A Local’s Guide To Ponza: Italy’s Secret Island

It only takes 3 hours to reach this island paradise from the Eternal City.
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A view of Ponza's beaches with sail boats in the water on a sunny day

With its multicolored homes, crystalline sea, and dramatic cliffs, Ponza is one of the prettiest islands in all of Italy. And luckily for us in Rome, it’s reachable in just over 3 hours. Ponza is part of the Pontine Islands, an archipelago that includes Ventotene and Palmarola, and shares many similarities with Capri. It’s smaller though, and more rustic, making it a perfect weekend getaway from the capital.

Read on to discover the best beaches, bars, and restaurants in Ponza. For accommodations, see our guide to the best hotels in Ponza.

The Best Beaches In Ponza

Unlike Ischia or the beaches near Rome, Ponza isn’t an island with long stretches of sand. Ponza is an island that is best enjoyed by boat. However, there are a few picturesque beaches & hidden coves you can reach from land. Unfortunately, the famous Chiaia di Luna is not one of them. This pretty beach has been closed for years due to falling rocks, so you can only admire it from afar. Book a hotel stay at Hotel Chiaia di Luna or drop by for an aperitivo to enjoy the view.

Cala Feola

This sandy beach is my favorite on the island for its gorgeous position and its adorable little restaurant La Marina (more details below). You can rent loungers from a small stand as you head down to the beach. I walked down in flip-flops but you might want to bring comfortable shoes because it’s a hike up and down (100+-step stairs). It’s easiest to take a taxi there and back (around €20 each way).

Piscine Naturali

This rocky cove has a serious Slim Aarons vibe. It’s located near Cala Feola but you need to drive between them to get here. You’ll be laying out on a rock but you have the option to rent sun chairs and there’s also a cute little restaurant for lunch.

Spiaggia del Frontone

This is the largest beach on Ponza and is easily accessible from the port—one ferry company provides transfers for €5 return (don’t lose your ticket for the way back). This beach has a younger crowd and you can rent loungers. You can bring lunch or if you’re brave, walk/climb across a rocky path to reach Da Enzo Al Frontone (mentioned below).

Hop On A Boat

You can’t miss taking a boat tour of Ponza while you’re on the island (and if the winds cooperate, visit the nearby islands of Palmarola and Ventotene). There are a lot of boat rental companies at the port so you can arrange a tour upon your arrival. If you’re visiting on a weekend in July or August though, you’ll want to arrange a boat tour in advance. You can do group boat tours but I’d recommend hiring a skipper to take you out on your own private boat (the prices are a lot more affordable here than on other islands). Two skippers I can recommend are Cocò Noleggio and Gite in Barca con Luca.

Discover The Best Hotels In Ponza

Where To Eat & Drink In Ponza

Ponza’s cuisine is mainly fish-based and is similar to what you’d find in Campania: spaghetti with clams, mussels, tuna, and octopus. The prices are reasonable compared to islands like Capri but some dishes have weighted seafood, so lobster pasta can run you €50 or more. It’s a little harder for vegetarians and vegans here compared to Capri & Ischia but restaurants can make gnocchi, parmigiana, and other similar dishes. You must taste Ponza’s fabulous wine produced by Antiche Cantine Migliaccio (which organizes wine tastings) and Casa del Giglio. Some restaurants also serve wine from the nearby island of Ventotene which is delicious.

Two colorful plates each with a different dish of pasta on a bright blue table.

Oresteria

Down at the port, Oresteria is a fun spot with creative dishes, tiny bright blue tables, high chairs, and a social crowd. It’s great for people-watching and fun for a date. They don’t take reservations so show up early if you want to snag one of the handfuls of outdoor tables. You’ll find dishes like fish balls with tomato sauce and lemon rind and tagliatelle with swordfish and fish roe. They’ve also recently opened up a second venue called Orerock set on Santa Maria Beach (10 min from the port).

La Marina in Cala Feola

This little beach bar restaurant was the highlight of my trip. Set above the crystal-clear turquoise sea in Cala Feola, La Marina is an adorable restaurant with wooden tables and tiled floors. The menu is varied and serves lots of delicious antipasti, primi, and secondi. Don’t miss the parmigiana di pale di fichi d’india. Instead of eggplant, this “parmigiana” is made with cactus paddles which are prolific on the island! This dish is similar to the classic, but a little more dense and sour? It’s beautiful and unique. Call ahead to book a table during the high season.

Da Enzo al Frontone

Located at Spiaggia del Frontone, Da Enzo al Frontone is a rustic beach-side restaurant that is one of Ponza’s hidden gems. You’ll have to climb over a rocky stretch of boulders to reach it but the trek is worth it for the relaxed atmosphere and vibe. It serves salads, tuna tartare, bruschetta, and light foods.

Il Melograno

A gourmet restaurant inside Grand Hotel Santa Domitilla, Il Melograno doesn’t have a view but the setting is well-curated and the food is considered the best on the island. If you want to celebrate a special occasion and care more about the food than the view, this might be your best bet. If you call ahead, they can also accommodate vegetarian and vegan requests.

Ristorante EEA

Ristorante EEA is a popular higher-end restaurant in Ponza. Set a couple of streets above the port, it has a lovely view of the water, white tablecloths, and attentive service. It’s nice for a special occasion or with parents, though the casual restaurants are more characteristic of Ponza. The wine list featuring bottles from minor Italian islands was my favorite part of the experience.

La Pazzaria

The best pizzeria on Ponza, Pizzeria Pazzaria is a cozy trattoria/pizzeria set further down along the water (10-15 min from the port) and has views overlooking the sea. The fritti are excellent and it’s totally unpretentious, with house wine and old-fashioned desserts.

A marina full of docked boats in front of a restaurant at sunset

Il Rifugio dei Naviganti

I liked Il Rifugio dei Naviganti so much, I came here for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The setting is lovely, set above a sandy beach along the water, with booths and outdoor tables. It’s part kiosk, part restaurant, and the place transitions seamlessly from day to night. It’s run by a Neapolitan family, and the vibe is a little romantic but also warm and friendly.

Bar Tripoli

Bar Tripoli is the buzzing cafe & bar where everyone hangs out for aperitivo hour. You could say this is Ponza’s equivalent to Capri’s famous piazzetta where all the action happens during high season. Nearby, Pasticceria Gildo is another nice cafe with outdoor tables for people watching and relaxing (without a view).

Winspear

A casual watering hole down along the waterfront, Winspear is a nice place to lounge with a drink in hand during aperitivo or after dinner.

A view of Ponza's coastline at sunrise

How To Get To Ponza

The best way to reach Ponza is from Rome. You have to catch a Trenitalia train at Roma Termini to one of the following cities and then catch a ferry down at the port.

  • How to reach Ponza from Anzio: take the fast ferry with Laziomar (1hr 40 min)
  • How to reach Ponza from Formia: take the fast ferry with Laziomar (1hr 20 min) or ship ( 2h 30 min)
  • How to reach Ponza from Terracina: take the fast ferry with Laziomar or NLG (1 h) or ship (2h 30 min). From Rome, you’ll need to switch trains to get to Terracina, so this option isn’t ideal unless you’re already close by.

The quickest and easiest way to reach Ponza is through Anzio, but if you risk getting seasick, the ship from Formia is ideal. There’s also an unexpectedly great restaurant down by the port in Formia (Zi Anna Mare) where you can have a delicious lunch while you wait to set sail. If you want to spend an extra night or two in Anzio, I’ve got some tips on bars & restaurants in my guide to The 10 Best Beaches Near Rome.

Ponza Travel Tips

  • If you feel comfortable driving a scooter or car, you can rent these on the island (or bring your own vehicle over by ship from Formia) but the roads on the island are quite narrow. I think it’s easiest to move around on foot, by bus and take taxis when needed.
  • Bring comfortable shoes! Ponza is very hilly and apart from the port, you’ll be climbing up many hills and walking up many stairs.
  • A few people have asked me if this is a good island for children. If you stay right by the port and take boat tours around the island, I think it can work, but there aren’t long sandy beaches in Ponza—and it’s not stroller friendly.
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