Ischia on its north coast. Take a 15-minute walk inland from its bustling harbour and you'll find the family-run Casa di Meglio hotel, which has its own pool and spacious roof terraces offering stunning views out to sea. Go to www.
casadimeglio.it for information.
WhereToEat Ristorante Umberto a Mare in Forio d'Ischia. Treat yourself and sample its stunning fish taster menu which offers so many courses we lost count. Go to www.umbertoamare.it for information.
WhereToGo Don't miss La Mortella Gardens, a stunning oasis created by Susana, wife of the late British composer Sir William Walton who moved to Ischia in 1949. You'll get a spectacular view across the island from La Mortella's many terraces. Go to www.lamortella.org for details.
If you want to learn more about the island's history, The Archaeological Museum of Pithecusae in Lacco Ameno has artefacts from pre-history to Roman times, on the first floor of an 18th century villa.