Traveling as the locals do has always been a motto for me. Where the locals travel is usually the place to go. So, when I was planning our Italian trip in the fall, I thought to myself where do the Italians travel. They do not usually go to the hotspots of Rome, Venice, or Florence. I wanted to relax and enjoy the Italian life for a second. This is what brought me back to the island of Ponza. I was here five years ago, and the island had everything that I love: wine, charcuterie, island life, swimming holes, great weather, and local tourists. The memory and love for this Italian, island life needed to be rekindled. And, there is always a risk in revisiting places that have a special place in your heart. You never know how you are going to feel when you return, but I had a good feeling about this one.
The island is only accessible by ferry, from different towns across the western side of central Italy, so I flew into Naples, took an hour and a half train to Formia, then waited for the two-hour ferry to Ponza. It is crazy how the senses have a way of triggering your memory. All the smells and sights started to come back to me. I remember that some people speak English, but for the most part it is all Italian. I love hearing the locals ask me how did I hear about their little island. Time and time again they told me how it is not so internationally famous. It was time to explore.
The ferry drops you off where the all shops and eateries are. The port is straight out of a movie. Roads stacked on top of each other right on top of the bay, which turn into magnificent views. Bars, restaurants, and stores are scattered around the water, and there is not one bad vantage point around the harbor. From the cliffs that have a straight drop of hundreds of feet to the natural swimming holes peppered around the island, I knew Ponza was going to be good to me.
The place to be for sunset is Chiaia di Luna. It is a short, eight-minute walk from the port. It is a bit uphill, but it is not going to burn your legs out. Here you can take in the view of the cove, which pictures cannot do it justice. You can get there a bit before sunset, bring a bottle of wine, and sit on the stone while watching the best sunsets you have ever seen. There is even an adorable pop-up bar where they serve drinks to the fans of the seascape.
Island life would not be complete without getting your feet wet with water. Out of all the spots In Ponza, Piscine Naturali was the one I kept going back to. If you are only a fan of sandy beaches, then this is not for you. A quick ride on the bus from the port to the Piscine is not too difficult, but there is a walk straight down from the bus stop. It takes about 5 minutes to walk down the paved path, but the hike is always worth it. Once you are there, there are spots to rent beach chairs and a parasol to save you from the sun, but the true experience is swimming around the grottoes. The swim makes you forget about the sun and the walk down. To cool off and relax, there are two bars to grab a drink or a snack to battle the Mediterranean sun. Hours will go by without you noticing the time. It will turn into an unforgettable moment.
The next adventure on the water must include a boat ride. You can opt for a driver or talk to a local to rent your own boat. I talked to someone who I booked with a longtime ago, Luigi. He spoke English and is always happy to rent you a boat for the day. I never drove a boat, but nothing I couldn’t learn on the fly. Luigi pointed out all the rocks to avoid on the map and put an X on where his favorite spots are. There was cured meat, wine, and cheese packed in the cooler, so we were ready to go. I will not play the fear down. It took me about twenty minutes to feel calm driving. But, after that, it was smooth sailing from there. It is a can’t miss having the freedom to drive around in your own boat, jumping into the sea, and sunbathing in the many coves the island has to offer.
I now truly understand the Mediterranean afternoon nap. You are exhausted after a day in the sun, but you need the rest if you want to hit the town. When the mid-day break comes to an end, head to the port for everything drinks and food. The most affordable and delicious restaurant is right on the water, Pizzeria Rosticceria Ponzese. The pizza and calzones were too amazing to describe. The prices are much cheaper compared to the rest of the island. An absolute can’t miss if your style is casual and no fuss. If you are looking for something that represents the Mediterranean life of seafood, walk on down to Il Pizzicotto. It is about a three-minute walk for Ponzese. Il Pizzicotto has a great wine selection, with an abundant of seafood options. It was so good that I went there twice. The octopus, clams, and mussels are all super fresh, and they add the seafood to salads and to their pasta. Sitting there with a bit of wine and seafood while watching the sunset just caps the day.
Where there is food in town, there are drinks. People watching is one of my biggest hobbies, and the best place for this is at Bar Maga and Tripoli. Both are right next to each other, and you are sat outside along the wall, where you can enjoy a moment away from the sun and appreciate the sea breeze. White wine is the drink of choice, which is not a complaint of mine. It goes well with the island life,and the hours just pass while you are enjoying the night.
All in all, Ponza did not disappoint any nostalgia that I had. In fact, it has increased my love for the island. It is not everyday where you can fall in love again with the same location. I relight my flame, and I cannot wait to do it again.