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An archipelago just of the coast of southern Lazio, the Pontine Islands are home to the glittering turquoise waters that the Mediterranean brings to mind, add to that pretty towns, rugged rocks against a blue sky, and luxuriant vegetation fed by the fertile volcanic subsoil and you have a clutch of reasons to have a look. Just an hour by hydrofoil from Anzio, the main island, Ponza, is within easy striking distance for a long day trip (at a push), or better still a couple of nights. Weekends fro May to September, and all of July and August, see the islands (especially Ponza) swamped, but go mid-week in June and you'll be in a crowd-free paradise to explore the islands' coves and fecund vegetation.
The prettily village-like main town was built by Bourbon invaders in the 18th. Beyond the occasional Bourbonic façade, lies a maze of narrow streets to explore. There are not much in the way of sandy beaches, but hire a gozzo (a little motor boat), and you'll find plenty of spots for a cooling swim in the island's many picturesque coves, as well as admiring the picturesque rocks of nearby Palmarola.
Ventotene - The second island of the archipelago, and further south-east than Ponza rugged Vetotene had a long history as place of exile; it was here that Augustus banished his wayward daughter Julia, in the 18th century the Bourbons built a prison on the nearby island of Santo Stefano, and imprisoned anti-Fascists in 1941 issued the Manifesto of Ventotene which sought the union of European countries, and which underpins the creation of the European Union. The island's (functioning) harbour has remained largely untouched since Roman times. The feast day of Ventotene's patron saint, Santa Candida is celebrated with much ado on the 20th September each year.
How to get there:
Ponza - Take the train from Roma Termini to Anzio. Trains run twice an hour, take about an hour, and cost €3.20. From Anzio port, take the hydrofoil (aliscafo) to Ponza. www.vetor.it. The journey takes 1 hour 10 minutes and it costs €27 one way.
Ventotene - Take the train from Roma Termini to Formia. Trains run two or three times an hour, take between 1 hour 10 mins, and 1 hour 30 mins and cost either €7.40 or €13.50. From Formia port take either the fast ferry or the hydrofoil. Journey time is c.1 hour and it costs c. €18