Islands Excursions

Excursions Palmarola


36 miles from Formia, 23 miles from the Circeo promontory. Off the Gulf of Gaeta, in a Tyrrhenian Sea talked about in various myths, a tuff siren stretches placidly on the horizon. Whispering, to the sailors of May, a thousand good intentions for the coming summer. We talk about Palmarola, the westernmost of the Pontine islands: wild, collected, enchanted, suspended on motionless mirrors of emerald water. But above all uninhabited: given that the 7 miles away from the older sister island Ponza, once covered in half a day by rowing or latin sail (today 50 minutes of goiter are enough) have been enough over time to make it inaccessible, at least in the bad weather season.

136 hectares of surface, declined in a series of very green hills, not a village, not a road, a single safe landing place, that of the large pebble beach of Cala di Porto, a single restaurant with a handful of rooms; a single one, very private villa. Stable inhabitants established over the centuries, (small group of hermits apart): one, San Silverio, glorious pope sent into exile by the Byzantines and died here in 538 d. C. To whom a special stack and a small chapel are dedicated: from where every first Sunday in June the celebrations in honor of him begin in a suggestive ceremony on the sea. Became in the meantime, by popular acclaim, the patron saint of the archipelago and keeper of shipwrecked and sailors: to the point of appearing to help them. In short, Palmarola as an island “that does not exist”, a former volcano with an imposing nature, a safe haven from the madding crowd. Even considered by Folco Quilici, certainly not the last freshwater sailor, "one of the most beautiful emerged lands on the planet".

And in fact, the crystal water of Cala Brigantina, a true natural swimming pool sheltered by the long Suvace rock (the fish sole, in Ponza dialect), leaves you speechless, going to sea in the warm spring air. But also, further south, the intense blue of the Grotta di Mezzogiorno, inside the stack of the same name. Together with the bright black of obsidian, the object of precious trades in antiquity, set in spots (unique in the Mediterranean!) On the majestic rocks of the Galere, on the west side.

Everywhere Palmarola, in revealing itself by navigating below the coast, shows off its volcanic DNA: from the gray basalt of the rocks to the imposing flying buttresses of the Cathedral (le Cattedrale), a "Gothic-style" rock formation near Cala Tramontana that rises from the blue of the seabed. Higher up, along the cliffs, when the ocher of the tuff is overwhelmed by vegetation, the green of the euphorbias, heather, mastic, dwarf palms / palme nane (hence the name!) And, everywhere, the yellow of the local broom explodes, so tough that it deserves the name of 'uastaccetto, ruina hatchet, because of its very hard wood.

Possibilities of trekking on the island? Very few. Of the four paths of the past, only one is still partially practicable. Not signposted, it starts from Cala dei Vricci (breach / breccia, brecciolina in Ponzas dialect) and climbs up through the dense vegetation up to a belvedere overlooking Cala del Porto, on the western side. Scratches aside, the yield is worth the effort: because from up here, thanks to the amazing blue water, the stones of the bay can be counted one by one.

But how has Palmarola been able to remain Palmarola over the decades? The distance from the mainland has undoubtedly played its part: helping to make any type of construction works difficult, with almost 80 km of open sea. But the ponzesi contributed a lot, very attached to their rocks. And to their lands: divided into very parceled properties, Palmarola, although not permanently inhabited, was regularly cultivated up to 50 years ago, especially by women. Who, with sturdy hands and steel hardening, drew wheat, barley, grapes, fruit and lentils from the well-tended terraces. Even catching lobsters.

As evidence of their ancient presence, the cave-houses scattered in some parts of the island, dug into several rooms in the friable rock, now fairly equipped, second home to many Ponza families, rarely rented to Spartan tourists. The same applies to all of that 'ncoppa Vardella, above Capo Vardella, in a super panoramic position overlooking the water and for this reason called il Nido del Gabbiano / the Seagull's Nest. Where on spring Sundays it is easy to come across groups of young Ponzesi, who arrived the night before with boats, intent on fishing or cleaning wild asparagus. "Ponza? For us it is the mainland: the island is Palmarola", explains one of them. "Our origins, our freedom are here ... and we return here as soon as possible, even in winter". Time permitting, of course: because even in times of powerful outboards, storm surges can prevent crossings back home. But in these cases we rely on the only true inhabitant of the island.


Arriving in Palmarola on your left there is the Faraglione di Mezzogiorno, on the right Punta Vardella. Cala Brigantina: so called because it offered the sailing ships a mooring at anchor. Palmarola was still the base of the Barbary pirates in the eighteenth century. In this area from autumn to spring hundreds of herring gulls settle there and the peregrine falcon nests there as well.


Said so from the shape of the sovace fish similar to the sole.


"The great passage of the hairpin" is of considerable geological interest: the stratifications and lava flows are easily readable. Grotta del Gatto: inside there is an infiltration of fresh water. Accessible with a small boat. From Forcina to Cala Tramontana 1 miles - 10 minutes. Scoglio "Sparmaturo": similar in shape to a spreader.


Once you have rounded the "Scuncillo" rock, so named for its resemblance to a shell, this is the scenario that will appear: on the right the "I Piatti" rocks, in front of the "Le Galere" rocks.


Punta delle "Brecce": extremity of the island’s north. Due to the difficulty, the passage for small boats is not recommended. It is advisable to round the stack and stop to admire the "Cathedral". The Cathedral is so called due to the similarity of the rock (with pillars, pointed arches, buttresses) with a Gothic cathedral. In dialect ponzese the present Cathedral was called "I Senghe ì Tramuntana" (north wind slits). The distance from Cala Tramontana to Cala del Porto is about 0.5 miles / 5 minutes.


The rocks are spotted with obsidian, black on ocher, nowhere in the Mediterranean does the lava glass appear in this spot arrangement. Pure glass obsidian, in its natural state, very glossy black. Primitive man made from it arrowheads, axes, knives, scrapers. The obsidian extracted in Palmarola was processed in Ponza and Zannone where remains were found, and most likely, transported to Circeo.


The only safe port of the island. For any difficulty, go to this area (radio contact with Ponza - station of scheduled boats for Ponza - port). On the beach there are two restaurants, and it is possible to stay overnight in Palmarola in one of the cave houses, dug into the rock by the first settlers - farmers who lived on the island.


On the faraglione, built by the Ponzesi, there is the San Silverio chapel, with the statue of the saint and an oil lamp, which devotees keep constantly lit.


At the exit from the cave - midday passage, (accessible by medium-sized boats) you will find the "Pallante" stack, the favorite residence of a rare colony of shearwaters.


Over the years the island has undergone and is undergoing major transformations due to marine and wind erosion. The central piece that connected the natural arch collapsed due to a strong storm in November 1966.

Excursions Ponza

No stay in Ponza is complete without a classic tour of the island, a tour of the island coasts to admire the colors of the sea, the small bays and the splendid caves.

Excursions Zannone

The little island Zannone is the only one of the islands of the Pontian Archipelago not of volcanic origin. Since 1979 it is part of the Circeo National Park.