Ponza is the largest of the Pontine Islands, the string of tiny islands located off the coast of the Lazio region in Italy.
Ponza is a popular summer vacation destination for Italians, especially Romans and Neapolitans, as Rome and Naples are only a short drive and ferry ride away.
Known by some as “Capri without the tourists,” Ponza is a worthy vacation destination for travelers who want to experience summer the Italian way, basking in the beauty of the Mediterranian.
What is the history of Ponza?Besides having pleasantly temperate weather and gorgeous scenery, Ponza is rich with history.
During the reign of the Roman Empire, nobility built vacation villas on the island. When the Empire fell, the island was completely abandoned. It wasn’t repopulated until the 18th century, when the Bourbon Dynasty ruled over southern Italy.
In the early 1900s, many Ponza natives traveled to New York to make their fortunes, but returned to the island to retire.
As a result, Ponza had a large population of Brooklyn-accented English speakers in the 1940s. Nowadays, the tradition of English-speaking seems to have died out, as English is rarely heard around the island. Another interesting fact about Ponza: Benito Mussolini was briefly held in prison on the island in 1943. According to the New York Times, Ponza is so remote that when Mussolini arrived, many locals had never heard of him… or World War II. An American lieutenant described Ponza as “another world,” a paradise unmarred by the violence of war.
Legend has it that the island is named after Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who condemned Jesus to death for acting against Roman law. There is no evidence to support this claim, so it is more likely that the name comes from the Latin word “Pontia” (meaning bridge), as Ponza has many natural bridges. Ph: Alessandro Tortora / Shutterstock.com
What is Ponza like?Characterized by steep white cliffs and crystalline water, Ponza is a gorgeous escape from traditional tourism. Unlike most tourist destinations in Italy, Ponza is ruled by the locals. With a population of around 3500, Ponza remains fairly quiet for most of the year, and maintains a small-town atmosphere.
The island comes to life between June and September, when tourists flock from all over Italy to escape the Italian summer heat. Summer temperatures in Ponza usually hover around 25.5 C and rarely surpass 29 C. Tourists can expect sunny weather with a side of sea breeze. Even during high tourist season, Ponza has a relaxed, casual feel. Locals are known for being warm and welcoming.
What is there to do in Ponza?Italian vacationers travel to Ponza to relax by the Tyrrhenian seaside, enjoying the countless beautiful beaches perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and boating. For swimming and sunbathing, the Cala Feola beach can be reached by foot from the island, and features many “Piscine Naturali,” natural seawater pools.
Spiaggia Di Frontone is another popular swimming location, and is usually one of the most crowded, lively beaches on the island. In the evening, a hired DJ transforms Frontone into an open-air disco. Prepare for a steep walk to the beach if you aren’t arriving by boat.
One of the most popular beaches on Ponza, Chiaia di Luna, has been closed for a few years due to safety hazards, but visitors can still enjoy the beach from a distance--the area above the beach offers breathtaking views of sea and the island coast. Check into Hotel Chiaia di Luna to be immersed in the exquisite scenery.Chiaia di Luna beach
There are numerous other beaches to explore in Ponza, but many require boat access. Tourists can pay for a boat tour of the island, or rent a boat from one of the various rental services at the Ponza port. For visitors with boats, take time to explore the other Pontine Islands, such as Palmarola and Santo Stefano. Sail around the Arco Naturale, an arch-shaped geological formation close to the Ponza coast. Adventurous history buffs will enjoy exploring the Grotte di Pilato, the complex network of tunnels dug into Ponza’s cliffs that dates back to Roman times.
When you need a break from basking in the sun, wander through the picturesque streets of the Centro Storico (historic center). The sunrise-colored buildings in the Centro Storico house fresh markets, artisan boutiques, and traditional seafood restaurants.
Make a stop at La Chiesa dei Santi Silverio e Domitilla, the most celebrated church on the island, or explore the Roman Cisterns on Via Dragonara. Grab a bite to eat at Monte Guardia Trattoria, located on the island’s highest summit. Foodie tourists will especially enjoy Acqua Pazza, Ponza’s Michelin-star restaurant. No matter where you eat, you can’t go wrong ordering locally-sourced seafood dishes.
How can I get to Ponza?To get to Ponza from Rome, take a train from the Roma Termini station to the Anzio Colonia station. The train ride lasts an hour and costs less than 5 euro one way. From the station, walk a short distance to the Anzio port, where you can take a ferry or hydrofoil to Ponza.
Another option is to drive or hire a private car to go directly to the Anzio port. From the port, the ferry ride is around an hour and a half, and costs roughly 50 euro.
To get to Ponza from Naples, there is a direct ferry that leaves from the Naples port. It operates only a few times per week, so be sure to arrive on time. The trip lasts three hours and costs around 50 euro.
Alternatively, take a one-hour train from the Napoli Centrale station to the Formia-Gaeta station and catch a ferry from the Formia port. The ferry ride last between an hour and a half to two and a half hours, and costs between 80 and 100 euro.
Top photo: Vladimir Sazonov / Shutterstock.com
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A guide to Ponza Island in Italy
04027 Ponza, Province of Latina, Italy