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A real hidden gem, Ponza is the largest island of the Italian Pontine archipelago, just a three hour ferry ride from Naples. Swim in the turquoise Mediterranean sea, hike through the hilly interior and tuck into fresh seafood at a rustic trattoria.
While Ponza has attracted celebrities like Rhianna, Beyonce and Jay-Z in recent years, this is not a destination for five-star resort seekers. Primarily a fishing island, it offers a slow island pace of life in the heart of the Mediterranean. Expect family-run hotels, cosy B&Bs and great restaurants overlooking the fishing boats moored in the harbour.
This simple hotel has some of the best views over the port area of the island. Book a room with a small balcony to watch the fishing boats and yachts drift past. The patterned terrazzo tile floors and oil paintings of island scenes lend an old-fashioned, homely feeling. Breakfast is served in a dining room built into the rocks, decorated with charming ceramics, which you can buy in reception. Don’t miss the lavish spread of homemade cakes, fruit tarts and doughnuts to start the day.
Hidden short walk from the busy port area, the Grand Hotel is one of the island’s only four star hotels. Whilst this isn’t a luxury hotel, it’s certainly comfortable with simple furnishings and Vietri tiled floors. Ask for a room overlooking the port when booking, as not all have a view. A real highlight here is the subterranean spa, which includes two seawater pools built into caves. Swim back and forth between the Frigidarium (66-76 degree F) and the Calidarium (35-38 degree F.) There is also a Turkish style hammam bath. The Il Melegrano restaurant hosts a popular aperitivo in the early evening and serves creative island cuisine.
Situated in Le Forna, a 15-minute bus ride from the port, Hotel Ortensia boasts the island’s best sunset views, thanks to its westerly position. The 27 rooms are decorated simply with wrought iron bed frames and dark wooden wardrobes; almost every room has a balcony with a sea view. Breakfast is included, you can also choose half-board or eat à la carte at the onsite, family-run restaurant. The native Ponzese staff and family speak perfect English and are happy to help you discover their favourite places on the island, plus there are three beaches within walking distance of the hotel.
Overlooking the Cala Feola in the Le Forna neighbourhood, this hotel is designed in the style of the island’s fisherman’s cottages, spread out over four separate buildings. With pastel blues and crisp white walls, the rooms have a coastal feel and all have a view of the sea. Dine on fresh seafood every evening at the onsite restaurant – ask for the local delicacy, sea urchin, as allegedly Ponza is the place place in the world to try it. The hotel also offers a free shuttle service to the port.
Mark Nayler contributed additional reporting to this article.