Dedicated to Isabelle, Marco, Arina, Ercole, Victoria, Inna and Sam; with love.
Italy, rich in natural beauties and enchanting beaches, fully opens up its splendour in the summer. There are various offers and decisions about how and where to spend the summer holidays. But true sea lovers know: the best way to enjoy the sea is sailing!
Wind in the Stern!
That’s right – yacht holidays have a great number of countless advantages. First of all, the yacht permits you to visit bays and coves unattainable from the ground, to bathe in clearer and more transparent waters, far from the crowded beaches. Yachting you also have the opportunity to admire the breathtaking landscapes through jagged coasts, to sleep anchored near a shore, lulled by the waves, and to enjoy top services on board…
A unique and rare experience, a perfect mix of wild life and most glamorous holidays – are the most accurate phrases to describe the time spent on sailing, followed by the insatiable desire to repeat the experience.
Discovering the Pontine Islands
The Pontine archipelago is formed by six small islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the west coast of Italy, in the Gulf of Gaeta. The largest island is Ponza, followed by Ventotene, Palmarola, Zannone, Gavi and Santo Stefano. (Logically, the Pontine Islands (Italian: Isole Ponziane) have gained their collective name after the largest island of the group.) All islands of the archipelago have a volcanic origin and have been inhabited for thousands of years.
The secret of rediscovering these corners of the earthly paradise is definitely a yacht (as well as a crew of close friends!) that allows you to move in complete freedom without predetermined timetables or prescribed routes (normally used in case of mass tourism) with a full respect to the environment. For comfortable yachting, it is advisable to choose cruise ships such as Oceanis, Sun Odyssey or Grand Soleil, or more powerful and performing boats such as Mylius, ICE or Solaris.
So here we go! Our journey begins at the southern end of the Ulysses Riviera, at the foot of Mount Orlando, in the Gaeta port of the wide Gulf with the same name that extends from the Circeo headland to Cape Miseno. Here, hopefully, we’ll get back later, while now it’s time to start our adventure! All on board…and wind in the stern!
The Eastern Pontine Archipelago
To start our journey, we’ve decided to sail to the eastern group of the Pontine archipelago, consisting of Ventotene and Santo Stefano (uninhabited and available for excursions only upon reservation), which are situated half a mile from each other. And here we are, anchored between the two fantastic islands ready to dive in deep blue sea waters. Next thing we do is swimming among fishes and observing the sea bottom with ever growing enthusiasm. Not by chance, Ventotene (along with Ponza) is beloved divers’ paradise due to the beautiful backdrops on the West coast within the protected marine area.
Our acquaintance to Ventotene – the second largest of the Pontine Islands – starts from the Harbor Nicola, an ancient jewel excavated in the tuff. They say, spending the night in this harbour allows you to moor and savour the most authentic charm of the island. Still, entering the Harbour Nicola requires extreme expertise. Furthermore, the yachts over 15 meters are not allowed to this port, whilst only a few boat places are available. However, no panic! Ventotene also has the new harbour – Cala Rossano – less characteristic but much more accessible.
As for the main beaches of Ventotene, there are three: Calarossano, Parata Grande and Cala Nave, all characterized by black sands and very quiet atmosphere ideal for those of us who are looking for a total relax.
Besides, on the island there are some small hotels, just a few shops and plenty of characteristic restaurants where one can enjoy fresh fish dishes right on the panoramic sea-view terraces, such as Marisqueria (excellent!) and Il Brigantino (spectacular!).
The Western Pontine Archipelago
Our next destination is the Western Pontine archipelago. We eager to explore the underwater caves and the fascinating cliffs of Ponza and Palmarola. Yet before we decide to sail around the island of Zannone.
Zannone is inhabited only in summer. Since 1979, due to its naturalistic importance, the island of Zannone makes part of the National Park of Circeo, and is safeguarded by state forestry guards. Of course, we could have visited the park, stroll through Zannone’s woods, and maybe even to be lucky enough to meet some muflon that lives on the island… Still, for one reason or another, we’ve decided to do it next time in the foreseeable future. Instead, we’ve opted for yachting around the coast. This allowed us to visit many dream places like Cala delle Grottelle, the Rock of Monaco, the Punta de Levante, the Punta del Lauro, the beach of Calcara and the Grotto of Mariuolo with the namesake rocks.
Next step – Gavi and Ponza! Like Santo Stefano, the island of Gavi is not touristic since it is private, apart from being stranded and practically uninhabited. And yet it does not lack the all-enchanting and unique charm. You see, in the southwest the island of Gavi meets that of Ponza (towards the north, by the Punta dell’Incenso), from which is separated by a sea arm of just 120 meters! So, much caution and attention!
The view of Ponza – with its highest point, Mount Guardia, rising to 280 meters above the sea level – is ravishing and unmistakable! The arrival to Ponza is somewhat exciting. The sunset light exalts the mosaic of the characteristic Pontine colourful houses overlooking the harbour and the marina built in the 18 century by the Bourbons in order to repopulate the Pontine archipelago.
It’s amazing to have an aperitif anchored near the harbour… Then we want to get off and to explore the island. However, the captain warns us that, according to the wind forecast, tonight the arrival of Levante is expected. Levante – is unfriendly and dangerous Ponza’s wind and its curse. This way, last summer Levante provoked a storm and created waves – two and a half meters high – in the Sant’Antonio port area making sink about 30 small boats. So, opting for security, we turn around the island and anchor in the Cola Fèola bay.
Here along with the other yachts over 20 meters we are sheltered from the unpredictable wind. A bit perplexed, we talk, rest and dine under the stars admiring the fantastic bay that with its moon-lit reefs seems almost imaginative. Then, the sight captures the glitter of dark blue night waters and the sinuous features Palmarola. Do you know what everyone of us was thinking in that exact moment? “If a terrestrial paradise exists, it’s right here …”
Wind in the Stern!
What’s your yachting experience? Please share…