An Afternoon Lunch in Ponza
Every time I travel with my husband, there is always one crazy out-of-the-way and off-the-beaten-path place that I MUST have lunch. Usually I know we’re not going anywhere near the place I have in mind, but I have to take full advantage of being wherever we are and check off as many bucket list items as possible.
Fortunately for me, my husband is used to this sort of behaviour now that we’ve just celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary (the reason for our most recent jaunt to Italy). He’s very patient with me and I love him dearly for it. Sometimes I’ll have us driving hours out of the way just so we can sample food from tiny restaurants in even tinier villages. The journey can seem quite unpromising, and there have been many occasions that it's only at the last bend that the prize is revealed. And if there's one thing we’ve learned from my obsession with these kinds of adventures, the extra travel time and inconvenience is always worth it.
On this occasion, our wild goose chase took us to La Marina, a restaurant tucked away in the bay of Cala Feola on the island of Ponza. It serves the most amazing seafood and with a killer view. Everything the website promised was absolutely delivered—"Genuine laughter, in the company of a sparkling crew of pirates.”
To get to La Marina, it was a long and winding taxi ride from our hotel before arriving at Cala Feola. But wow is it a gem of a bay. Be warned that to access the restaurant, you have to navigate an awful lot of steps to reach beach level. And of course you then have to return to road level after lunch which means navigating those steps again, but in the blazing afternoon sun (and after a few glasses of wine). But this just proves my theory that the more difficult to access, the more special the destination.
But back to the restaurant itself. I loved La Marina. It's the kind of place you can eat lunch in a bikini or a designer dress—either one fits the scenery perfectly. The owner of the restaurant will come sit down next to you to take your order and have a chat. A very kind gesture that feels inclusive. You can even bring your dog and will probably have a lobster crawling around your table. It's crazy and chaotic (my favourite version of Italy) with great food. And the ambiance is exactly what one searches for whilst in the Italian Mediterranean.
As for food, we shared the antipasti platter and then thought we'd try some lobster spaghetti. Before we officially placed our order, the owner graciously confirmed that the cost of the lobster would be 117 euro. This saved us a nasty surprise and allowed us to opt for the fish of the day with spaghetti, which was fabulous. Needless to say, the hospitality was not lacking and the food was superb.
For drink, unfortunately we were told that our first choice of wine was sold out, and our second, and our third, so we settled on the house white wine. We then noticed that everyone in the restaurant was drinking the house white wine so I'm not sure how seriously you can take the wine list, but it was only 10 euro a bottle and absolutely lovely so I'm not complaining!
After lunch, we took a boat five minutes across the bay for ice cream at Piscine Naturali. As the name suggests, this is a gorgeous, naturally occurring swimming pool formed from the surrounding rock. Just consider it a must-do when in the area because I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to miss it.
As the afternoon was winding down, we took the steep walk up a hill to find a bus back to the port. There is a local bus system in Ponza but it's quite erratic. No timetable to speak of, just a service that runs roughly every 30 minutes. Actually, my favourite quote of the whole holiday was whilst looking for the bus stop after lunch. A very kind man pointed us in the correct direction and when I asked him if he knew when the next bus was due, he said, "About 20 minutes...", but then he thought some more and continued, "...but if you ask someone else they will say 40 minutes.”
In the end, we waited around 30 minutes for the bus back to the port. I think the moral of the story is that if you intend to catch buses in Ponza you need to be pretty relaxed about the experience and prepared to wait. It is a vacation after all, so no need to rush.
And there you have it! A lovely afternoon in Ponza. The best advice I can give is if you ever have the opportunity to go (you really should consider it), be sure to plot a trip to La Marina for lunch, as you absolutely will not regret it.