The Pontine Islands
August 15, 2017
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. If that’s the case, our visit today should be worth over 100,000 words, since I took over 120 pictures on our two trips to the island of Ponza, the biggest island in the Pontine chain. I’ll try to make it shorter….
In some ways, it’s a fitting summary of our ten days at sea. It’s our last full day at sea before we embark on the land portion, which will take us from Rome to Florence.
The two-plus hour tour circling the island revealed the power—and beauty—of volcanic action; the shapes and colors were spectacular. 100 of my pictures were from this part of the day (and I’ve only used 122 words so far!), with every kind of lava, ash, colors we’ve seen, all in one place: white, black, yellow, and brown; some of the formations dripped and dried, sort of like sand castles at the Indiana Dunes. There were caves and grottos that made me wish there were possible potential dive spots was the wreck of the “water ship” that supplies fresh water every day to the 4000 permanent residents (and the 20,000 summer visitors). When we went back later, I quipped, “If we pool our water bottles, we might be able to buy the island.” I’m not sure it’s for sale, but we did pass an island that a family had bought, and put the only house atop the cliffs on that island.
I’ll try to post some pictures on Facebook so you can understand why I took what would have been three rolls of slide film (for those of you who remember film!)
When we got back, the captain offered us a treat; we’re anchored offshore, and he created a swimming area behind the boat, so those of us who wanted to jumped in. Having brought my diving mask, I couldn’t resist the temptation. The water was cool; I confess I was expecting the bathtub water of the Keys. It was, however, clear, but there wasn’t much to see underwater. Do cross off “swimming in the Tyrrhenian Sea” from my to-do list.
If volcanic activity and its results have been one constant, especially since Sicily, the historic tour of the city (generously termed!) was a reminder that the Greeks and Romans really influenced the area. In Roman days, it was a resort for wealthy Romans, and something of a fish farm. Grottos, cisterns, and tunnels provided both fresh water and a farm for eels, apparently part of the Roman diet. 2000 years later, current Italians are importing water for the mainland. Having seen many Roman ruins, I think Europe technologically is still struggling to get up to the civilization that disappeared when Roman civilization gave way to the dark ages.
I walked to the top of the hill, overlooking the town. It now houses a church, naturally, but it was the site of a Roman villa, and the headquarters of a Roman fleet. Next to the church is a naval headquarters, and behind it is a cemetery where Roman graves have been found. Along the way, I passed a Roman necropolis, a battlefield from the Napoleonic wars, and a tower, remnant of the Bourbons as Kings of the Two Sicilies. The island was used as a prison, ironically, by Mussolini, who was housed here when Italy changed sides in the second world war.
Too pretty for prisoners, it now brings loads of tourists in the summer from Naples and Gaeta, a port of Rome, and where we disembark tomorrow morning.