The lights of marina Piccola had not turned off yet, and we’ve already been travelling at low speed beneath the steep cliffs of the south side of Capri.
We soon arrived near the lighthouse of Punta Carena, where we stood for a while in order to plan our new course. Covering with a towel the electronic equipment of cockpit so as not to ‘blind’ us and sucking the last sips of coffee, we were watching very carefully the sea around us.
It was five thirty in the morning and the swells were coming against our bow. Thus, we didn’t mind at all, cause we knew that the wind was about to force much later. We marked our course and the bow turned to 293 degrees.
It was only the sound of the sea to hear as the Rib was going up and down following the relief of the waves.
As the stern was crawling in the dark waves, the sea was getting white behind us. And this exact sound of the waves was the most beautiful song of the Sirens.
At about seven o'clock we were passing by the side of the southwest coast of the island of Ischia, almost at half of our route.
The sun had just rised painting with its purple colours every corner of the horizon.
The throttle lever was pushed forward. The hull came out of the water flying from peak to peak of each wave. In the background, a little righter from our bow, the long and short rock of Ventotene Island was just distinguished.
Pontine islands are located between 40°47' and 40°59' north latitude and 12°50' and 13°30' east longitude. They are six small islands, separated into two different clusters, which are approximately 20 nautical miles each other. The first block is located northwest and consists of the islands of Ponza, Palmarola, Zannone and Gavi, while the second one is located southeast and consists of the islands of Ventotene and Santo Stefano.
Pontine Islands are the result of volcanic activity and inhabited for thousands of years. The largest island of the group is Ponza which together with Ventotene Island are the only inhabited. These two islands and the uninhabited Palmarola Island, located at the west side of the complex, are the biggest attraction of Pontine Islands.
The rest of the other islands of the complex, which are very small with no beaches, are of no specific interest.
It is a long, narrow and almost flat island, with a length of 1.5 nautical miles and a maximum width not exceeding half a mile. Its direction is from northeast to southwest with the highest peak of the 139 meters at the south end.
The island of Ventotene nowadays has 700 residents and recently attracts many visitors, mainly Italians. And of course, it’s not the beaches that attract tourists , but the unique architecture of the settlement, the old Roman port and the lovely quiet atmosphere lingering everywhere, even in the middle of the summer season.
Our bow turned to the northeast end of the island Ventotene where there are the only village as well as the two ports of the island. While we were approaching, the image of the small settlement became more attractive, as the sweet colours of the dawn were lightening the old houses.
As our bow was getting into the old harbour, the view was getting even more spectacular. The harbour is an artificial canal, which was built in ancient times, and is called Porto Romano. It is the old Roman port that remains exactly as it was in ancient times, becoming one of the major attractions of the island. It is full of local fishing boats which combined with the beautiful old buildings painted in ochre, consist a fabulous image.
A truly magnificent marine neighbourhood, absolutely authentic, reflecting vibrant ancient history.
After mooring in front of the only café at the quay we went for an energetic espresso. It was too early and there were nobody there. Enjoying the absolute tranquillity of the place we were gazing every corner of the magical scene. This place was an unexpected surprise for us and we wanted to feel it with all our senses.
Unlike the old harbour, which can accommodate only small vessels, the new one is very spacious in which there are two long floating platforms were large yachts moor.
We got the wide stoned path that starts from the quay of the old harbour, which -with continuously zigzag led us to the big Piazza de Gasperi. On the left side of the square, the small alley Via Roma is starting, which is filled with little cute shops in a row.
Quite soon we arrived at the central square of the village, Piazza. Heading to the east side of the square we were led into a narrow alley, which ended after some meters to a perfect balcony. Just below our feet the beautiful black sanded beach Cala Nave was lying.
We returned to the main square and wandered around. Everything was neat and clean, while the simple architectural lines of the houses coloured with ochre, pink and orange create up a picturesque scene.
What really impressed us was the absence of people as well as the incredible silence that prevailed everywhere, even at central points. We hardly met anyone walking around the streets, and we had the strong feeling that we were in a very distant and forgotten place.
Going back to the Roman harbour where we had left the rib, we sat for another coffee before starting for the island’s circumnavigation.
At colourful Ponza
22 nautical miles were separating us from Ponza, the largest and most popular island of Pontine Islands. The bow turned northwest and was heading the southeast part of the island, where there is the port.
The sea was calm and quite quickly we covered the short distance, so in the afternoon we were entering the busy port.
Many vessels were moored there, while others were entering or going out the harbour.
What really were special at first sight were the spectacular colours of the old houses, at a pale of ochre, red, blue and white.
The main point, however, which makes the port differ, are the two different levels formed around the waterfront, which is something that I do not remember to have seen before in Mediterranean Sea.
At the lowest level, which is at sea level, next to a high wall following the form of the harbour a wide paved road extends. Just above this wall, there is another wide stoned sidewalk extending, looking like forming a second level of the quay. This sidewalk is full of shops, cafes and restaurants in a row, with beautiful view at the port.
Everybody comes here to enjoy a drink or a coffee exhilarating this neighbourhood and making it one of the most vivid neighbourhoods at the Tyrrhenian Sea.
At sunset we were at the west side of the island enjoying the most beautiful and spectacular coast, Chiaia di Luna. The vertical grey rock that embraces the wide sand creates a fascinating coast, and, without any doubts the most popular point of Ponza.
Around the island
The island has a shape of half moon, with its concave side facing east, providing very good anchorages, as the summer winds are of west-northwest directions. The perimeter does not exceed 11 nautical miles and the laced coastline hides many beautiful surprises.
Leaving the harbour we headed to the southern cape of the bay and reached the open bay Parata, which is one of the most beautiful parts of the island.
Although the coast is surrounded by rocks, without any beaches, the entire bay is a lovely green natural pool with crystal clear waters. Throughout the bay the bottom is sandy, and depths range from two to seven meters. After enjoying swimming at this lovely sea, we headed northern from the harbour at Punta Bianca, where the whitewashed rock emerging from the sea stands preparing us for the wonderful spectacle. We were at Cala del Core, with vertical white cliffs embracing the tiny rocked beach, offering us a very beautiful and exciting view.
After Punta Nera we met one of the prettiest faraglioni of the island: the famous Arco Naturale . It is a high rock that looks like two giant legs emerging from the sea. Around it the seabed is covered with lovely sand, while the usually calm waters are enchanting and ideal for overnight stay.
Palmarola, the "Diamond" of Pontine
The Palmarola is the westernmost island of Pontine Islands and just five miles from the southern cape of Ponza. Despite its small size, it is a very popular destination. With extremely rugged and imposing coasts, beautiful caves and mainly crystal waters, it is definitely a great destination.
Most boats moor on the southern side of the island, which is covered very well from westerly winds. This side is the most spectacular of the island, with its towering white cliffs reaching a very high altitude. The view is exciting, particularly if we moor near the vertical cliffs.
The entire south side of Palmarola is a large bay that hosts dozens of boats many of them even spend the night here. Two very big rocks located on the west side of the bay offer protection from westerly winds and stem the waves that can not reach into the bay, where the sea is perfectly calm.
Afterwards we returned to the north-east side of the island, where there is a bay with green waters .Contrary to the rocky beach the bottom is sandy and the waters incredibly sparkle. I do not remember if we had ever swimmed at clearer waters before, where almost every grain of sand was absolutely visible. We decided to overnight here without second thought before crossing the Tyrrhenian Sea for our next destination.