The Nearly Uninhabited Island Jacques Cousteau Called The Most Beautiful In The World

Italy is a country that endlessly appeals to travelers, and many set their sights on Rome when they head this way. Offering up a unique blend of modern marvels and landmarks for ancient history lovers, Rome is a bustling destination where you can scooter through town, admiring the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon along the way. However, if you're looking for someplace close to Rome that's off the beaten path, you'll want to add the island of Palmarola to your must-visit list the next time you're here.

Hidden away in the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Palmarola belongs to the Pontine Islands archipelago and sits a little less than 70 miles south of Rome. Here, the landscape is strikingly rugged and adorned with lush green palms and jagged cliffsides. Even the famed marine explorer Jacques Cousteau was enamored with this destination he once deemed the world's "most beautiful." 

There's a sense of uninhabited tranquility to discover on Palmarola that sits in stark contrast to the more than 4 million residents currently inhabiting Rome. While the island once had a few keepers to its name, the tradition has long since faded. Today, Palmarola isn't home to any year-round residents, giving visitors a sense that they've truly stepped back in time to a place that exists exactly as nature originally intended.

Explore the scenic waters and wild rock formations

The train from Rome to Anzio takes about an hour and is the best way to travel to Palmarola. From Anzio, you'll board a ferry and sail for about two hours to reach Ponza. This is followed by a short connection to Palmarola's shores by boat. From a distance, Palmarola looks deceptively unassuming. As you sail closer, it's impossible to ignore the breathtaking contrast in landscapes and colors across towering rock faces that look practically prehistoric. The surrounding sea caves and grottos have an air of mystery that tempts visitors to come and explore.

Undeniable natural beauty and clear waters make Palmarola a picture-perfect place for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. The only people you'll have to share space with when exploring are fellow day trippers, as well as the wildlife. Many visitors enjoy the waters around the rock formations near the island, including Le Cattedrali, which is a great place to swim. Grotta del Gatto is a hidden-away spring within a grotto that's perfect for relaxing after snorkeling.

While you're more than welcome to explore Palmarola independently by renting a boat in Ponza at places like Noleggio Barche, a good way to ensure you make the most of your time is to book your place on a guided tour instead. Companies like Iter Tours offer private and small-group excursions designed for a full day of discovery. Participants will explore the bays, beaches, and grottos with lunch and transportation built into the itinerary.

Spend time on the beach and nature trails

When visiting Italy and looking forward to experiencing Palmarola, you won't want to miss out on time enjoying the many scenic beaches. While boating through sea caves is always captivating, soaking up the sun from quiet and sandy coves is certainly a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. It's also a great opportunity to admire shorelines that remain refreshingly unspoiled by human intervention.

If you'd like to pick up the pace of your visit, there is a collection of trails and nature paths to explore across Palmarola. They're wonderful options for those excited to immerse themselves in the local foliage and fauna. While you're sure to be rewarded with scenic views out over the water along the way, these trails are terrific for birdwatching, which is always a highlight of the adventure. The island is known to be home to a variety of bird species, including peregrine falcons, gulls, and shearwaters. If you're hiking near the cliffs, you'll want to keep your eyes open for wild goats as well. They're known to inhabit the heart-pounding rock ledges and can make for a unique view as you roam past. Your hike will take you past dwarf palms, which set a stunning tropical scene. Trails down by the water put you in reach of swarming baby barracudas that inhabit the area, too.