Pontine Islands Vacations
The Pontine Islands are an archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the west coast of Italy. They are located South of Rome and northwest of Naples in the Gulf of Gaeta. They consist of the following islands: Ventotene, Gavio, Santo Stefano, Palmarola, Zannone and Ponza. The islands are named after the largest island: Ponza. Most of the islands are uninhabited with the exception of visits by tourists. The only islands large enough to offer accommodation possibilities and regular ferry connections are Ponza and Ventotene. The other islands however, can be visited in boat trips from the two larger islands.
History of Pontine Islands
The islands were used by the Etruscans who carved the Blue Grotto. During the reign of Caesar Augustus, Rome used to exile political prisoners to Ponza and Ventotene and Mussolini did the same thing in the 1940s. The islands were raided by pirates and Saracens during the middle Ages and were abandoned as a result, but were later repopulated in the 18th Century by the Kingdom of Naples and was officially included in the Unification of Italy in 1861.
Facts & Places of Interest on the Pontine Islands
Gavi is a private uninhabited island that is home to wild rabbits and a rare type of lizard as well as mice and scorpions. It is a nature preserve and visitation is prohibited.
Palmarola is an island with a rugged coastline and menacing cliffs. It is almost uninhabited and primarily a nature reserve but here are a handful of restaurants that open during the summer months and a small holiday accommodation establishment. It is on this island that Pope Silverus was exiled to and eventually died on in 537. Places of interest on the island are the San Silviero shrine and the Cava Mazzella.
Zannone is an uninhabited island and houses the remains of a ruined 13th century Benedictine convent. The island is under the protection of the Forestry Service and forms part of the Parco Nazionale del Circeo (Circeo National Park) which was established by Benito Mussolini to preserve the last of the Pontine marshes. Although the island can be visited there are no tourist facilities and Camping or overnight stays are prohibited.
Santo Stefano had several names, such as Partenope, Palmosa, Dommo Stephane and Borca since Roman times. It is dominated by dominated by a prison that was originally built by the Bourbons in 1797. The prison comprises of ninety nine cells constructed around a central watchtower. Although built to accommodate six hundred prisoners, it held over eight hundred. After the closure of the prison in 1965 it remained uninhabited with the exception of visit from tourist to the island.
Ventotene also known as Pandataria is famous for being the island of exiles. It is best known as the island to which the emperor Augustus banished his daughter Julia the Elder in 2 BC. Nero later did the same with his wife Octavia in 62AD and later sentenced her to death. Other exiles included Saint Flavia Domitilla and Sandro Pertini and Mussolini himself after being overthrown and arrested in 1943. Places of interest include the 5 Roman ships discovered near the coast of Ventotene, the ruins of Villa Guila, Museo Storico Archeologico which is housed in the basement of the Torre Borbonico, an old Bourbon fortress which dominates the town square,Piazzo Castello, Semaforo, Moggio di Terra and the old ports.
Ponza is the largest island out of the Pontine. The island has many archaeological ruins visible everywhere, including Egyptian, Canaanite, Greek, and Phoenician necropoli ruins in the middle of the island. It is the most frequently visited as well Venotene. It is home to many spectacular grottoes such as the Serpent’s Grotto and the Cave of Ulysses of the Blood. Places of interest include The Ponza Botanical Garden, Moon Gravel Beach, Forte Papa and Monte Guardia.
In short the islands are excellent for those who enjoy water sports, as most feature diving, water taxis, snorkelling. There are many wonderful beaches as well and hotels with great food. For those who love excursions and nature or have a general interest in all things ancient there is certainly something on the islands to quell one’s appetite.
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