Italy

Interview with Andrea Donati: Pioneering Technical Diving on Ponza for 30 Years

Andrea Donati, owner of Ponza Diving Center, which this year marks 30 years of instruction and service for technical divers on Ponza Island in Italy

In my line of work as a dive industry professional, I attend a lot of dive shows and get to meet a lot of people, most of them nice and interesting in various ways. It was also at a dive show in Italy, many years ago, that I first met Andrea Donati and his partner, Daniela Spaziani, of Ponza Diving.

River Treasures: Freshwater Biodiversity in Italy

The trench live in freshwater lakes and streams. Photo by Marco Colombo.

When considering underwater photography, we usually think about images of wonderful coral reefs, colourful fish, clear waters and undersea landscapes. In fact, 70 percent of our planet is covered by water on its surface, and, even though 97 percent of this is saltwater, the remaining three percent is freshwater in rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, marshes and groundwater.

The Octopus, a Friend

Common octopus. Photo by Francesco Turano.

Talking about this animal is simply a pleasure, almost as much as meeting it and relating to it underwater. It is satisfying to spend some time putting my thoughts into words about the octopus, as I am a diver in love with this extraordinary creature—a mollusc that reasons.

WWII Wreck of USS LST 349 at Ponza, Italy

The LST (also known as “landing ship, tank” or “tank landing ship”) was integral to the fighting forces during World War II, transporting tanks, cargo and troops directly to the battlefield. They were unique in that their flat keels allowed the ships to remain upright after beaching, without the need for docks or piers. Their twin propellers and rudders were specially protected from grounding.

The sinking of USS LST 349, which was heading to Naples from Anzio, Italy, occurred in February 1944. It happened during a severe storm, in which turbulent seas pushed the ship against the cliffs at Punta Papa on Ponza Island. Even though the people of Ponza made a great effort in the rescue operations, the death toll was heavy.

Grotta Giusti

I felt thrust back a century or two, perhaps into the setting of the Count of Monte Christo. Lounging in the majestic sitting room, in the stately old mansion that now houses Grotta Giusti Spa but was once the seat and residence of a family from the Italian gentry, I cannot help but ponder the history these walls must have seen. Outside I can see the Tuscan countryside, with its rolling hills and slender stone pines.