PONZA, the best-kept secret near Rome
Ponza is a picturesque island located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the west coast of Italy, few kilometers north off the island of Ischia. It is a popular summer vacation destination for Italians, especially Romans and Neapolitans, as Rome and Naples are only a short drive and ferry ride away. It is also known by some as “Capri without the tourists”. Besides having pleasantly temperate weather and gorgeous scenery, Ponza is rich with history with evidence of Etruscan settlements and Roman ruins still visible today. Over the centuries, Ponza has served as a strategic outpost, a pirate hideout, and a fishing village, contributing to its diverse cultural heritage. During the reign of the Roman Empire, nobility built vacation villas on the island. When the Empire fell, the island was completely abandoned. It wasn’t repopulated until the 18th century, when the Bourbon Dynasty ruled over southern Italy. In the early 1900s, many Ponza natives traveled to New York to make their fortunes but returned to the island to retire. As a result, Ponza had a large population of Brooklyn-accented English speakers in the 1940s. Nowadays, the tradition of English-speaking seems to have died out as English is rarely heard around the island. Unlike Ischia or the beaches near Rome, Ponza isn’t an island with long stretches of sand. Ponza is an island that is best enjoyed by boat. However, there are a few picturesque beaches and hidden coves you can reach from land. Unfortunately, the famous Chiaia di Luna is not one of them. This pretty beach has been closed for years due to falling rocks, so you can only admire it from afar. The island’s charming town, also named Ponza, offers a mix of quaint shops, restaurants serving delicious local cuisine, and vibrant nightlife. Visitors can wander through its narrow streets, adorned with colorful houses, and enjoy panoramic views from the lively Piazza Carlo Pisacane. Ponza’s cuisine is mainly fish-based and is similar to what you’d find in Campania: spaghetti with clams, mussels, tuna, and octopus. Legend has it that the island is named after Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who condemned Jesus to death for acting against Roman law. There is no evidence to support this claim, so it is more likely that the name comes from the Latin word “Pontia”, meaning bridge, as Ponza has many natural bridges.