The crescent moon-shaped island of Ponza is a little-known delight off Italy’s western coast. Explore its several villages separated by mountains and vineyards and surrounded by pleasant beaches overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. Its charm springs from the Roman-made nooks and crannies in the cliffs. Sunbathe on the shores and dive in crystal clear water.
Arrive at Porto di Ponza, the harbor on the southeastern part of the island. It greets you with light pink, blue, white and orange hues of jumbled buildings. Peruse the many restaurants and bars facing the sea in the liveliest part of the island.
Among the island’s most famous spots are the Grotte di Pilato Caves, an intricate network of tunnels and pools of water in sea coves. The Romans built the caves, near the present-day port, possibly with the aim of farming moray eels. Rent a boat to reach the impressive structure near the present-day port and admire the remains of the Roman villa and fortifications.
See the Blue Grottoes, which were crafted by the Pre-Roman Etruscans. Visit the Serpents Grotto and the Roman Gallery, connecting the port to other parts of the island.
Historically, the island is known as a place of exile, where Romans banished royalty. Many centuries later, the country’s fascist regime exiled political prisoners. Eventually, the dictator Mussolini was sent here.
The islet is the largest of the Pontine Islands archipelago in west Italy. It lies 21 miles (33 kilometers) off Cape Circeo on Italy’s western coast. Ports serving the island include Naples, Terracina, Formia and Anzio. If you are flying into Rome, you can drive or take a train to the ports.
In this area, July and August are the hottest and driest months, although the mild and pleasant winters are ideal for long walks along the coast. The superb climate and picturesque views in Ponza can make exile seem like a dream.