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Ponza Guide: Skip the Amalfi Coast and Visit This Charming Italian Island Instead

Ponza is for a certain type of traveler, to be sure, one who isn’t seduced by luxury accommodations and five-star service, or by scene-y beach clubs selling overpriced sundowners on crowded beaches. Ponza does simplicity to the highest standard, luring those charmed by elemental bed and breakfasts and whose preference for the island’s wellspring of rocky coves trumps the convenience of sandy beaches. 

There’s an earthiness to Ponza that’s not for everyone—but if you’re looking for a relaxed getaway where you keep your swimsuit on for dinner, then maybe this is the perfect island for you.

Where to Stay

If you’re looking for an Il Pellicano or Le Sirenuse, where the hotel is a destination in and of itself, you won’t find that in Ponza. Luxury hospitality hasn’t made its way to the Pontine Islands, which reflects the well-known fact that the best way to experience Ponza is from the sea. If you do happen to stay on the mainland, Ponza is littered with charming mom-and-pop bed and breakfasts that are so delightfully stuck in time, you can’t help but picture your grandparents here. 

The terrace at Chiaia di Luna.

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The view from Chiaia di Luna.

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Even just for its location alone, the most iconic stay on the island is the Grand Hotel Chiaia di Luna, which sits perched on a hill overlooking the dramatic crescent-shaped bay with the same name. Rooms are air-conditioned and perfectly adequate, the restaurant features the most scenic view on the island and the terrace bar comes alive at night with young, attractive crowds piling in at sunset and staying late. While it’s just a 10-minute walk to the port, the hotel offers a free shuttle service all day as is common with most hotels that populate around the port. 

Just down the road, you’ll find Grand Hotel Santa Domitilla, known for its saltwater grotto pools, and if you’re looking for something a touch simpler, Gennarino A Mare provides an elemental guesthouse feel with an excellent restaurant overlooking the port. Situated in a historic building just a three-minute walk from the port, Hotel Torre dei Borboni has 48 Mediterranean-inspired rooms divided between the historical tower and the newer wing. 

Inside Villa Laetitia. 

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An outdoor terrace at Villa Laetitia.

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For an edgier stay, Villa Laetitia, helmed by the Fendi family and renovated by Anna Fendi Venturini, is different from its sister property in Rome in that it’s designed to feel more like an intimate guesthouse, rather than a hotel. Broken pieces of mosaic tiles line the property, breakfast is served under a shaded veranda overlooking the island, and each of the six small rooms is artfully designed with the perfect amalgam of kitsch and retro glamour.

Where to Eat

If you’re walking around the port, post up at Pasticceria Gildo for a sugary breakfast or an aperitivo before heading to Oresteria for a seafood pasta lunch or dinner. Nearby, Ristorante EEA is as close to fine dining as Ponza gets, in an atmospheric setting with panoramic views and a food offering that lives up to the hype (don’t miss the risotto with red prawn carpaccio). 

The view from Da Igino.

Courtesy of the writer

Outdoor tables at La Marina.

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As your days in Ponza will likely be spent swimming in the various coves, or calas, scattered around the island, the most memorable meals can be found beachside—or should I say, cove-side. La Marina on Cala Feola is the island’s showstopper with its whimsical decor and fresh seafood and pasta dishes. Similar in its playful aesthetic is Da Enzo al Frontone on Frontone beach, with an experience that begins the moment Enzo scoops you from the port to boat over to his tiny corner of paradise. Once there, you’re treated to a four-course prix fixe menu featuring whatever is fresh that week. 

The entrance to O’ Francese. 

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A view of O’ Francese from the water. 

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If you’re at Cala Fonte all the way in the northern part of the island, follow the steps up to Da Igino for a simple but excellent meal overlooking the cove. Anyone will tell you that a boat trip to Palmarola isn’t complete without lunch on the beach at O’ Francese, situated inside the only structure on the island that’s open to the public, serving fresh fish from the net.

Where to Swim

The best way to experience Ponza’s abundance of swimming coves is by boat, as taxis on the mainland are pricey and buses aren’t the most efficient, albeit affordable and easy to navigate. For the best coves accessible from the mainland, head to Le Forna and follow the signage down to La Caletta and Piscine Naturali, rocky coves where you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas on the rocks, as well as paddle boards and kayaks to explore the bay that connects to Cala Feola. Getting around here is easy via boat taxi, which you can take to lunch at La Marina. 

Swimming at Cala Fonte.

Courtesy of the writer

The beach at Cala Feola.

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Another cove accessible by land is Cala Fonte in the northeast part of the island; here, you’ll find a paved platform lined with sunbeds near a concession stand. The shallow waters make this an optimal spot for young kids, though if you prefer sitting along the rocks that line the open sea, you can take the row boat over to the wilder side. (Remember to pack water shoes—you’ll need them here.) 

Sun umbrellas at La Caletta. 

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A view over Cala Fonte.

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By boat, which you can organize at the various boat rental stands at the port, you’ll have access to some of the more majestic swimming spots in Ponza, like Chiaia di Luna, Cala di Lucia Rosa, and Cala dell’Acqua. Once you’ve made your way around Ponza, head to the uninhabited Palmarola, the wildest of the Pontine islands, where there are no houses, ports, or hotels, just a single restaurant—at least, for now.



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