Ponza, Italy is an authentic European town with no touristy shops, no fast foods, and no crowds. The island lends itself for an intimate getaway. You arrive by tender or ferry at the marina full of weathered commercial boats and scruffy private sailing vessels lining the high Pontine Island seawall. At first glance, the town seems forgotten compared to the rest of the crowded world. Locals zip through the main waterfront street on vespas and motor scooters. 

Things to Do

It’s not a place for shopping. The stores curling around the marina seem to appear through a thirty year old time warp. The merchandise is limited to trinkets. Rugged men sell comic books and plastic toys at their newspaper stands. Taxis minibuses are abundant and ready to carry you out from the area of small restaurants, a pharmacy, and an ice cream shop, that is, if you speak Italian. 

You can climb the mountainside and view the town from a statue of Queen Mary. Nearby places to explore include La Forna and the Piscine Naturale. The main attraction is boating around the rocky coast and celebrating the ocean. It is a place for escaping modern times. If you are traveling with children, you will have an opportunity to show them a world without electronic devices and constant activity. This is where you can take walking tours to discover modest cemeteries and authentic architecture. 

Ponza by J Wilder Bill
Ponza Ruins by J Wilder Bill

Who to Take Along

The point of this destination is to remove yourself from chaos. If this appeals to your mate, then you will experience romance. The fact the locals only speak Italian gives the island a more remote mood, and allows you to actually remove yourself from your daily grind enough to truly relax your mind. 

The Secret Gem

So remote and inconspicuous, history buffs can explore the hideouts used during World War II. If you are persistent, you can find a taxi driver who not only speaks more than one language, and possibly yours, but also knows where the secretly famous house in Ponza is located. 

Benito Mussolini, the Duce, was captured and taken to Ponza, Italy. He had been held hostage for eight days before being transported to the remote location. Most residents fain no knowledge of the previous Italian leader, but it only takes one man who knows the way, up the hill, through the town, and down several disjointed streets too narrow for a bicyclist to feel safe. At the end of a rutted road, hidden from the main thoroughfare, ocean waves strike the backyards of untidy homes. There, across the street from an outdoor bar that relies on old tires and discarded novelties for decoration, you can find the safe house for the prisoner. 

Incongruous to the significance, when we uncovered the gem of the island, men sat on pink and yellow picnic benches at an outdoor bar sipping beers. They don’t recall live being different from the current moment. 

The Duce Prison, by J Wilder Bill
The Duce Prison by J Wilder Bill

We pulled up for a closer look as the homeowner of where the Duce was imprisoned hosed down the path leading to the cheerfully, yellow house. Such a remote section of the community, the villagers stopped listening to their boom boxes and watched as we took photographs. 

The house is kept up better than the surrounding homes. Bougainvillea blooms up one wall and a welcome mat invites people inside, but not to see the rooms where the Duce most likely laid awake at night, perhaps thinking of his mistress, or planning a liberated future. A different shop is resident of the special home. The Duce was taken to a different location where he was eventually released and reinstated as Italy’s leader, however, he was later recaptured and executed. 

How to Dress

The Mediterranean island calls for light dresses and shorts. Casual is genuine, in that there is nothing pretentious about the atmosphere. Cotton blouses, halter tops, and hats do well paired with Keds sneakers or boat shoes. Taxis are expensive, as is everyone on the island due to its remoteness, which gives it value. Therefore, you will benefit from having comfortable walking shoes. The humble historic sites are far from one another. It is the type of place where you eat, drink and explore novice travelers tend to overlook. 

Hats come in handy. The temperatures get high. With its grace, Ponza is hot and humid which is exactly why we all love the Mediterranean. So enjoy the island with the flare of traveling in days long lost. Grab your camera. Carry your pocket translator book. And walk your way across the island, because it confirms it is the journey of exploration that allows us to grow spiritually and intellectually in our travels. Just know, an innocuous place once served as the foundation of significant events.  

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