The Isole Pontine lie halfway between Rome and Naples and are easy to reach through ferries departing from Anzio, Formia and Terracina. The two largest islands, Ponza and Ventotene, feature delightful candy-colored houses and larger ports that let you visit coves around the smallest islands: Palmarola, Zannone and Gavi. Unless you’re lucky enough to have your own yacht or sailboat, you need to hire a small boat – with or without a skipper – to make the most of your time on the islands. The translucent coves, sea arches and craggy cliffs are best appreciated from the sea (and who doesn’t love being on boats?).
The largest island in the archipelago, Ponza is a large volcanic outcrop that has been inhabited since Neolithic times. It has many archaeological ruins, primarily Etruscan and Roman, along with blue grottos, and relies heavily on tourism, boatbuilding and fishing as its main industries. There’s a lively atmosphere and plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy after spending a day out on the water. Chiaia di Luna, Ponza’s gorgeous crescent-shaped beach, has been closed to sunbathers due to crumbling rocks but can still be enjoyed from the water or the terrace of the Grand Hotel Chiaia di Luna.
Don’t miss: the Arco Naturale, the stunning rock formations of nearby island Palmarola and an aperitivo at Bar Tripoli.
Ventotene is a quarter of the size of Ponza and is better suited for a tranquil repose or a weekend spent snorkeling or diving in its emerald coves. The island, in fact, has become renowned in Italy for its scuba-diving excursions thanks to its untouched marine reserves. For a little bit of intrigue, nearby Santo Stefano was a penal colony for jailed criminals until 1965 and can be visited with a guided tour.
Don’t miss: the early morning illuminating the island’s sunbaked buildings, sampling Vincenzo’s local products (you’re sure to spot his cart adjacent to the port), and dining in the romantic garden of Il Giardino di Ventotene.
Visit the Ponza tourism site for more information or download Ponza-expert Gillian Longworth McGuire’s Ponza Travel Essentials Guide e-book for tips on where to stay and eat as well as information about boat rentals and diving activities.