The Pontine Islands lie off the west coast of Italy, approximately half way between Rome and Naples in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Connected to the mainland only by ferry and boat services, they remain largely free of the huge tourist crowds that descend upon the Italian coastline each summer. Of the six islands that make up the archipelago, Ponza is the largest, but even so, it is only 2.8 square miles in total land area. Ferries and hydrofoils navigate the 20 or so mile trip to Ponza from various ports along the coastline including Terracina (www.snapnavigazione.it), north of Naples and Anzio (www.vetor.it/en/index_eng.htm), south of Rome. Thought to have been named after Pontius Pilate, the island is known for its blue grottos, pristine beaches and friendly local community. It also boasts a Roman period underground aqueduct and various archaeological finds that date back to the ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians and Canaanites, among others. Despite its meager size, the island has some particularly lovely hotels, many enjoying impeccable views of cliffs, beaches and the harbor.
The recently renovated Il Gabbiano (www.ponza.com/ilgabbiano) bed and breakfast offers spectacular views over the sea and the small rocky outcrop island of Palmarola. Double rooms with breakfast are priced from $148 per night during low season annually from April 1 to June 16 and again from September 2 to November 3, Peak season is the week from August 11 to 18 when prices jump to $324, but you can still stay here for most of the summer for under $200 a night. The three-star Gennarino A Mare (tel.+39/7718-0071) is located right on the water with a restaurant overlooking the yachts in harbor. There is a three-night minimum stay and room rates start from $211 per night including breakfast.
The beautiful four-star Chiaia di Luna (tel. +39/7718-0113; www.hotelchiaiadiluna.com) offers free transfers to and from the harbor. Double room rates start from just under $100 per night on a bed and breakfast basis (from April 1 to June 6 and from September 17 to 30) or $141 on a half-board basis. Sea view rooms start from $120 and sea view suites from $183. In peak season, from August 5 to 26, standard rooms are priced at $170 for bed and breakfast or $211 half-board. Pensione Silvia (tel. +39/7718-0075) is a cute one-star, ten room property right on the waterfront. Double rooms are priced from $99 to $155 for two people or stays on a half-board basis with meals at their in-house restaurant priced from $106 to $134 per person.
A full list of hotels and their phone numbers is located at the official Ponza website (www.ponza.com). Most properties don't have websites and many of those with an online presence don't have online booking capabilities.
The small island of Giglio is located off the coast of Tuscany in what is known as the Tuscan Archipelago -- a group of seven islands, the best known being Elba. Giglio boasts crystal clear water, sandy beaches, isolated coves, scuba diving and numerous hiking paths to explore the countryside. It also has the remains of a 1st century Roman Villa, Domitius Aenobarbus, located in the port area. Get there by taking a train to Porto Santo Stefano (about 120 miles from Florence or 100 miles from Rome). Two ferry lines, Maregiglio (www.maregiglio.it) and Toremar (www.toremar.it) service the route from Porto Santo Stefano to Isola del Giglio each day. If you plan to take a car, you'll need to book in advance especially during the high season and on weekends. Otherwise you can leave your car in the car park next the embarkation pier. The journey is only ten miles and takes less than an hour.
The two-star Bahamas Hotel (tel. +39/564-809-254; www.bahamashotel.it) has double rooms that range in price from $99 from January 1 to March 31 and November 4 to December 21 to $141 during the peak summer season of July 29 to September 9. Hotel Il Saraceno (www.saracenohotel.it) located on the waterfront offers room and full board from $113 per person in low season or $141 for a double room for two people with breakfast included. Pardini's Hermitage Hotel (+39/564-809-034; www.hermit.it/eng/index1.html) is only accessible by sea. Sailors from the port will take you to the hotel but if weather conditions are bad, the only way to reach the hotel is by donkey or by walking up a steep track. During the summer, the Pardini motorboat will transfer hotel guests free of charge. Prices are based on full board and depend on how many nights you stay, for example a three night sojourn will start from $170 per night but if you stay seven nights, the price goes down to $162 per night.
For more information about the island, visit www.giglioinfo.com.
Lampedusa is the largest of the three Pelagian Islands located south of Sicily between Malta and Tunisia. It is reached by direct flights in summer from Palermo, Milan, Rome, Bologna, Turin and Verona on low cost Italian airlines like Meridiana (www.meridiana.it), MyAir (www.myair.com) and ClubAir (www.clubair.it). One-way fares start as low as $37 or alternatively, you can get to Lampedusa by ferry service from Porto Empedocle, Sicily (www.viamare.com), a trip of approximately four hours. Although technically part of Italy, it is arid and more closely resembles North Africa climate, landscape and fauna wise. A fishing community, Lampedusa has squeaky clean white sand beaches, turquoise water, imposing cliffs and exceptional scuba diving with an abundance of marine life. Striped lizard and Caretta turtles are indigenous to the island.
The three-star Albergo i Dammusi di Borgo Cala Creta (tel +39/922-970-394; www.calacreta.com) offers accommodation in what are called Dammusi -- traditional round dry stone buildings with white cupola roofs that stay cool under the island sun. Every dammuso has a bedroom with two beds (with possibility of an added bed), a refrigerator and private bathroom. Weekly rates per person in a standard Dammuso on a bed and breakfast basis is $395 to $740 for two people or a more luxurious Dammuso is $474 to $859. The three-star Hotel Cupola Bianca (tel. +39/922-971-274; www.hotelcupolabianca.it) is a visually stunning property with romantic Arabesque architecture, plentiful stonework and features like tropical gardens, outdoor sunken bath tubs and four-posted beds with drapery. Standard rooms during mid season (from May 26 to July 28 and from September 1 to 29) are priced at $211 or a Dammuso during the same period is $275 per night. Low season is from September 29 to November 3 with prices starting from $170 per night. Hotel Cavalluccio Marino (tel +39/922-970-053; www.hotelcavallucciomarino.com) has rooms ranging in price from $166 from March 31 to May 26 and again from September 29 to October 27 each year to $169 for stays from August 4 to 25.
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