I just recently considered the land-based sights and activities on the Italian island of Ponza in the article Ponza Revisited Part I – A Mixed Bag of Changes on Land. Now I’m set to complete the tour by providing a rundown of the amazing water-based options that the island offers.
Just as with the land-based activities, almost all options start at the port. The first and easiest day trip is to catch the ferry to Cala Frontone, located just past the village of Santa Maria on the eastern coast. The cove is a gentle curve of chalky cliffs dwindling down into inviting turquoise waters. The beach itself is entirely composed of pea-sized pebbles that will engulf any and all sandals and flip flops, and leave the soles of your feet exfoliated beyond all thought or desire. However, what it lacks in comfort it more than makes up for in ambiance; the natural amphitheater of light-colored stone is a gorgeous backdrop for sunbathing and people-watching irregardless of how raw your feet are. Whenever you have your fill, just hop on the next ferry back to port (provided you bought a round trip ticket, of course) and slip into some comfy socks.
The port is also where you can catch a ride with one of the myriad tour agencies offering boat tours to various island locales, as well as the nearby islands of Palmarola and Zannone. These tours will usually include opportunities to take a dip at one of the many secluded beaches that dot the further reaches of the island, as well as a bite to eat. This is a great option if you want a hassle-free, half or full day excursion that will take you away from the crowds.
On Your Own
For those with a little more courage or a stronger independent streak, there are many port-side rental agencies that for a reasonable price (in my case 60 Euro + gas) will let you hire a boat for a day of exploration. After signing a waiver renouncing the rights to your home, car and firstborn in the event that you do not return the boat, you’ll be given a full tank of gas and be on your way.
The North End
Leaving the port you will first pass right by Cala Frontone, which as I’ve already mentioned, is a great place to spend a few hours in the sun. Though the rental agencies would not recommend it, if sea conditions are favorable, you can also strike out for the uninhabited island of Zannone for some exploration of its ruins and isolated location. After that you can head back around the small islet of Gavi at the northern end of the island to the scenic west side of the island.
Here in the northwest there are several tranquil coves where you can catch some rays, rest, or simply stare out at the majestic cliffs all around you. You’ll have to navigate past irregularly-shaped rocky outcroppings (and submerged boulders – beware!!) but if you take your time you might find that you have a lovely spot all to yourself. Either that or a leaky hull.
At the midway point along the western shoreline you’ll run into Le Forne and its twin coves of Cala Feola and Cala d’Acqua. Anchoring your boat offshore, you can either take in the stunning scenery by sea, or paddle over to the natural pools or a shore-side grotto bar for some refreshments. There’s a skirt of rock that will likely be covered by sunbathers, so if you’re looking for privacy, you’re better off staying on the northwest shore of the island or moving on to what was once the principal beach of the island, but is now off limits (on shore anyway), the gorgeous cove of Chiaia di Luna.
Chiaia di Luna
This majestic crescent of vertical cliffs notched out of the island’s profile is arguably the most scenic spot on Ponza. Sadly, a few years back a tourist was killed when they were struck by falling rocks. Since then, the beach has been closed to sunbathers (though there is an effort to make needed renovations and reopen) leaving the only option for visiting this amazing setting being a trip by boat. I recommend that you drop anchor here for at least an hour to rest, take pictures and take a dip in the gentle turquoise water.
The South Side
Once you’re done in Chiaia di Luna, you can either (time, weather and rental agency permitting) shoot across to the uninhabited yet beautiful nearby island of Palmarola, or make your way around Punto Faro – where a quaint lighthouse stands perched on a rocky outcropping that I discovered as being inaccessible by land (see Ponza Revisted Part I for an in-depth recounting of my ill-fated lighthouse quest). Rounding the corner, you’ll make your way through a series of faraglioni (stacks of rock that protrude from the water) and have access to the Grotta di Pilato which boasts ancient Roman ruins and is located underneath the boxy mausoleums of the cemetery above. When you’re finished taking in the interesting scenery here, it’s time to round the jetty and pull back into port.
Island living by its very nature, revolves around the sea. Not surprisingly, on Ponza, tourism does too. Anyone looking for beaches, fun in the water, and some independent exploration will find the hydro-centric nature of the island’s activities a welcome diversion from traditional landlubber itineraries. And if you don’t like water, there’s always the Sahara Desert about a thousand miles to the south. Give my regards to the camels while you’re there.