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The Pontine Islands are an archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the west coast of Italy.
Ponza, Palmarola, Zannone, Ventotene, Santo Stefano, the small island of Gavi and the solitary rock of la Botte are the most extraordinary group of islands in the Tyrrhenian sea because of the variety of their coastlines, the colours of the rocks, the attractive villages and the small ports in pure Mediterranean style. Currently, tiny vineyards, wild herbs and flowers, and secluded beaches and grottos make them a popular tourist destination.
During the reign of Rome's Caesar Augustus, residential expansion on the islands was encouraged and people spread from Ponza to Ventotene. Rome used the two islands as a retreat and a place to exile politically troubling citizens. Some two thousands years later the islands were used for the same reason by the Fascist regime.
The Pontine were abandoned during the Middle Ages due to constant raids by Saracens and pirates. During the 18th century, the Kingdom of Naples re-colonized the islands, that later became part of the Kingdom of Italy.A stunning volcanic archipelago just off the coast of Lazio, the Pontine islands offer you turquoise waters, tiny vineyards, wild herbs and flowers.
Ponza is the most interesting island. It's full of grottoes and secluded beaches. The Pilatus Caves are one of the main higlights and most visitors take one or more boat trips.
This island which is only 4.97 miles long is full of places to visit, such as the lovely beach of Ghiaia di Luna, which can be reached through a tunnel dug out by the Romans and which is full of archaeological remains scattered everywhere. Tourists who intend to explore the whole island have a wide choice of suggested itineraries that will satisfy all types of interests.
This is the most western of the Pontine islands. If you love solitude and living in wild nature this is the most charming place you can find. Palmarola is the second largest Pontine island. The few summer facilities available are the only inhabited places. From a geological point of view the island offers remarkable curiosities such as the oxidianic rock in its northern part, although its biggest attraction is its perfectly transparent sea. Palmarola has an extremely craggy coast dotted with grottos, bays, cliffs and crags. Landing is possible at a small natural harbour where you can make a brief stop and take a look at the grottos excavated by the sea.
SANTO STEFANO ISLAND The isle of Santo Stefano lies less than a mile east from the island of Ventotene. Its 0.11 sq. miles surface makes it the smallest of the Pontine islands. There are 4 small landing spots that can be used according to the winds. This island of volcanic origin has probably been inhabited since the Roman age (as the few remains found there seem to prove), although some oxidian finds allow us to assume the existence of even earlier settlements. During the centuries the island was given several names such as Partenope, Palmosa, Dommo Stephane and Borca. This uninhabited island can be reached from Ventotene with a rented boat. The boat tour around the island is quite brief and offers fascinating views enhanced by the intensely blue-coloured sea and by the dark and ragged basaltic rocks. The sea-beds around the island are full of different species of fish.
This small island (0.5 sq. miles) was formed by volcanic, mainly tufaceous rocks once used to build houses (as you can see when entering the port). Ventotene has generally high and ragged coasts and two small, beautiful beaches just behind the built-up area: Cala Rossano (close to the Porto Nuovo) and Cala Nave (with the three cliffs: Nave di Terra, Nave di Fuori and Scoglitello). In isolated areas away from the port there are other stretches of beach such as: Parata della Postina, Moggio di Terra and Parata Grande. The island was first used as a base by the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans in the Ist. century and was subsequently equipped by Augustus with a port dug in volcanic rock which is still in use today and which serves the huge Villa Giulia where he had relegated his daughter accused of infidelity. After the decadence and abandonment period of the Middle Ages the island was repopulated by the Bourbons during the second half of the XVIII century. They created the current built-up area with the castle (today's town-hall), the church of Santa Candida and the wide square.
Zannone has a surface of little more than 0.38 sq. miles and lies approximately 6.5 miles from the port of Ponza. It is part of the Circeo National Park because of its beauty and the integrity of its environments. The island is uninhabited but supervised by the Forestry Service. There are no tourist facilities and camping or overnight stays are prohibited although no special permit is required to visit the island. It is mainly covered with a thick vegetation based on Mediterranean scrub, but there is also a small ilex-wood. On top of Monte Pellegrino there is a Forestry Service station with a small educational exhibition concerning the naturalistic aspects of the island. Beside the building you will also find the ruins of a Benedictine convent dating back to the XIII century. The complete tour following well-marked paths along the upper ridge of the island takes 40 minutes; don't be surprised if you meet some wild sheep during your walk.