PONTINE ISLANDS
     

Ponza harbour

Pontine islands
The Pontine Islands are an archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the west coast of Italy. The islands were collectively named after the largest island in the group, Ponza. The other islands in the archipelago are Palmarola, Zannone, and Gavi to the northwest, Ventotene and Santo Stefano to the southeast. These two groups are separed by 22 nautical miles. From Sabaudia-Cape Circeo peninsula to Zannone the distance is 12 nautical miles, while Ventotene faces Gaeta (21 miles). The minimum distance between Santo Stefano and the isle of Ischia is 22 nautical miles.

The archipelago is the result of volcanic activity and has been inhabited for thousands of years. Neolithic artifacts and Bronze Age obsidians have been excavated on the islands. The islands were used by the Etruscans who carved the "Blue Grottos".

The earliest recorded history of the islands occurs with the Roman victory over the Volsces at 338 B.C. A local legend says that this was once the lost Kingdom of Tyrrhenia which sank with a narrow strip connected to mainland Italy.

 

 

During the reign of Rome's Caesar Augustus, residential expansion on the islands was encouraged and people spread from Ponza to Ventotene. Rome used the two islands as a retreat and a place to exile politically troubling citizens. Some two thousands years later the islands were used for the same reason by the Fascist regime.

The Pontine were abandoned during the Middle Ages due to constant raids by Saracens and pirates. During the 18th century, the Kingdom of Naples re-colonized the islands, and they later became part of the Kingdom of Italy.

Ponza and Ventotene are populated, while the smaller islands are not. Ventotene and Santo Stefano are land and sea conservation areas supervised by the Italian State.Currently, tiny vineyards, wild herbs and flowers, and secluded beaches and grottos make them a popular tourist destination.

A prison camp was created under the Bourbons and restructured under Mussolini on the island with up to 700 opponents, including 400 communists, between 1939 and 1943. One of them was Altiero Spinelli who wrote there a text now known as the "Ventotene Manifesto", promoting the idea of a federal Europe after the war.

 
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande on the island of Ventotene on 22 August 2016 to discuss the EU’s post-Brexit future. The meeting took place three weeks before 27 EU leaders — excluding British Prime Minister Theresa May — will meet at an informal summit in Bratislava to coordinate ahead of the U.K’s exit from the bloc. Renzi choose Ventotene because it was where Ernesto Rossi and Altiero Spinelli wrote the so-called Ventotene Manifesto, a key driver for European unification, the foreign ministry said in a statement, AFP reported. The three leaders had dinner dine in Naples on Sunday before before transportion to the island by helicopter the next morning, local media reported. The trio also did met to develop a common position ahead of the June EU summit. At the time, they called on Britain to clarify its Brexit plans, while reiterating the EU remained “strong and united.”