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Pontine Island: Ventotene and Ponza

  • Flavio 

Slowly we are leaving behind the southern regions of Italy and are getting closer to Rome. But first we stop along the way to explore the Pontine Islands (Ponza, Palmarola, Zannone, Santo Stefano, Ventotene and Gavi), located a few miles off the coast between Naples and Rome.

July 2021 – It feels crazy when we realize that we left Barcelona more than 100 days ago. Luckily we don’t expect to be back home before mid or end October, meaning we still have at least another 100 days in front of us.

By now, we are completely marinized: we we wake up at sunrise and go to bed right after sunset. Waking up early is not an issue any more, not even for Amaia 🙂

Anyway, on July 9th, after spending a nice night at the anchor in front of Sant’Angelo, we set sail to the relatively near Ventotene, the southernmost island of the archipelago of the Pontine Islands.

Ventotene and its rich history

After 4 hours sailing from Ischia and nearly 25 nautical miles, we reached Ventotene: a little gem which features very little development and has an ancient and interesting history.

Ventotene gets its name from the winds that blow over the island (“wind” in Italian is vento and tene means “there is” in the local dialect). Some people say that Ventotene was the island of the mermaids in the Odyssey…

Under the name of Pandataria, the island was used as a prison by the ancient Romans. People banished here were often eventually murdered or starved to death.

Approaching Ventotene from Ischia

Few islands have succeeded in preserving their character despite the tourism as much as Ventotene. Maybe it is because there is a special respect between ventotenesi (Ventotene’s inhabitants) and the tourists: there are no fancy stores, no attractions for loud mass tourism, but instead a splendid bookstore (with plenty of books related to the sea).

We spent quite a lot of time staring at books at Ultima Spiaggia bookstore

The island also has a long tradition for its lentils crops: the lentils from Ventotene are renowned for the intensity of their flavor and are a precious delicacy.

Lentils are harvested at sunrise, when the humidity of the plant prevents the seed from coming out of the pod and piled up in the furrows to dry in the sun.
Villa Giulia (archaeological ruins): Augustus Caesar confined his daughter Giulia on the island and the Roman emperor Tiberius later exiled Giulia’s daughter, Agrippina, to the island for having instigated a revolt against him.

The Roman presence is particularly evident in the old Roman Port. It’s by far the most unique port where we have ever been, and we were literally thrilled when we went through the narrow and shallow port entrance for the first time.

In Ventotene, we felt like home: maybe it was because of the cheerful native guys who manage the Roman port, or maybe because of our favourite “bar” (the Antico Forno Aiello), but once again we had to really oblige ourselves to leave this cozy small island behind and head to the next destination.


After a few days immersed in the magical Ventotene, we set course for the largest island of the Pontine archipelago: Ponza.

The island’s economy is based on fishing and tourism. According to locals, it was named after Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea who tried Jesus of Nazareth for sedition against the Roman Empire. Other people say that the real origin of the name comes from “Pontia”, which is Latin for “Land of Bridges”, as it refers to the many natural arches and bridge-shaped geographical elements that you can find on the coastline.

Fisher boats at Ponza Porto

Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend as much time as we wished in Ponza, because of the unsettled weather conditions and the lack of a stable 4G network that we rely on to be able to boat-work. Regardless the adverse conditions, we were able to sail around the island, anchor in a few magic places and discover some truly beautiful spots.

Typical Ponza white stone cliffs. The scoglio del parroco – with its typical arch – is just a few meters from the bow Bolero

Ponza surprised us with its spectacular colors, crystal clear waters are white stone cliffs. Once again, the SUP (standing up paddle) was our main means of transport to explore land and we enjoyed every second of it!

Crystalline water along the north coast of Ponza

Thanks to the help of the pilot book, we realized that it was possible to spend the night anchored in the main port (stern-to): at 7pm we called Capitaneria di Porto and asked for permission to have a night berth in the quay where during the day ferries load & unload tourists.

As there are only a few free places, berths are assigned on a “first come, first served” basis. We were lucky to be part of the selected ones and at 8pm, Capitaneria called our name on the VHF (channel 12) to let us know that we could finally enter.

Bolero moored in Ponza Porto together with a few other lucky sailboats

It was a funny experience as the harbormaster was giving boats indications via radio: Drop the anchor now!!! Now reverse at full throttle!!! You are doing great captain!!! – The 20 euro tip was well deserved for the fun. As soon as we secured the boat, we rushed to a restaurant we had previously booked: Italy was playing the final of the UEFA Euro 2020 Football championship and we couldn’t miss it!

Ready for the UEFA Euro 2020 Final: people are standing up singing the national anthem. Italy won at penalties. A few seconds before the penalty round, the big screen got black because of a technical issue with the proyector…you can imagine the tension it generated among the Italian supporters! Luckily it was fixed after a couple of minutes (and a lot of swearing!) 😀

We enjoyed the after match celebrations: actually we had no choice as people were partying next to our boat tight on the wharf…

The day after, we had to leave the dock relatively early, before the first ferry of the day arrived from Gaeta. Unfortunately we had to skip the island of Palmarola: there was no safe conditions to anchor so we decided to go back to Ventotene, were we stayed a few more days as we waited for the strong northeasterly winds to pass. We now have another excuse to come back to the beautiful islands and discover more.

Next: we set sail to the historic villages of Anzio and Nettuno and we have some nice family reunions!

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