The Pontine Islands

These islands are set in Lazio's magnificent sea, which reveals its secrets to whoever is willing to penetrate its depths or examine the history of its rich, adventurous, and tantalising past. There are two key islands, namely Ponza and Ventotene.


This is the larger island in size and population. Life revolves around the inhabited port and Le Forna in the north. The architecture is typical of Mediterranean islands: small houses with vaulted roofs, painted in delicate colours that blend with those of nature. In amongst the more recent structures are the remains of ancient settlements: a necropolis, vast cisterns used by the Romans to collect water, and tunnels also excavated in Roman times. Nature and human activity from past and present come together to provide an exceptional environment. The Bourbon port, the other smaller port of Cala Feola at the far end of the island and the natural pools, offer shelter. The Chiaia di Luna and Frontone beaches, and the little patches of sand between the rocks that can only be reached by boat, are ideal for swimming. The points, overhangs, cliffs, buttresses and coves provide endless panoramic variety. As for the seabed, one has merely to choose a location and preferred depth. Ponza has a little entourage of small uninhabited islands: Zannone, part of the Circeo National Park; Palmarola, a gem of an island; Gavi, and as many rocks and cliffs as you could wish for.


This island is not at all large compared to the vastness of the sea and to the exceptional quality of the sea beds untouched by man. But the Romans did find a means to settle on Ventotene. This was obtained by excavating a harbour from the pumice stone, with millions of cubic metres of rock removed to accomplish a design held up as a paradigm of its kind even to this day. The island has two beaches, Cala Nave and Cala Rossano, and also a whole series of unforgettable points of exploration, all sizes of rocks above and below water, providing an island tour that is unbelievably breathtaking. On land, the Romans left a fish farm or vivaio ittico, the Bourbons left the castello-municipio and the church of Santa Candida, while the fascists left the memory of political confinement. And it was during their years of political incarceration that, in 1942, Altiero Spinelli, Ernesto Rossi and Eugenio Colorni wrote the first document proclaiming a federal Europe, circulated clandestinely as the "Ventotene Manifesto for a Free and United Europe".The state penitentiary buildings, which functioned as such until 1965, are barely a mile from Ventotene on the small island of Santo Stefano. They attract many curious visitors.

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