All the fault of the stairs. Because the B&Bs, the residences to rent, the restaurants, are often perched among alleys and stairways, in a village built to protect itself from the danger that came from the sea. Some lazy people complain about the numerous steps to move up and down the port, but for the purists of the island, 722 hectares, an hour by hydrofoil from Anzio and Formia, Ponza is a strip of primitive, wild, fascinating land. "Other than the Caribbean"
many argue. It is no coincidence that Folco Quilici
, the most famous Italian documentary maker, considers it among the most beautiful islands in the world
together with Palmarola, the "sister island” about 10 kilometers to the west. Technicolor sea, gastronomy, relaxation are a unique whole and you can be sure not to run into disappointments.
To enjoy the privilege of waking up with a breakfast in front of the profile of Palmarola, choose one of the two suites at Il Gabbiano
, with a private terrace overlooking the sea: it is a B&B slightly away from the harbour, on the “strada panoramica / panoramic road” that leads to Le Forna , the highest part of the island. Few rooms, blue ceramic floors, family furniture, terraces that run on each side of the building with the sea coming in from every window. In the morning we have breakfast with freshly baked donuts and wonderful savory pies. You can't get more pampered than this: then just rent a moped for travel.
COCKTAIL WITH A VIEW
A small boat or a dinghy for a dip in the sea around Frontone
, Cala Feola
or in the cove of Lucia Rosa
? It is rented near the port from Tritone or from Albatros.
For those who prefer to sleep a few steps from the waves, there are five rooms of “La Limonaia a mare”
, the B&B of the designer Anna Fendi
: a charming mini-hotel overlooking the harbour of Ponza.
Life on the island is made up of simple rituals, such as to start the morning with a donut with cream, the Neapolitan “sfogliatella” or the “babà” with cappuccino at Gildo
, the pastry shop on the main street in the center. For an aperitif, after a day on the boat, people often tend to go to the square. There are various bars, including the oldest on the island: Bar Tripoli
. The bar has been run by the same family for more than 100 years, currently by Vincenzo Conte
At sunset, a Spritz is also perfect to sip at the Terraces of the Grand Hotel Chiaia di Luna
, overlooking the cliff of the homonymous beach: the cove is colored red and orange, while the sun becomes a wonderful fireball at the horizon.
PACCHERI AND FRITTURE
Sea life and total relaxation, leaving behind any kind of stress: this is a day on Ponza. Before heading out on the boat in the morning, stock up on goodness at Boulangerie Ponza
, which prepares sandwiches and other picnic snacks for your daytrip.
Shopping right? Note the "Le Cose di Mari"
, at the harbour, which offers original colored striped bags, towels and cushions by Tissage de Luz
, refined handcrafted ceramics.
is also worth a stop, where you can buy silver bracelets, coral necklaces and small stones, bronze pendants tied to thin colored threads. They are all jewels designed by Alessandra Ravenna
, who travelled around the world for quite some time. For a long time in New York as a jewelry designer for Van Cleef, Montblanc, Vera Wang, Mikimoto, Tiffany, she moved for love years ago from Manhattan to Ponza.
To have a unforgettable dip in the sea, let your small boat stop at the bay of Cala Felci
, where the seabed is rich in sulfur: collect some of the sandy stone and spread on the body for a wonderful Spa effect. Then you hoist the anchor on board and go to get a plate of paccheri with scorpion fish or a fried fish at the La Marina restaurant
in Cala Feola
, docking with the dinghy at the small pier. In Ponza, however, everyone calls the place "da Aniello"
or "da Gennaro"
, from the name of the friendly owners who cook an unusual parmigiana with prickly pear shovels: an absolutely must try dish from the island. In reality, these tables overlooking the water can also be reached by land, but from the street, where you park, there are 200 steps: a solution suitable only for those with good legs. Certainly, it's worth it: the effort is well rewarded.
For those who do not like to bring the boat, there are gozzo boats that shuttle back and forth between the port and the beach of Frontone
, one of the most famous and popular on the island, with a ticket from a few euros.
However, it cannot be said that you have spent a gourmet holiday in Ponza without indulging in a dinner at Acqua Pazza
, the famous restaurant of the Pesce family: Gino
(the owner, at the helm of the restaurant) and his brother Mario
married two sisters, Patrizia and Lucia
. Result: a Michelin star. And a menu to which one willingly succumbs. The only precaution: it is essential to book.
A few steps from the center, those who prefer the intimacy of a home to hotels book Il Soldino
, an apartment with a delightful terrace overlooking the sea, two bedrooms and a living room furnished with taste and refinement.
EXPLORING THE CAVES
It is worthwhile to rent a moped or a Mehari (the uncovered cars to go around the tourist resorts) to explore Ponza also by land, climbing the panoramic road that connects the harbour to Le Forna. Those who love trekking can also go there on foot, early in the morning or at sunset. Along the hairpin bends, wedges of blue and cliffs overlooking the cobalt waters suddenly appear, curve after curve.
Halfway, on a terrace overlooking the sea and the sloping hills, suspended between vegetable gardens and vineyards, is the “A Casa di Assunta” restaurant
. The junoesque chef Assunta Scarpati
actually lives upstairs and her impression is really that of eating in a house, in a welcoming and familiar environment. The menu? Island dishes such as eggplant parmigiana, lentil pie, escarole with cream puffs and fish mousse, grouper ravioli with pistachio sauce and buffalo ricotta, as well as spaghetti with Palmarola pesto with tomato, dried fruit, herbs from the garden "and something else that I won't tell anyone” as Assunta
loves to write on the list. All to be enjoyed while sipping a glass of Faro della Guardia di Casale del Giglio
, a white wine obtained from a small vineyard of Biancolella grapes overlooking the sea.
The variety of the island's seabed is unique: just equip yourself with a mask and fins to snorkel among red algae and gorgonians that sway in the currents, exploring cavities in the rock and ancient ravines. Like the Grotte di Pilato /Caves of Pilate
, just after the harbour, at the cemetery, an underground complex dating back to the 1st century BC: it was almost certainly used for the cultivation of fish, in particular moray eels, a sacred animal.
A walk on Corso Pisacane
is a classic one: you stop at the Ventoinpoppa
shop to buy natural tuna, jams, swordfish roe, excellent sauces prepared by a cooperative of Ponza women.
Towards Santa Maria
, a complex of houses beyond a walkable tunnel, you find two novelties for an informal dinner: Pazzaria
, with a terrace and a garden overlooking the sea, where you can eat pizza prepared in a wood oven and grilled fish; or I Sapori di Casa Mia
by Maria Assunta Mazzella
, who transformed her cave-cellar into a sort of home restaurant, amidst fishing nets and laid-back tables: fixed menu, essential reservations, open kitchen. At the stove there are her and her mother. With 30 euros you can eat homemade focaccias and pizzas, cicerchie soup, penne with eggplant or linguine with anchovies, potato pie, mackerel in foil, courgette flowers. The dinner ends with artisanal liqueurs such as fennel, rosolio, lemongrass: the coffee is made with the tipical mocha.
If the sea is calm, don't miss a trip to Palmarola
, twenty minutes away by boat: almost deserted, the island has only one bar with restaurant, O ’Francese
, named after the old owner's nickname. It is eaten in a bathing suit: spaghetti with clams or a simple fried fish. To get there you can rent a dinghy or a gozzo or you can take part in one of the many trips organized by the Ponzesi Barcaioli Cooperative
. The appeal of wild nature and Mediterranean scents is unique. After passing Punta Tramontana
, the coast offers a grandiose spectacle of marine erosion: the so-called “Cattedrali di Palmarola / Cathedrals of Palmarola”
, wonderful parallelepipeds of rock that rise from the transparent water to the sky like columns. Mooring in one of the small bays you can look for a “little eye of Saint Lucia” among the stones, the shell of a pinkish-colored mollusk. Mounted on rings or transformed into a pendant, it is the Ponza lucky charm by definition. Even if those who live on this island have already been touched by good luck.