Ventotene

 

Spending your vacations on the Italian coast is generally associated with crowds, noise and a torrid climate. Italy however is blessed with an extremely various territory that offers almost every kind of geography you can imagine. If you are thinking of an unusual stopover during your tour in the Belpaese… what about a remote rocky island that takes its name from the strong winds that prevail there?

Ventotene (yes, the name comes from vento, meaning ‘wind’) is the serious sister of fashionable Ponza, 40 kilometers to the west. Where Ponza is so snob and vacuous to be a sort of a running joke to Italians, Ventotene is just three kilometers long and 800 meters wide, with tall cliffs overlooking the sea. In fact, it is like a minuscule world of its own, with its own rules. To make an example, the few vehicles shuttling tourists from the harbor to the one village and back are only allowed to run when a ferry arrives: for the rest of the time, it’s no motors on Ventotene.

The location has always been suited to quiet contemplation. Back in imperial times, Ventotene was the place were patricians were sent into exile; later on high-profile antifascists were imprisoned on the island – or on the nearby rock of Santo Stefano, whose only feature is an abandoned and fascinating penitentiary built as a panopticon, with one central guarding tower and 100 surrounding cells allowing no privacy at all. As a matter of fact, the intellectuals jailed on Ventotene island in 1941 wrote the first draft of the document calling for an European union.

The island is not desolate however. Apart from being a splendid swimming and diving spot, the place brims with Roman archeological remains including waterways, villas and five sunken ships whose intact cargo is now exhibited in the local museum. Which, like the villas, can only be visited by appointment. We told you that Ventotene was different, didn’t we?