On the 12th of December 1997 the Ministro dell’Ambiente officially established the Marine protected area for the islands of Ventotene and Santo Stefano.
As is the case for every natural reserve, that of Ventotene is regulated by environmental guidelines that limit it’s use and access.
The protected area is divided into three different zones. The one furthest inland is the most biologically untouched and thus requires the most protection. Access to this zone is limited and only allowed for scientific purposes; scuba divers must be accompanied by specialized personnel and they require a permit. The second zone is a general reserve: it is open to visitors but it cannot be altered in any way and every activity undertaken in the zone must have an environmental purpose. Access to certain areas and routes can be obtained with a permit granted by the organization overseeing the zone. Residents are allowed access upon request. Underwater access is generally granted but again with local guides. Finally, the third zone is a partial reserve where there is a larger human presence and all activities with environmental aims are allowed, including utilization of the reserve if one obtains permission for the managing authority.
Data collected in certain Mediterranean and non-European areas shows that when reserves are organized in this way those who live and work in the area are not penalized, quite the contrary. It has been proven that correct management and adequate restrictions guarantee gradual repopulation of natural areas (and not only those of the natural reserves) which in turn assures an increase in the income derived from fishing activities. Tourists also reap benefits, for example, scuba divers are able to explore a richer and vaster marine fauna.
The reserve, in particular the marine area, has been nominated several times by the local administration. This is due to the fact that Ventotene and Santo Stefano are, without a doubt, natural areas that require preservation. This is even more so as human and touristic influences have not brought about the kind of degradation one can observe in other parts of Italy. When it was decided to found the ‘Istituzione Riserva’, many inhabitants of Ventotene were concerned that the move could harm tourism on the island. The reserve however has encouraged new ways of conceiving tourism as well as forms of income and thus offers a fantastic opportunity for both islands. This said, it is important that all the inhabitants of Ventotene are totally involved in the project and that they really believe in these new environmental and economic opportunities.
It is also true that the total involvement of the islanders will come about when the facts speak for themselves: the presence of the natural reserve goes hand in hand with respect for the traditions of the island. The inhabitants will have their guarantee not by blindly trusting what is said, but by exercising their rights when being active participants in the decision making process. One thing is clear: if we do not take advantage of the opportunities the reserve presents to us, this means loosing out on both intellectual maturity and the prospect of a brighter future.
For more information: Ventotene turismo "Holiday Homes" via rampe marine nr.10 tel /fax 0771-85273
The vegetation of Ventotene and Santo Stefano is extremely varied. Some of the most interesting plants on the islands are the wild wallflower, the lemon groves, marine samphire, the giant fennel and the borage plant. There are many vegetable and legume (lentils and broad bean) plantations, and some vineyards. A few areas that are rocky and right on the sea, and thus difficult to cultivate, have conserved their original vegetation (live oak, evergreen shrub, myrtle, juniper, buckthorn, tree spurge, artemisia, rosemary, Mediterranean honeysuckle, fan palm, rough bindweed). However, even in less cultivated areas human introduced vegetation - from various eras both recent and the present day - have taken root (prickly pear, aloe, oleander, tree of heaven, castor tree, mulberry, elands, Ottentotti’s fig etc.). In the more degraded areas, due to fires and human activity, the dominant plants are those for this kind of environment (broom, horse-heal, ferula, wild thistle, wild carrot, wild blackberry etc.).
Seventy-six plant families thus a total of four hundred and forty-eight species have been accounted for overall in Ventotene and Santo Stefano. However, while there is great variety, what is present now is but only a memory of what was the original vegetation of the islands. Of all the Pontine islands only Zannone is still untouched; splendid Mediterranean shrub land and dense oak forest.