Its ancient tombs are neighbors with monumental palaces, fountains and churches of other periods. The Romanic basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore has an amazing 14th-century wall fresco dubbed by locals "The Souls-Sh***ing Devil."
Inspired by Dante's Inferno, it depicts Judgment Day with a devil eating and excreting sinners' souls -- a must see!
The most characteristic bars are Caffé del Duomo facing the cathedral (+39 (0)7614 35426) and Bar San Marco (+39 (0)7614 35586), both central.
Local cuisine is fabulous with strong flavors and original menus. Restaurant Sette Cannelle does a fantastic fettuccine either with wild boar or porcini mushrooms.
For accommodation hotel Tuscania Panoramico features a fabulous terrace overlooking the Etruscan hills.
Ventotene is a two-kilometer-long isle close to Rome and a former jail center for lustful Roman noble women and later anti-Fascists.
This is where Nero shipped his wife Claudia Octavia in the first century on false charges of adultery, and where Altiero Spinelli co-wrote the "Ventotene Manifesto," becoming one of the "founding fathers of the European Union."
The sea bed here is full of ancient relics, Roman vases and other treasures. A natural marine reserve, it's a popular diving spot.
Forget discos and wild nights, you'll be going to bed early and waking up at sunrise.
The ancient Roman port is still used today and the former prisoners' cells have been transformed into pink, yellow and purple summer houses.
Local boats offer tours to the abandoned, freaky Borbonic prison-fortress on the tiny neighboring isle of Santo Stefano, a sort of old times Alcatraz.
Things to make time for include: Calanave beach, the sunset from Parata Grande cliff (www.paratagrande.com), the Roman Villa of Giulia and the ancient fishery (www.comune.ventotene.lt.it).
The lighthouse cave bar has delicious eggplant sandwiches. Small family-run hotels overlook the sparkling sea and offer extraordinary cuisine and good prices.
If you're in for something typical and snug, cliff hotel restaurant Isolabella serves homemade pasta and artistic fish dishes on a sun-kissed terrace.
The outdoor tables of Vento di Mare bar (+39 3 4561 65571) have the best grilled octopus and aperitifs on the island.