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Ponza is part of a group of islands located in the Tyrrhenian Sea mid-way between Rome and Naples. The sleepy island comes alive in the summer months with vacationing Romans seeking sun-soaked days and translucent water. These are our suggestions for the best things to see and do in Ponza.
The curve of candy-colored houses is one of the first things you see upon your arrival in Ponza. There are two levels of the Bourbon era port to explore full of shops, bars and restaurants. The lower level next to the water is the Via Banchina di Fazio and the upper is called the Corso Carlo Pisacane. In the early morning, you can watch the harbor boats get ready for the day and the bustle of deliveries to the fish market and tiny grocery stores. In the late afternoon after a beach day, have a gelato or a craft beer before heading back to your villa. The competition for a table is fierce for a pre-dinner Campari spritz at Bar Tripoli or Bar Mage Circe but the long low wall is perfect for leaning. After dinner, you can window shop in the many boutiques and have a waterside nightcap.
Sunset is serious business in Ponza and people flock to the western side of the island to watch the sun sink behind the island of Palmarola. There is a wide overlook above the striking Chiaia de Luna cove where you can get the perfect selfie and a cocktail from the pineapple-shaped cart. If you prefer your sunset with couches to lounge on and a DJ set walk a little further up the hill to the Terrazze Chiaia di Luna.
The island has a number of hiking trails to explore. If you are looking for a challenging hike to the disused lighthouse Il Faro or down to the Roman necropolis at Bagni Vecchia. Slightly less strenuous is the former mule track that leads to the highest point on the island and the abandoned Naval building at Monte Guardia. On the other end of the island is Punta Incenso. Begin this trek at the Cala Caparra and enjoy the extraordinary views over the island of Gavi, Zannone and Palmarola.
Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink has been something the Ponzese have faced for centuries. Because there is a very limited natural water source on the island, all of the water is brought in by boat daily from the mainland. The Romans dealt with this challenge with their usual ingenuity and built an intricate series of cisterns and aqueducts. These massive waterproof concrete structures collected rainwater to supply both the island residents and a Roman navy. Visits to the Cisterna della Dragonara are organized by the tourist office, Pro Loco Ponza from April until September.
One of the best ways to explore the island is by boat. Rent your own wooden gozzo for the day and hop from cove to cove. With romantic names like Lucia Rosa, Cala dell’Acqua and Cala Core each one has a different vibe and water a different hue of turquoise. Drop anchor near the Arco Naturale and swim underneath the giant rock formation. As the beach at Chiaia di Luna is closed, the only way to get a view of the massive white cliffs is from a private boat. Look out for the gelato boat that will come to you with cold treats!
Leave the navigating to someone else and spend the day on the Alma Ole. The jocular Antonio skippers the boat and makes sure your glass is always full, and Ivana quietly cooks one of the most delicious meals on the island from her tiny galley kitchen. Think a buffet of trays of fresh mozzarella and bowls of chopped tomatoes, trays of garlicky fresh anchovies and chunks of local tuna. Don’t fill up yet though, because there is still pasta and a plate of butter cookies to come. Depending on the wind, you will spend the day sailing towards the uninhabited nearby island of Palmarola and swimming in secret coves there or lolling on the boat and diving into the ridiculously clear water near Cala Gaetano and the Arco Naturale.
Take a stroll past the colorful port to Cala Corallo and find a whitewashed shop stocked with beachy treasures. Take home a memory of your island sojourn in the form of a handcrafted piece of jewelry that you can wear every day. Alessandra Ravenna has designed for some of the most prestigious jewelry houses all over the world but now she works from her beloved island home. Choose from a tiny carved cameo of the island’s patron saint, San Silverio, or a long strand of peachy coral beads clasped with a silver sailors knot. There are chunky rings of asymmetrical pieces of jasper and gold earrings in the shape of a nautilus shell, each piece inspired by the sea.