My answer to the question, ‘What is Italy’s best kept secret?’, changes kind of often.
Yes, I’m fortunate enough to know Italy quite well and have traveled extensively across the country over the past 15 years. I’ve seen many a beach, mountain, lake, UNESCO heritage site, church, monument and island.
But then came, Ponza.
One of the Pontine Islands, Ponza is located off the Lazio coast, just a 1-1.5 hour train and 80 minute boat ride from Rome.
While Romans have been descending on the island during summer for years, it is – in my opinion – one of Italy’s very best secrets. Well, that is, especially for foreigners.
Coastal towns like Amalfi and Positano and northern gems like the Cinque Terre have now become household names around the world. But in Ponza, it’s domestic tourism that’s thriving.
In summer, it’s a haunt for Italian celebrities, soccer players, you name it. And it’s not hard to understand why. In fact, it’s charm draws you in even as you approach the port on arrival. You notice a lush, green landscape, striking cliff faces and pastel colour buildings dotted throughout.
It’s just so pretty.
And for a small island, it packs a real punch with shops, boutiques, gastronomy and nightlife.
Most of the beaches on the island are small coves, accessible only by boat and with 2 days of bad weather and rough waters, we unfortunately didn’t get to explore many of them.
The highlight was the (one good weather) day we spent on a boat cruising the island and visiting the mainly uninhabited island of Palmarola. With crystal turquoise waters to rival Sardegna’s Costa Smeralda or even Capri’s Blue Grotto, I could honestly not believe my eyes.
Put simply, it’s just a breathtaking part of the world. Boat trips like this can be booked at the port and (weather dependent) depart daily (in summer).
On the food front, we were fortunate to have a contact on the island through a special friend. She pointed us in the right direction and we had some fantastic meals. Orestorante and Acqua Pazza (of Rome’s San Lorenzo seafood restaurant fame) were the standout highlights.
Here’s a photo recap of my time on the island:
Boats all lined in a row at the port
The famous Chiaia di Luna beach which has been closed for more than a decade due to safety concerns
The striking colours of the port
Catching a spectacular Ponza sunset
Island boat day and visit to nearby Palmarola
This is the life!
The ridiculously spectacular waters of Palmarola
Cala Fonte beach
Fried starters selection; Red prawn carpaccio; Spaghetti with roast tomato and red prawns; Chantilly cream and fruit crumble at Acqua Pazza
Prawn and zucchini gnochetti at La Scogliera; Spiced poached cod; Cannelloni with sea bass; Orange cream crumble with Terracina strawberries at Orèstorante
Spaghetti with fresh lobster at Da Igino at Cala Fonte beach
Can I go back now??
Signing off from Trastevere