Ponza has quite a rich history; Nero Caeser was deported to the island back in AD 29 along with his sisters, and ruins of their homes are still visible there. Some scholars even suspect that Ponza is the island of Aeaea in Homer’s Odyssey, where Circe, the sorceress, lived in winter months.
Jauntsetter made the island its “Trip Pick of the Week in 2010,” noting it had only been mentioned in a handful of travel publications and not in any guidebooks yet. By 2011, the NY Times wrote about it, but, somehow, it’s not over! It’s actually still a bit of a secret—and perfect to Americans looking for a sunny slice of la dolce vita.
Perhaps what’s keeping tourists from the paradise is that it takes a ferry and train ride can get you there in a couple of hours from Rome. But isn’t it worth it, since the vacationers in Ponza are mostly Italians looking for nothing but some unpretentious fun in the sun? No Gucci suits or Michelen-starred restaurants required.
Indeed, unlike other beach destinations in Italy, the vibe in Ponza is exceedingly laid-back. You’ll find no attitude here and no rush either. A busy day on Ponza should consist of nothing more than captaining a boat (no captain’s license needed for the tiny whalers available for rent).
On an afternoon trip out to sea, bring along a bottle of wine and a picnic, of course. You mission: to find a quiet cove to anchor your boat in, so you can enjoy some shade—or sun— in between dips in Ponza’s emerald green water.
WHEN TO GO
September is an ideal times to visit: The crowds begin to thin then, but the water and weather stay wonderfully warm.
If you’re flying into Rome, you can take an hour train ride down to Anzio, where you can catch a 70 minute ferry ride to Ponza on the Vetor high-speed boat. In the summer, there’s frequent service: click here for a schedule in English. The price for a one way ticket is 36 Euro.
Coming from elsewhere? Naples, Terracina, Formia also have ferry service.
WHERE TO STAY
The Villa Laetitia “bed and breakfast” is an inn owned by Anna Fendi—yes, of that Fendi family—meaning rooms are both comfortable and design-concious. Regardless of what’s inside the hotel, however, guests will be enchanted by the vista out their window; each room has a view of the sea, as does the roof where you can enjoy your homemade breakfast.
By the way, should you want to stay here, request a reservation well in advance of your stay, as there are only three rooms at this hotel. Room rates start range from $200/night and go higher depending on the room and season.
For something more affordable, consider the simple Piccolo Hotel Luisa where rooms rent for around around $140/night. There are also many options on Airbnb, ranging from $40 a night and going up.
WHAT TO DO
As mentioned, your days shouldn’t really require any planning—the bulk of your activity should be spent exploring the island via boat, either rented or as a passenger on a water taxi, and visiting neighboring islands, like Palmarola, which is mostly a nature reserve. If you’re more adventurous, you might want to go diving.
Landside, an evening consists of an al fresco meal of freshly caught seafood so delicious you swear you’ll never eat anything else during your time on the island. Follow your meal with an aimless walk through the tiny islands streets – it’s pretty impossible to get lost – or simply gaze out onto the sea with a digestif.
Ready for a little party? You can find a bit of a scene in an area of the island called Il Frontone, reachable by water taxi and the place to be if you’d like to start or end the evening with a drink and dancing— things get going by 6 p.m. Don’t stay up too late though – you’ve got quite a day tomorrow—a day of doing nothing, and doing it gloriously well.