Nonetheless, despite our Hertz-Avis rivalry, we have seen mostly eye to eye over the years. A recent article, however, shattered the uneasy detente that had existed between us. I refer, of course, to the article "Off the Roman Coast, Bobbing for Views," which appeared in the Sunday Travel section on May 6 of this year. The Lady's depiction of the island of Ponza, which we included in this year's itinerary for the fourth consecutive summer, simply did not, in this humble reporter's opinion, meet the high journalistic standards that I expect of myself and of my peers. When the flat prose and poorly chosen highlights were combined with the dull black and white photos in the print version, the effect on readers was no doubt - "I'll take a pass on that place."
Perhaps the Times was doing us a favor, making Ponza look ordinary. They hid away the good photos in vivid color in their online article and everyone knows that no one reads online newspapers nowadays when a good handsmudging paper copy is available. Or perhaps they intentionally misrepresented this magical island, hoping to keep it a secret for their in crowd and premium subscribers. As noble as that impulse might be, it lacks journalistic integrity. No, for me, I feel it is right and proper to shout it from the mountaintops, that Ponza is the most perfect place on earth. And I don't care if my 14 readers all buy tickets tomorrow and flood the island.
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I suppose one could find Ponza to be an ordinary place. Unless one likes fresh seafood, warm people and warmer weather, crystal clear crisp blue seawater, winding mountain roads with panoramic views of the sea from a puttering Vespa, quiet peaceful beaches dotted with a smattering of stylish Italian sunseekers. Or a relaxing day with family on a rented motor boat with a local captain, exploring every one of the island's thousands of nooks, crannies, cathedral cliffs, grottoes, beaches and beach restaurants.
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One of the main purposes of coming to Ponza, for us at least, is to eat. If you like seafood it is a place that is impossible to resist. Every lunch, every dinner a feast not seen since our last visit to Red Lobster. (I kid the Red Lobster eaters). Everything fresh, having been pulled from the sea that day by the owner's best friend. Everything simple - ridiculously perfectly al dente spaghetti topped by fresh vongole (clams), each strand coated with a flavor that tastes like liquid sea. Fresh whole fish simply grilled. Fatty tuna seared on the outside and raw in the middle. Swordfish served lightly cooked, topping pasta or thinly sliced and raw. Heaps of fried calamari and little fishes that look like the ones I raised as a boy in my aquarium. Wash it all down with cold white wine from nearby Campagna, where they know how to make a wine that goes well with fish. Eating on Ponza is not just a pleasure. It is a moral obligation.
And our return engagement to the island was animated in part, if not in major part, by our desire for a return engagement at the restaurant Cala Feola. There, a year ago, we enjoyed the most magical afternoon and lunch with our four children and Pete and Nancy, stepping off our rental boat onto the rocky shore that protects a small marina just below the town of Le Forna. Five paces away a small rectangular shack with a wooden roof and open sides, enclosing a half dozen simple tables and benches awaited us. Hours later, plates clean, save for the lobster shells that had topped our pasta we reboarded our boat, dreaming of a return some day. This day we did.
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|Chiaia di Luna beach|
One of our favorites is la Caletta, a cheery beach run by a cheery fellow named Silverio (Saint Silverio is the patron saint of these island and it seems that every other male here is named Silverio), that is reachable by a perilously steep goat path from the town above. The climb reinforces the natural inclination that one has of being happy to arrive and upset to leave.
We returned to la Caletta one day on this visit, on a day when the weather was not particularly good. In fact, we nearly decided to skip it, opting for, surprise, a long lunch. But just as we were settling the bill, the clouds parted and the sun began to shine. So we made the trek down the mountain side, arriving at la Caletta before nearly anyone else came up with the same idea. We rented chairs and umbrellas from a boy who we presumed was Silverio's son, the transaction triggering the return of the clouds. Despite the mediocre weather we enjoyed the tranquility and cool breezes that lapped the shore and a little later Silverio made his appearance, instantly recognizing us from previous visits and making up for the lack of sunshine with his own.
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Bill and Suzy