Ponza is the main island of the Pontine group, higher and more rugged than Ventotene, its’ coast riddled with geological features. We were careful to avoid some of the more outlying ones on our way in. The main harbour is a pretty town of square pastel houses climbing the hill, a bit reminiscent of Capri back in the day. Despite the fact that anchoring is supposedly forbidden most of the yachts there were at anchor and we were in splendid isolation on the end of the pontoon. The water was again crystal clear and as we looked down into it small mauve jellyfish swirled round each other down into the depths like Dementors, tentacles trailing. The crosses on top of their heads glowed purple from above, shading to metallic burgundy shot with gold as they tilted, fascinating to look at, but a definite deterrent to swimming.
After the quiet of Ventotene the traffic along the front and the press of people seemed hectic.
Having skipped lunch we ate out early at a taverna on the side of the harbour. It looked rather pretty till the patron started stringing up individual battery powered plastic light bulbs from the umbrellas over the tables as people were trying to eat. He had a slightly distracted manner and even with the help of the young waitress managed to confuse our order, so that though my modest rocket salad starter was as expected, John was served a huge bowl of shellfish followed by a big plate of much the same shellfish in thick pasta as a main, while I was given an empty plate with which to share it. As it turned out there was actually plenty for both of us, hopefully making up for some of the indulgences of the last two days and it was very cheap. We headed off before the lighting became dependent on the motley distribution of dim bulbs and explored the town in the gathering dusk. Narrow passageways of steep steps led up to a cobbled terrace of shops and candle lit bars, enchanting in the twilight. We stopped off in one and identified a restaurant for tomorrow night and a patisserie for breakfast. Along the length of the street were white filigree metal archways of fairy lights, like the ones used for festivals on Ischia. As night fell none of the lights came on and John consulted the Google oracle and found a two-week festival starts at the coming weekend. We shall just miss it.
Next day after our pastries and cappuccinos we had decided to take a boat tour to view the sea stacks and arches up close without risk to the gel coat. There are several concessions along the port, each offering a five-hour tour around the whole island with lunch and swimming stops or a one-hour to the point and back. Five hours sounded like another days sailing and we did not fancy swimming if the jellyfish were spawning, so opted for the short tour. We were joined by an Italian couple, which worked out very well as the boatman kept stopping to come round from his little wheel house and offer them a booming commentary in Italian as we rode the chop and dodged the spray. The coastline is a spectacular mix of rock features, full of folds and intrusions and I clicked away happily with the camera. On the way back our Captain road up onto a nearby beach to drop the young couple off. The beach looked pretty quiet and we could see the jellyfish washing about here too, though our companions managed to climb over the bow and paddle to the shore unscathed. Our man stayed behind his wheel for the remainder of the trip back and as he kept the prow nosed up against the harbour wall for us also to climb over and out, rather less nimbly in my case. I had thoroughly enjoyed the tour, but was glad we had not opted for the longer one. We had pizza for lunch from a wood-burning oven, very crisp and oozing cheese; our first of the year. To walk it off we climbed to the top of the town and walked a little way along the cliff top, but then realised we were on top of one of the overhangs we had seen from below and hastily backtracked. Climbing in the opposite direction we reached the cemetery, the dead being kept away from the living by being interred high above them, traditionally segregated, men according to status with women and children allocated separate spaces.
Our evening plans looked set to fail at the first hurdle when we arrived at the bar to find it heaving. We walked to the end of the street, but did not find an alternative. On our second pass a group at the end table at the front were standing and gathering themselves ready to leave, so we hung back and jumped in their graves. After that the evening progressed as planned. We watched a complex cars cradle of wires being woven along the far harbour wall and more fairy lights being strung up. A huge party of adults and children all very dressed up gathered behind us and we held our breath, but they were booked into the other restaurant, which they filled. We were very pleased with our choice, which was run entirely by women. We shares had a very fishy supper, sharing penne with monkfish to start and them plaice in lemon. After our coffees our waitress offered us shots of the local fennel liqueur, which was less fiery than anise with a more complex taste. Unfortunately the shops were closed by the time we made our way home and we have an early start tomorrow for the long journey to Gaeta. A fierce wind came through in the early hours and woke John, he looked out and all the festival lights had been turned on, no doubt to test them. Luckily I woke shortly after and he told me to look out, so I saw them too and very pretty they were.