I have spent my whole life looking at pictures hung up on walls or pasted into photo albums of the Isola di Ponza, the small volcano-created island located about 20 miles off the coast between Rome and Naples.
I have spent my whole life hearing stories of its beaches and how soothing its waters are.
And I finally got my chance to live inside the pictures and the stories. And now I have my own to share.
We woke up at 6 a.m. and were on the road by 7. Some traffic set us back and after we found parking, we sped-walked to the docks in Terra Cina (a city close to Sperlonga and Napoli). We quickly purchased our tickets for the ferry and scrambled to make it on board on time. The ferry undocked only five minutes later.
The ride was close to an hour long. It gave me plenty of time to reflect on what today would mean for me. I kept recalling a blog post I read the night before by my favorite musician Gerard Way. It’s entitled ‘The Happy-Sads’, and in it he discusses how his depression gave him a view on life that while he could experience happy occurrences, he still felt sad. I was happy because I had been dreaming about this day for so long, but I felt the sadness too. I was nervous that the island wouldn’t live up to the expectations I had for it. I was nervous that after seeing the island, would I still see my beloved Italy in the enchanting mysterious way I have always seen it? And, could I ever feel this happy again once I returned to New York? Italy has been completely amazing and I fear my life back at home will pale in comparison.
Overwhelmed with these thoughts I teared up a bit and I was very grateful to already have my sunglasses on.
I didn’t have much of a view from the windows of the ferry to see the island before we arrived. I had seen the neighboring uninhabited small islands, but not the lovely spread of Ponza. When I stepped down the plank, it felt like I had to twirl around to take in everything. On my right side were docks and a swimming area, on my left there were bright pastel-colored buildings and homes slowly ascending a hillside, and in front of me was a little bustling street filled with people and taxis and bursting with life.
I could have spent all day standing there and watching the world revolve around me, but my feet knew to follow my cousins along the street until we came about a little shop next to a pedestrian tunnel. There the four of us rented two scooters to easily move about the island. I have never been on a scooter before and I must have looked a little silly clutching the sidebars so tightly, but, my goodness were they so much fun.
We sped up an down the the curvy hilly streets with ease and finally stopped at a set of stairs. We parked the scooters at the side of the rode and then ventured down these stairs. Marked every so often in paint was the word ‘Piscine’ accompanied by an arrow. ‘Piscine’ means ‘pools’ in English, and we followed the arrows to Le Forna. It was quite a walk down all these steps, but it offered some fantastic views of the ocean and some glimpses into the lush wildlife and little lizards of the island.
Le Forna is a region of the island and this beach is just one of them in the area. We placed our towels on rocks, changed to our bathing suits, soaked up a little sun before taking a dive into the incredibly beautiful water. Is the water blue, or is the water green? I have no idea how to respond to that. But it’s clear and clean and the water felt unlike any other ocean I’ve dipped it. It was smooth and the water didn’t weigh you down.
We swam right by a grotto and some caves, but I didn’t go too close to them. In the water you could see little fish hanging about in schools and small crabs scuttling about the rocks. It looked so peaceful under the water.
We spent a few hours at this beach sun-bathing, taking short swims, and even ate our pre-packaged lunches.
My cousins asked what I so far thought about Ponza and I stammered in my rugged Italian that I didn’t have the words in either Italian or English to describe its beauty.
A little after midday we packed up our sets, walked up the insane amount of steps, and jumped on the scooters again. We drove to another beach, I believed called Achilles and Lucia. This beach was very rocky and rough but we did manage to find a spot to lay our towels down, although we were a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t go in the water here because there were sea urchins on the rocks and they were difficult to see so I didn’t want to accidentally step on one or brush up on one. We stayed here for about an hour and a half, enjoyed some fruit and then finally returned to our scooters once more.
After we left this beach we took our time driving and stopped intermittently to take pictures of the scenery. The flora and fauna of the island juxtaposed with the multi-colored ocean was unlike anything. Simply divine.
We returned to the port area, brought back our scooters and bought some gelato at a nearby gelateria. I had nocciola and frutta di bosco. A little weird considering nocciola is essentially Nutella and frutta di bosco is mixed fruits but it was delicious. The nocciola flavor was exceptionally savory. We didn’t have any time to look at the other shops before boarding the ferry and I was a little miffed I couldn’t buy any presents for anyone, but I guess my pictures will have to serve as the only tangible souvenirs from the island.
One day is not enough to experience the 2-mile Ponza. But on the other hand, I don’t believe a whole lifetime would fulfill it either. I made a mental note to scold my family later for ever leaving a place like this. I will be back one day Ponza, the island can be sure of it.