Friday, July 15, 2011
Ponza and the Pontine Islands
July 14 was our 38 anniversary, and we were lucky enough to be able to spend it with our dear friends Nicola and Rosanna on the island of Ponza. Ponza is the largest island in the Pontine archipelago and it is a mostly undiscovered area, at least to Americans.
Everyone knows about Capri. It is the "go to" spot off the coast of Naples. We have been there five or six times, the last time just this spring, and it is always lovely. The trouble is that it is so crowded, it is impossible to appreciate its beauty. Ponza and the other islands in the archipelago is a perfect place to spend some time just because that is not the case. Here we were, in the middle of July, peak beach season, and there were lots of seats on the Aliscafo that took us over to the island, there were seats available at every cafe and restaurant, there was room for leisurely strolls through the narrow streets, and the beaches and coves were not covered wall to wall with umbrellas and sun bathers. This was what Capri was like 50 years ago. Ponza is now my island of choice!
There are cute little cars to rent for very reasonable prices and with which you can drive all around the island, and down to the little coves for swimming and snorkeling. We rented a little yellow Panda that was quite the adventure to drive! Our good friend Nicola was our chauffeur and he was a little put off at the soft breaks and the lack of a working horn, but once we got on the road we realized no one was driving over 15 miles an hour and it was a great adventure.
We drove down one narrow lane after another, going to different spots for swimming and sunbathing, and just to enjoy the beautiful views. The pastel houses reflected the warm sunshine, the water pooled quietly in some spots and roared powerfully against the rocks in others. An occasional sailboat dotted the horizon, and fishermen hauled up their catches in colorful dories.
There is much more than the island of Ponza to explore, including the populated island of Ventotene and the unpopulated Palmarola. Palmarola has some of the clearest and most beautiful water and swimming coves imaginable. Our next time there, we will take more time to visit the smaller islands, as well as to get to know Ponza better. It's only 1 1/2 hours from the port of Formia to Ponza on the Aliscafo, twice as long on the traghetto if you are taking your car across. If you are considering an island vacation, consider Ponza or Ventotene. Unless your idea of fun is stifling, crowded streets and buses with cranky, sweaty tourists on every corner, you will be very happy there!