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Although tied to Neapolitan interests and past tradition, Lazio (an Italian region) island with their steep cliff are a natural outlet to Rome's yachting trade


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Nautica Magazine 407, march 1996



Ponza and Pontine Islands

Pontine islands were known to be inhabited since the civilization's onset; Neolithic remnants and first bronze age obsidians were found hare although reliable life traces go back only after the final Roman victory over the Volsces on 338 B.C.

Ponza island is nevertheless remembered as one of the eighteen Roman provinces to remain loyal to the capital during the difficult times following Hannibal's adventure. Emperor Augustus encouraged its residential expansion that later spread to Ventotene island as well. Rome used the two islands as a sort of golden retreat, an exile site indeed, for politically troubling public personalities: Caligola's mother Agrippina died there; her mortal remains were brought back to the imperial capital with full honors, sailing upriver the Tevere on a bireme vessel.

Pontine Islands Ventotene harbor, as well as Pilatos' cove, used at Ponza to breed Moray fishes and other rare species, both dug in the tuff rocks, and Chiaia di Luna with its tunnel connecting the village to the beach through impressive cliffs, are all remainder of those days. Madonna point mansion, with its fish pond now nearby the cemetery, is also a remarkable visit spot. The nowadays harbor and surrounding Ponza's area lay-out, were built by Francesco Carpi at the end of the eighteen century, based on a project by Antonio Winspere. This is the starting point for a tour to the archipelago.

After reaching the island from Anzio or Gaeta ports ( one day navigation away ) the biggest problem will be to find a proper berth: Musco dock only offers shelter from western gusts, locally called "Garigliano". Docking is however restricted to an area between the hydrofoil landing and the Navy Yacht Club. The rest of the port area, including the anchorage in the road, is open to the swell from which in case of fresh winds from the west, one is compelled to seek refuge on the opposite island at Chiaia di Luna.

Pontine Islands Ponza can be best savored by circumnavigating it. Starting from the harbor and coasting southward along the Donna promontory where the water entrances to the Pilatus' cove are located, the Roman villa can be seen. Further south the Madonna cliffs, the Ulysses' cave and the long Scotti rocky wall are sighted together with Calzone Muto cliff just before the impressive Guardia promontory 280 meters high. Chiaia di Luna is located behind the lower Fieno point. This is a beautiful route safe also for night navigation when riding the west winds one seeks shelter into the bay.

One additional surprise occurs at the bay entrance when one find himself in front of this beautiful beach surrounded by suggestive multicolored cliffs.

Coasting further Faraglioni mountain, Feola cove sheltered by a breakwater partially suitable for docking and with 2-4 meters water depth, is reached.

After making good the sharp Corte point, the navigation continue into the Water cove, so called after the small port used by the water-tanker supplying the island. The steel pier allowing only head docking is unsafe.

From the following Papa point to the extreme northern island end, the coast line becomes more and more irregular until the strait between Ponza and Gavi islet. The eastern side offers suggestive seascape views till the natural stone arch called "Spaccapolpi". Here two majestic coves separated by the "Faraglioni del Parroco" are reached. They are respectively named Inferno and Core coves. Good shelter from the south-west winds can be found at Frontone cove, behind the homonymous point.

The other archipelago inhabited island is Ventotene, with an old Roman port dug into the tuff rock and surrounded by a picturesque village: a night in Ventotene is an experience anyone sailing the Mediterranean cannot miss.

When lentils and other local plants blossom in springtime and their flavor can be felt miles away sailing downwind at nighttime, the time has arrived to steer for Ventotene and be taken by its ancient charm. If docking is not available at the old harbor (Nicholas port) you can now take advantage at the new marina, sheltered to the est by a breakwater.

Santo Stefano island is about a mile away from Ventotene. The island is two kilometers wide, with an old Borbonic penitentiary built on top, has a peculiar turtle shape. A visit is worth although the premise is closed down. Parmarola island considered one of the most beautiful in the Tirrenian sea, lies at about six miles from Ponza's Guardia point. Cliffs and coves with crystal clear waters offer one landing only, which is the harbor cove with a sandy bottom in front of the beach. The only two restaurants in the island provide, in the good season, to the necessities of visitors.

The wildest and pristine of the entire archipelago is without doubt Zanone island, resembling Australia both in shape (but not size!) and the rich luxuriant vegetation, a remainder of the forests that were growing in the islands prior to human colonization. Landing and docking is available in the rocky cove in the south of the island. Coming from Ponza, caution must be exercised to avoid rifs and shallow waters, remnants of the linking ridge connecting the island to Ponza.