Forging a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Ponza's steep coastline has been chiselled into a lightning bolt. But this is the most dramatic thing about the tiny island, where days are spent exploring sapphire coves by traditional Ponzese fishing boats and enjoying sun-soaked aperitivo in its half-moon harbour. Kate Lough explores, and is hooked. 



One of the Pontine islands, Ponza is where the sorceress Circe was exiled to by Zeus, according to Greek mythology © Casa Fontana  

Brilliantly white and cubic, the house puts me in mind of the Cyclades rather than Italy. You can see the sea, exquisitely framed, from every window. Diaphanous curtains flutter in the breeze, stretching out to stroke tiled floors and embroidered quilts tucked into wrought iron beds. When its Italian owner bought Casa Fontana, it was in a very poor condition. Now, its Mediterraneo interiors are dressed in Aegean blues, with mountains of books and curiosities, sculptures and ceramics collected as if by a magpie.

Family heirlooms jostle with pieces made by her dear friend, Jacopo Foggini: a coffee table designed for Edra at last year’s Salone del Mobile sits in front of the fireplace; and an installation of glass fish seemingly floats from the curved ceiling.

Outside, the casa’s small garden clings to its rocky bluff, the water glittering far below in almost every direction. You feel as if you are on a boat on the ocean, our hostess chimes, as we scan the horizon. A Nemo chair by Fabio Novembre for Driade momentarily distracts the eye, offering a sculptural seat for contemplating the singular magic of Ponza, our tiny island home for the next few days.

One of the Pontine islands, Ponza is where the sorceress Circe was exiled to by Zeus, according to Greek mythology. I imagine her installed at Casa Fontana, passing the years in defiant contentment, pausing briefly to delay Odysseus on his way to Ithaca.

It is my first time on Ponza and I am hooked. Forging a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, its steep coastline has been chiselled into a lightning bolt. But its shape is the only urgent thing about Ponza. There are few cars. And its half-moon harbour is lined with old fishermen’s houses, still painted in an assortment of pastels that helped their owners locate home after months at sea.

Ponza is best seen, and swum, by boat. On our first morning, we trip down the smooth steps from the house to the port, following our hostess, with her rescue dog, Olivia, trotting in our wake. We stop at a pasticceria to pick up coffee and a paper bag-full of aragostine, small pastries pumped with sweet cream that look like lobster tails. A forni for slabs of pizza al taglio. And an enoteca for a bianco. It is a Fieno di Ponza, of course; its Ischia-derived grapes charged by the island’s hot-tempered soil.


Ponza's half-moon harbour is best seen by boat © Casa Fontana 

Supplies in hand, we snake around the point where Hydrofoils drift in, infrequently, from Rome and Naples to locate our gozzo. A traditional Ponzese fishing boat carved from teak, we set up camp near the bow, sprawling out on its deck to bake in the midday sun. A day is just enough to complete a turn of the island.

We start out clockwise with Palmarola, where the Fendi family go to hide, passing to our left. Hugging Ponza’s craggy coastline, we stop in sapphire coves and caves to dive. Or just bob around; Olivia always launching herself into the water first.

The final time we drop anchor, just shy of the harbour, I row through the velvety water on my back. Fantasising about long hot summers at the coral house that teeters on the cliff above. Holed up alone like Circe.

Sundrunk, our linen shirts stiff with salt, we weave back through the port and climb the stairs back to Casa Fontana. Making it just in time to watch the sunset over the harbour beneath. Aperitivo in hand. Ready to do the same again tomorrow.


Casa Fontana sleeps 8, and is available to rent via

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Kate Lough is a UK-based writer and editor, specialising in the arts and travel | Follow Kate on Instagram: @kateloughstudio

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