One of the great joys of cruising is finding yourselves in an enchanting, out of the way place that you hadn’t even heard of until a few days before. We weren’t that thrilled with the rather overdeveloped and commercial nature of Ischia, despite its reputed beauty and were happy to leave our anchorage there and make for a small island in the Pontine group 24 miles westwards. We arrived in Ventotene after a pleasant motorsail spent mainly listening to music and were immediately taken with the place and its history. The Romans came here and carved a wonderful little harbour out of the volcanic tufa rock, complete with boatsheds for their galleys and it is still pretty much as they created it. Apparently Caesar Augustus’ wife Julia went in for adultery so was exiled here. It didn’t seem such a terrible fate as she had a large villa built on a headland and proceeded to entertain her lovers in peace and quiet. The remains of the villa are still there to give you a good idea of the style in which she must have lived.
The guide books describe the island as barren and dusty but we explored the length of it (no more than 3 km) and enjoyed the colours and scents of lots of different wildflowers once out in the countryside. It does have a tourist trade and is also the base for several scuba diving operations as the waters around the island are mostly protected and there seems to be plenty to see. If any of our old diving chums are reading this, have you heard of this spot?
We tied up in the newer harbour where there is more room to manoeuvre and negotiated a fee for 2 nights on the pontoon. We may have missed a trick as we have since noticed boats berthing on the outer harbour wall with no apparent charges, but you can’t win em all! It feels very much like being back on a Greek island here as the ferries arrive and drop anchor and then do what looks like a handbrake turn to reverse them towards the quay.
The view over the new harbour towards the prison island opposite:
The Roman harbour carved out of rock:
Roman galley sheds being re-used as diving centres, expensive shops etc: