Ventotene, Island of Exile

July 29, 2011 / Places
Ventotene, Lazio
Augustus Caesar banished his libertine daughter Giulia to Ventotene, tiny Mediterranean island just south of Rome. The exiled Giulia perhaps did not relish the peace and natural beauty of Ventotene (1 km long and 700 m wide) which today attracts those who seek a sort of “self-exile”: a move out of the fast lane into a world of all things “slow”, from the island food to the idle pace of Ventotene life.

When the ferry from Formia slides into the Ventotene harbor, I always feel a sense of total lassitude, anticipating the “exile”. The Romans found this inlet a secure place for the docking of their ships and now sailboats rock gently at anchor here. Cafés, a pizzeria (where Candida makes pizzas and the buonissima escarole focaccia typical of the area), a farm stand with fresh produce and the diving school line the harbor promenade. Hotel vans meet arriving guests but most visitors walk up the characteristic ramps – lined by the pastel houses typical of Bourbon French 18th-century architecture – leading to the two piazzas which are the heart of island life: Piazza Castello (seat of civic power) and Piazza della Chiesa (symbol of religious power).

From both piazzas, paths wind right to the aquamarine sea, where swimmers dive off the rocky outcrops, vestiges of the volcanic eruptions which long ago gave birth to the island. Among other tours, nocturnal guided tours of the Roman acqueduct and cistern – which have been used continuously over the years – fascinate. The significance of cistern frescoes mystifies: “wrapped in a mysterious aura”, our guide said.

The aura of Ventotene itself cannot be put into words: one has to choose self-exile there to experience it.

Read more on fascinating Ventotene – and its modern-day political significance.

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

11 Responses to “Ventotene, Island of Exile”


  2. Next summer Ventotene here we come – how beautiful – thanks for the info

  3. Patrizia

    Have a good summer GB! I wish you Ventotene-tranquillity wherever you vacation. That’s how much I appreciate the monthly glimpse into the country of my birth, my childhood & now my longing. “Open my heart and you will see, Graved inside of it, ‘Italy'”. – Robert Browning. (1812–1889), British poet.

  4. umberto levrini

    if only my grandmother were alive -i can still smell and taste her escarole focaccia—what a wonderful peaceful place to end my yours!!

  5. Lyn Beckenham

    When I read this story on Ventotene, I thought it sounded justlike my kind of place based on such an interesting historical concept. Ilove the idea of choosing self exile for a few days and have added this little island to the list of places I’d love to visit. Your magic of story telling dotted with a mix of history, geographical detail and human interest entices again, Anne.

  6. rie paola

    I love the history and story about this island.We definately plan to visit your farm and the many hidden places you write about,hopefully soon, this year we are off to Venus and then to the Greek Isle……Ann M

  7. Anne – thanks so much for bringing this to my attention. I’s never heard of Ventotene and now I want to go. It sounds like a perfect place to stop on my Mediterranean cruise bucket list! XXOX Captain Dave

  8. My mom & I head the delicious pleasure to have experiened Assisi & Umbria”s quaint, ‘untouched’, Hill towns thru & with Anne’s eyes…..her honest enthusiasm bubbles over!!


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