Welcome to Pantelleria! This volcanic outcrop between Sicily and Tunisia is Sicily’s largest offshore island is just one of the hidden treasures Italy has to offer. Commonly known as ‘the black pearl of the Mediterranean’, the island has never attracted the mass market and is the perfect hideaway used by a few shy celebrities like Giorgio Armani and
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, both of whom own villas here. Carole Bouquet, with ex-husband Gerard Depardieu, bought a “dammuso” here which is one of the typical single-storey houses found on the island. The one they bought has eight hectares of abandoned vineyard where they have set up their business producing wine to be exported anywhere in the world. With the exceptional Passito dessert wines, made from Zibibbo grapes dried in the sun to increase the sugar level, and an interesting array of dry whites, Pantelleria is on the cusp of becoming the next must visit destination of wine experts and lovers of ‘la dolce vita'.
One of the most charming and unique locations on the island is “The Specchio di Venere",
or Mirror of Venus, which is a heart-shaped lake within a volcanic crater fed by rainwater and hot springs. The colour of the lake changes from emerald to aquamarine to turquoise, and is due to its volcanic heritage where the alkaline waters are warm and rich in sulphur, minerals and nutrients which are favoured for spa treatments. The early morning and evening are the
most atmospheric time to visit The Specchio di Venere and enjoy the stunning views of the island from the lake. The locals also recommend a magical nocturnal dip in the therapeutic waters especially when there is a full moon and you can take advantage of one of the starriest skies you ’ll ever see.
You can also find some of the best restaurants and cafes in the remote nooks and crannies scattered around the island. However, if you don’t feel like travelling too far though there is plenty to do in Pantelleria town. Restaurant menus are full of splendid fish dishes made from fish mostly imported from the Sicilian mainland because the island itself is mainly focused on agricultural produce, with the locally grown, and highly prized, capers also featuring prominently in many of the dishes. You will also find the island’s famous sweet Passito wine is served in many restaurants both as an appertif before your meal or afterwards with a platter of cold, local meats.
The island is easy to reach with ferries operating from Trapani, on Sicily’s west coast – a journey of between 6 and 8 hours, or by hydrofoil following the same route in 2hr 30 min. Alitalia also flies daily to Pantelleria from Palermo or Trapani in around 40 minutes, and there are additional flights in summer from Rome or Milan. The island covers an area of 32 square miles, and it is advised to hire a scooter or a car on arrival to ensure you discover all the island’s hidden treasures.
Despite the easy access and great location Pantelleria (unlike its sister isle of Lampedusa), it is not a major landing point for the many migrants from the North African coast which is only 37 miles to the west and can be seen on clear sky days.
Glorious italy conversation with Cesare Carducci Artenisio, Sicilian born and bred with Pantelleria in his heart…..
GLORIOUS ITALY : Cesare, you always find the time to return to Pantelleria as soon as you have the opportunity, can you tell us what makes the island so special to youCESARE : As a child, my family used to go holiday to the other Sicilan islands, like Favignana or Eolie. I discovered Pantelleria when I was eighteen and was immediately impressed by its uniqueness and diversity. The island is a destination that you either love or hate, there is no in between, and I, without any doubt fell in love. For the past fifteen years it has been my “go to” place for my holidays. I like that it has never attracted the mass market tourists that so often destroy the authenticity of a place. Pantelleria is always the same. It has kept its individuality, its uniqueness and there aren’t any really big hotel chains or resorts on the island just the individual Dammusi Hotel with their vineyards and capper plantations dating back over a hundred years. The sea access is not easy but that also means that there aren’t crowded beaches and you will be able to enjoy a peaceful day by the sea. I love the island because, even at busy times, it is peaceful and you can completely relax when you are there, maybe lying in a hammock surrounded by olives trees reading a book while sipping Passito wine. Even the prevailing winds are not annoying and in the height of summer help to keep the temperature in check. There is lots to do and see on Pantelleria and Giorgio Armani has reportedly declared that the island is where he always likes to go to relax.
GLORIOUS ITALY : · Which people do you think the island suits best? Families, couples, solo travellers and what age ranges?
CESARE : Because of its diversity I would recommend the island to everyone! Although if you have young children (under six years of age) you should know that there are no big beaches and it can be difficult to access to the sea. For younger adults people there is a
strong nightlife with lots of bar and restaurants, but couples can also enjoy some very beautiful spots favoured locally for those seeking romantic intimacy. For those more active
and adventurous, there are plenty of possibilities with walks to beautiful vistas and hiking trails around the more remote parts of the island, plus the chance to visit one or more of the wine cellars, or go scuba diving in the crystal clear sea water.
GLORIOUS ITALY : · What you recommend to people visiting Pantelleria for the first time?
CESARE : “L’Elefante” and “La balata dei turchi” are among the best places for a day by the sea, but what makes Pantelleria very special for me is the scenery, especially places like “ Il lago di Venere”. I like to hike across the “ Grande Montagna” (The big Mountain) with its footpaths surrounded by pine trees offering breathtaking views of the island and the “Favare” (hot springs) coming out from the rocks.
For archaeology lovers, I would recommend a visit to the San Marco and Santa Teresa acropolis or the spectacular archaeological diving offered by Cala Gadir where you can admire the shipwrecks and amphorae of the Roman era.
The best produce from Pantelleria are grown on the island and it would be a shame to visit without trying the famous Passito. Every summer the island organises the ‘PassItaly’ event to promote their produce – the wine, the capers, the ricotta cheese ravioli or the sweet ravioli version with Ricotta cheese and cream.
GLORIOUS ITALY : · Which is the best time of the year to visit Pantelleria?
CESARE : Every time of the year has is unique attraction and there isn’t one better than another. If you want to spend more time by the sea, visiting all the tiny coves, then the hotter months from June to September are the ones for you.
Cesare's Favourite restaurants:
- ZABIB: were the famous chef Salvatore Bottaro.
- IL PRINCIPE E IL PIRATA: great restaurant situated between Gadir’s port and l Elefante (the elephant)
- I GIARDINI DI RODO: stunning location in Seventeenth century windmill, pricey but the food is outstanding.
- LA GHIRLANDA: located in Pian della Ghirlanda and surrounded by vineyards it’s perfect for aperitif and dinner.
- LA RISACCA: trattoria on Pantelleria town sea front, not a posh restaurant but great genuine typical food and fresh fish dishes at a very good price.
- U’TRATTU: trattoria with great food and good value for money, located near Scauri village.
BEST FOR LUNCH :
I recommend LA VELA Trattoria under Scuri village with access to the sea where you can swim in the crystal clear waters and then indulge in a local pasta dish and a glass of fresh local white wine.
FOR APERITF :
- SESI VENTI: located in characteristic dammusi it’s great for watching the sunset.
- U FRISKU: the aperitif is served on the rooftop and the cocktails are great!
- LA NICCHIA : located in Pantelleria is the town’s prettiest seafront café.
- CANTINA BASILE : A cellar location in Bukkuram , where I advise you book in for a wine testing accompanied typical local foods in front of the vineyards.
Cesare's favourite sea locations:
The island doesn’t offer the easiest access to the sea but once you get there the view is spectacular and unique.
On the island lies in the path of the famous Maestrale wind so it’s important to consider the wind when choosing the sea spot for the day. I would recommend the “wind finder” app for
information regarding the sea and wind forecasts. When the Maestrale wind is blowing I suggest going to “ Balata dei turchi” or “Arco dell’ elefante”. When Scirocco wind is blowing the best location for a swim is “ Cala 5 denti”
When the sea is calm, I would suggest exploring the island by boat. There are some stunning coves that are impossible, or very challenging, to access from the land. You can also hire a raft for the day if you are confident in piloting one.
CESARE'S - Dammuso del conte -
This stunning typical Pantelleria house is available to rent in various times of the year.
The house is over two levels, with three bedrooms, each with independent outdoor access. The larger room with a double bed and en-suite bathroom is on the ground floor, with the other two bedrooms on the first floor. One with two single bed and a small en-suite bathroom, and the second with a double bed uses the bathroom on the same floor with independent access.
The house offers a large outdoor area with dining table and barbeque for alfresco dining whilst admiring the stunning sea view.
There is a relaxing area with a hammock surrounded by olive trees and palm trees providing the perfect spot to enjoy Passito wine while watching the stars.
There is also a large living room and kitchen with all the modern creature comforts on the ground floor.
For more information on Pantelleria, Damuso Del Conte including pricing throughout the year and how to build your own tailormade holiday on the island, please use the enquires form on the website or email: gc.gloriousitalygmail.com