7 days exploring the Pontine Islands by superyacht

Rome to Ponza

Kick start your private cruise or luxury yacht charter in the Pontine Islandsin the ancient city of Rome. The meander along the coast to the serene archipelago where you will discover, life slows down a notch or two.

Now, it is not that these islands are "undiscovered", quite to the contrary, in fact the islands are taken over by the elite of Rome escaping the city throughout July and August. However, the atmosphere is classically Italian and is a favourite sport for superyacht owners.

When you finally drag yourself away, Naples awaits. After a week in the islands, Naples will get you back on your feet again with its vibrant nightlife, restaurants and designer stores.

Day 1: Rome to Ponza

Spend the morning cruising from Rome down the coast towards Ponza. The main port is found snug within an amphitheatre of pastel-hued buildings rising up around the harbour. Spend the afternoon exploring and getting your bearings.

There are a collection of ruins from the distant past: Egyptian, Greek, Canaanite and Phoenician and numerous lovely grottoes excavated by the Etruscans. As evening falls, have a drink on the terrace of one of the harbour side restaurants and dine on fresh seafood that arrived earlier in the day on the dock below.

Picture courtesy of Jack Aiello/Shutterstock.com

Ponza

Anchor in the Chiaia di Luna (Half-Moon Bay) — known as the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean. This is only accessible on land through the carved-out Roman Tunnels and access may be denied as both the tunnels and the beach itself, with its towering cliffs, often suffer from deadly rock falls.

Once more, the best way to visit is by yacht. After swimming and enjoying the clear waters of the bay, take a tender ride to explore the numerous coves, grottoes and tiny beaches that dot the island: chances are you’ll find a spot all to yourself. Return to Chiaia to Luna for sunset when the cliffs glow orange, pink and red.

Picture courtesy of Jack Aiello/Shutterstock.com

Ponza / Zannone / Ponza

The tiny island of Zannone lies a few miles north of Ponza: this is part of the Circeo National Park and is uninhabited. The Forestry Service run a small station and educational exhibit on the top of Mount Pellegrino, the highest point. You can also discover the ruins of a 13th century Benedictine convent. There are no facilities for tourists on the island — you’re not even allowed to camp overnight so this is a great chance to visit an unspoiled island and explore its rocky shoreline.

Head back to Ponza for the evening, perhaps stopping off at the tiny islet of Gavi for a swim en route. In high summer when the Roman elite head here en masse, it transforms into one of the best party destinations in the Mediterranean — if Zannone was a little quiet for you, head to one of the beach parties and dance the night away on Ponza.

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Ponza / Palmarola / Ponza

A daytrip to Palmarola (named after the dwarf palms that live on the island) is a rare chance to enjoy some solitude and natural surroundings in what can sometimes seem a crowded Mediterranean. The rugged scenery and craggy coastline is beautiful, but one of the main attractions is the exceptionally clear water.

This is a wonderful place to go snorkelling and diving, or merely swimming in the warm gin-clear sea or exploring the grottoes by tender and kayak. As most of the island is protected, there’s little development, just a couple of local restaurants open for the summer season. Back in Ponza harbour for the evening, pick up any last-minute souvenirs and grab some more delicious seafood before heading out tomorrow.

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Ponza / Ventotene

Heading East from Ponza, make for Ventotene, the volcanic island at the east of the Pontine chain. This tiny (0.5 sq mile) island is what’s left of an ancient volcano as you can see from the tufa blocks used to build the houses here. Most of the coastline is high and ragged, but there are two lovely beaches close to the two villages Cala Rossano and Cala Nave.

The Romans used this island as place of exile, especially for its wayward daughters it seems, some of whom were allowed to starve to death here in palatial villas. There is no natural standing water; you can still see the network of rainwater capture and cisterns they constructed to save this precious resource.

The Bourbons and Italian fascists also used this as a prison island; today’s town hall was the Bourbon’s castle.  As vehicles are only allowed on the roads from one hour before to one hour after ferry arrivals, you’ll need to explore the island on foot — a pleasant contrast to the crazy traffic of the mainland cities.

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Ventotene / Sant Stefano / Ventotene

Just a mile from Ventotene lies the smallest of the Pontine islands, Santo Stefano. It is also volcanic and has been occupied since at least Roman times, although it is now uninhabited. You can explore ashore, then cool off in the clear blue water. Depending on wind and waves, you should be able to find the perfect spot for some snorkelling or diving; there are many different species of fish found here.

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Ventotene to Naples

Bid farewell to the Pontine islands as you sail for Naples. If time permits, you may like to stop off on Ischia. Once moored in the Marina Molo Luise in Naples, you’ll be right in the heart of the city — you can stroll directly into town to dine. Vibrant Naples may come as something of a culture shock after a week spent in the islands — but for those who love shopping, a huge choice of restaurants and throbbing nightlife, they’ll love being here.

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