19 May 2015

On exile in Ventotene

The need to escape and relax

In size it is the smallest comune (district) of central Italy, with a surface of 1.54 square kilometres and 747 inhabitants. It’s part of the archipelago of the Ponziane islands in the Tyrrhenian sea and it’s close to Santo Stefano, known to everyone – Italian and non – for it’s prison. What place am I talking (or writing) about? Ventotene, the island of exile and exiled people. From Sandro Pertini to Altiero Spinelli, from Riccardo Bauer to Eugenio Curiel and Miss Claire…

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Yes, because for a brief period – only a week unfortunately – I too was a prisoner on this enchanted island. A deliberate confinement obviously!

When I travel I like to spoil myself, I’m very pretentious because after all holidays are sacred! But in Ventotene, I must admit, you don’t need much… why would you need a swimming-pool with a massage centre or a 24hour bar, when in the morning, as you wake up you can enjoy such a wonderful sight? From the windows facing onto Porto Romani, you receive a special good morning from Santo Stefano and Ischia …how wonderful!

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The choice of the period (end of May) was spot-on, because on the island, apart from us, there were very few tourists. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t indulgent with us, but we had put it into account.

During the week we also visited Santo Stefano, with Salvatore - a boy from the island who has a passion for history - as our tour guide. Salvatore accompanied us to see the heart of the island, and with special care for details, he told us everything there is to know about it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but notice the state of neglect that some structures are in (like for example the cemetery)… a neglect we know all too well in our country…

We never missed out on exceptional lunches and tasty dinners of fresh fish and organic product from the island: fava beans, peas, sweet blue peas, apricots, mulberries, tomatoes, figs, capers, eggplant and pink onions. A typical dish of the island are lentils, a tradition, they say, that goes back to the Romans, and that we had the pleasure to try, along with everything else, at the restaurant “Il Giardino”, a restaurant that I’d never thought I would find on such a small island! Light dishes, cooked with the products of the island, fresh fish from the Marine reserve and vegetables grown a few feet from there, and all this presented in an impeccable way!

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Ventotene pleasures you with pure relaxing moments; you can move about only on foot (because everything is so close), Internet connection is not very up to date (and this helps you keep away from everyday bustle), the residents are calm and the scenery is from a postcard.

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The beach is clean and accessible, the sea is fantastic. After all this is a protected natural marine area, something particularly rare. You can appreciate it from the land and from the sea. We rented a boat, because among our many family hobbies we also have game fishing. Maybe not very chic but definitely lots of fun! We fished many barracudas, a discovery as we weren’t aware of their presence in Italian seas.

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With the sea, the fishing and excursions, the week flew by; Ventotene and the other islands of Ponziane were definitely a pleasant exile!

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