The volcanic island of Pantelleria is an untouched gem of rough beauty in the middle of the Mediterranean. Located south of the most western part of Sicily and closer to Africa than to Europe, it is a place where life still flows in harmony with nature, far away from the stress of hectic day-to-day life and surrounded by spectacular natural beauties.
The largest of all Sicilian islands it was the first stepping stone for the Arab invasion of Sicily in the eighth century AD and its name derives from the Arabic “Bint-al Rion” – Daughter of the Wind.
Always featuring a gentle breeze that keeps the temperature comfortable, Pantelleria is an island rich of natural beauty. It boasts a fascinating rocky coastline, with 300-metre cliffs, inlets, caves and grottos, surrounded by crystalline sea accessible for example at Balata dei Turchi, Martingana, L’arco dell’Elefante and Cala Levante. The island’s rocky coasts and shallow waters are ideal for diving. As one of the most unspoiled marine areas in the Mediterranean basin, the sea here is home to lush seagrass meadows and coral reefs that support many kinds of sea fan and rare black coral.
But Pantelleria is not just a seaside destination for the summer but instead offers a variety of attractions that can be enjoyed throughout the year from May to October. In fact, the island is an agricultural island boasting vineyards and stunning natural parks, ideal for hiking and horseback riding.
Montagna Grande, a national park area and the island’s highest peak, offers wonderful views not only of Pantelleria and the sea, but also, on a clear day, of the North African coast. On the north-eastern foothills of the mountain is a beautiful volcanic lake fed by thermal springs, the so-called “Lo Specchio di Venere” (Venus’ Looking Glass). Its name comes from the legend that Venus stopped here to admire herself and to compare her beauty to that of Psyche, her rival in love. While being a centre for water sports and thermal baths, it is also a haven for a great many types of birds that take a break here during their marathon migratory journeys.
The interior of the island is characterised by lava stone walls, several volcanic peaks and the traditional local habitations, so-called “Dammusi”. These houses, built in local lava stone, have domed roofs which, thanks to their form, also function as a means of collecting rain water. The thick walls keep the interior cool in summer and provide insulation during the winter. Typically, around the main living quarters were stables, a courtyard and a wood-burning oven. Being just one storey, and thanks to their colour, the Dammusi blend into the surrounding countryside, virtually without altering the general lay of the land.
Pantelleria’s cuisine can be tested in one of the excellent restaurants on the island, offering fresh high-quality produce and local specialities such as ricotta and mint ravioli, pesto pantesco (olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, basil and peppers), capers (one of the major agricultural products of the island), fish couscous, and Sciakisciuka, a spicy Med stew with courgettes. All this should to be followed with a glass of Passito di Pantelleria, the excellent dessert wine unique to island.