Italian Islands: The Pontine Islands

Figure 1.--These boys are from the Ponza Island. Ponza is the largest island in the Pontines. Ponza is about 100 km west of Naples. The children there until after Wotld War II nostly went barefoot all year round. It was in part a matter of poverty, but this is not the only reason. It is also a matter of custom, because nobody thought that a child could need shoes. A reader tells us, "It seems to me that the children in the photo wore shoes very rarely or never. We can see that their feet are very large and they are barefoot in a stony place. The photo was taken on the island of Ponza about 1950.

The Pontine Islands are some of the lesser known Italian islands. They are a Mediterrnean archipelago off the southwestern coast of Italy. The Pontines are located close to the coast in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Tyrrhenian Sea is set off ftom the Mediterranean by Sardinia ans Sicily. The archipelago derives their name from Ponza, the largest island. The other islands include Palmarola, Zannone, and Gavi to the northwest, Ventotene along with Santo Stefano to the southeast. All the islands in the group were frormed from volcanic activity. As it is relatively close to the coast, the islands have been inhabited from the Neolithic era. The Etruscans carved the "Blue Grottos". A local legend depicts the islands as the lost Kingdom of Tyrrhenia which disappeared along with a narrow strip connected to mainland Italy. The first historical event recorded thsate was the Romn victory over the Volsci (338 BC). The great wealth developed by Rome resulted in wealthy people looking for pleasant places to build retreats. And during the extended reign of Augustus, many residences were not only built on Ponza, but on Ventotene as well. Rome used Ponza and Ventotene not only as retreats and a place to exile troublsone citizens that did not rise to the lrvel of execution. Nussolini's Fascists were doing the same in the 1920s and 30s. Italians were forced to abandoned the islands during the late-Medieval era because raids by North African Barbary pirates. Many Meditwrranean islands suffered similar fates. The Kingdom of Naples re-colonized the islands (18th century). With American military action and French colonization of Algeria and Tunisia, the Mediterranean became safer. After the unification of Italy, the islands became part of the Kingdom of Italy. Ponza and Ventotene today are populated, but the smaller islands are not, but are popular tourist attractions. Ventotene and Santo Stefano have been made land and sea conservation areas. The islands along with wildlife offer small vineyards, wild herbs and flowers, and charming secluded beaches and grottos.


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Created: 12:02 AM 5/13/2010
Last updated: 12:02 AM 5/13/2010