Sometimes stress takes over in our busy lives with work, family, friends, and activities, all pulling us in different directions. All you need is to stop for a moment. To breathe. To remember who you are. To energize yourself so you can keep on doing what you love with the ones you love. Sometimes the ultimate combination to unwind is just doing yoga on an Italian island paradise. Ventotene island is the perfect place for just that.
Every year, Francesco, the founder of Aquarius Studiesenter part of UGB Yoga center in Norway, takes yoga groups from Norway to the tiny island of Ventotene to unwind and practice yoga out in the fresh air. Last summer I packed my travel yoga mat and most comfortable yoga pants and decided to join.
Ventotene island is situated in the Tyrrhenian Sea between Rome and Naples and it is the smallest inhabited island of the Pontine Islands. Surrounded by crystal clear waters, Ventotene is a part of a larger crater, yet not discovered by many foreign tourists. It is also one of my childhood family holiday destinations.
The island only stretches 3 km in length and less than a km on its widest. With only around 700 inhabitants and only a few cars, the island is pleasant to move around on foot. Ventotene is especially known for its Santa Candida hot air balloon festival that takes place in September each year.
Ventotene is part of a sustainability project called “Ventotene Zero Emission”. Already, cars are hardly used on the island, and a system to store electricity to handle peak seasons as well as not wasting energy during low seasons has been developed.
Walking down the tiny streets twirling through the typical Italian pastel-colored buildings with laundry hanging across the streets above my head, past small souvenir shops, the sweet smell of fresh Italian coffee walking past a bar, the eager sound of the Italian language and the fresh smell of sea breeze, and wind in my hair, it almost felt like being in the middle of a movie scene. I was on my way to what was to be my home for the next week.
The tiny house was a typical old Italian style with a charming personality, nothing for the luxury traveler, that´s for sure, but not in bad shape either. I was impatient to leave my things on the bed and have a look at the stunning view from the rooftop terrace before a quick swim at the beach. I had some time before yoga practice.
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Yoga practice in paradise
That year, most of the participants were staying in apartments that shared a large patio surrounded by trees. The evening yoga and the early morning yoga were held here. The silence was only interrupted by eager birds singing in the trees, so many birds, so many different songs. Songs I recognized and songs that I couldn´t remember hearing before. The voice of Francesco or his partner Maria, who took turns in leading the sessions, would occasionally break through to guide us into a new pose.
I am not an early bird, but getting up early to start yoga practice when the sun rises is an absolutely beautiful experience. To breathe in the fresh air, witness the birds waking up singing louder and louder, communicating across the treetops where rays of the morning sun penetrate through the green leaves, the easygoing morning breeze, slowly waking up my body and mind.
After the early morning yoga, those who wanted to go down to the sea for a swim by the rocky side of the island. The cool water, the fresh air and the smell of the salty sea were only waking the senses to prepare for the next session of yoga on the rocks, breathing in the warm rays of the still rising sun.
When the lifeguards started coming, setting up sun beds on the rocks beside us, it was time for us to finish this part of our morning ritual. Yet, Francesco had more on the agenda for those who were interested. Sitting on the rocks for the next hour or so, the group was welcome to discuss different themes like life philosophy. I always enjoy observing people sharing ideas or thoughts and how the sharing leads to new perspectives, both for me and others.
Morning philosophy talks with Francesco. The next yoga practice was set to the evening, which meant alone time the whole day. This alone time could, of course, be spent with the others in the group. The island offers a few activities if you get tired of laying on the beach or the rocky side and swimming in the crystal clear blue water.
Things to do on Ventotene island
If you like shopping, there are some souvenir shops on the island where you can look around. If you like to photograph, walking around the tiny streets, exploring the coastline, the different plants and trees, the tiny port, the square, the curious rock formations and the cave tunnel which leads to the beach won´t bore you. The island also has a lot of history and has an Archeological Museum on its main square that you can read more about here.
For the diving enthusiasts, there are a couple of diving centers on the island that you can pop by; they are both situated by the port. I did a dive there a few years ago which I highly enjoyed. Otherwise, there are a few places that offer boat trips around the island, also to the nearby uninhabited island Santo Stefano.
Santo Stefano prison was built in the late 17th century and was used as a prison until 1965. Former Italian president Sandro Pertini is only one of many important people that were imprisoned in Santo Stefano. Now, the prison is only open for guided tours.
After evening yoga practice, with a peaceful mind, I enjoyed watching the stunning sunset over the calm sea before homemade dinner at the rooftop terrace of my temporary island home. For anyone that prefers eating out to savor true Italian cuisine, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. The tiny streets at night are a true pleasure to experience.
By shopping in the tiny local shops and the ecological fruit and vegetable market, you will contribute to sustainable tourism. The restaurants and bars are mostly locally run as well as the tour operators renting out apartments and arranging boat trips. Also, the fact that you will not need, or even be able to rent a car or a scooter to get around is a plus.
The biggest valuable, though, from going on a yoga trip to such a beautiful place, is that you start making a difference within yourself. Hopefully, you will feel that you are more balanced to handle your busy, daily life when you get back home. Hopefully, you will have more energy and feel more present to do your work, to be with your family, to be with your friends and to do your favorite activities.
How to get to Ventotene Island?
To get to Ventotene island from Rome, you first need to get to Formia. There are daily trains that take less than 1 hour and 30 minutes. From the train station, you can either walk straight down to the port, it takes about 15 minutes, or take a taxi.
From the port, you can buy tickets directly in the ticket booth for the next ferry or speed boat. The ferry takes about 2 hours while the speed boat takes one hour. They don’t run on days with rough sea.
There is a ferry running from Naples to Ventotene, but this is only running 5 times a week. The ferry takes 1 hour and 50 minutes.
An option is to take the train from Naples to Formia. This takes approximately 1 hour. From Formia train station you can either take a quick taxi ride to the port, or you can walk about 15 minutes straight down.
The ferry tickets can be booked at the port. The speed boat takes 1 hour while the ferry takes 2 hours.
Do you want to go on a Yoga trip to Ventotene island too?
Would you like to know more about Francesco’s yoga trips to this idyllic island? You can look up his web page, www.yreiser.weebly.com or contact him through his Facebook page. Both pages are in Norwegian, but Francesco also speaks fluent English, Spanish and Italian. Francesco has also brought yoga groups to Peru and Madagascar.