Yes, it is true that it is already September and for many, summer is over. Unfortunately, for the wanderlusts among us, it hasn’t felt much like summer at all. Regardless, the magical island of Pantelleria is worth reading about; it is worth dreaming about because the spring and summer of 2021 will be here before we know it!
Pantelleria: the “Black Pearl of the Mediterranean”
The volcanic island of Pantelleria called “the black pearl of the Mediterranean” is located on the coast of Sicily in the province of Trapani but is actually closer to Tunisia than to Sicily.
Immersed in the Mediterranean Sea and with its warm climate, it is not surprising that this island has been inhabited for millennia. The entire island has a perimeter of 40 km and has about 7,000 inhabitants.
In the Bronze Age (about 5 thousand years ago), people from Northern Africa left a necropolis of tomb dwellings called Sesi which today can be seen in Mursia and Cimillia on the island. During ancient times it was the Phoenicians who colonized Pantelleria and called it Cossyra, remains of which are found in the hills of Santa Maria and Santa Teresa. During the Punic Wars, it was occupied by the Romans and later by the Arabs who left their traces both in the dialect still spoken today and in the uniquely-shaped houses called dammusi.
What to Do and See
The medieval castle was built in lava stone and is located on the seafront at the port of Pantelleria where ferries from Sicily disembark. Yes, you read that right: lava stone. The island was formed about 300,000 years ago by volcanic eruptions but not to worry because the last significant eruption was in 1891. Dark-colored volcanic rocks are part of its uniqueness.
The Sibà Natural Sauna, also known as the Benikulà Cave, is of volcanic origin with vapors reaching 40 ° C. And for you nature-lovers, one of the most loved and breathtaking routes is that of the Montagna Grande, which is the highest mountain on the island of about 840 m which is located within the Pantelleria National Park. Those who reach the top can enjoy spectacular views and if the weather is clear, you can see the African coast.
In the same park, there is one of the most beautiful scenes of the whole island, the Mirror Lake of Venus (Lago Specchio di Venere). This natural lake takes its name from a legend that the reflection of Venus appeared here to Bacchus. Thermal mud baths reach 50 ° C here and are said to have therapeutic properties.
The symbol of the island and the image that most often pops up in a search engine is undoubtedly the Arco dell’Elefante. Shaped just like an elephant trunk, this magnificent eroded rock formation is also a lovely spot to swim.
The Balata dei Turchi is equally beautiful for a swim in the crystal clear waters. And do not miss the Gadir harbor with its volcanic rocks and small pools of thermal waters.
The Laghetto delle Ondine and the Laghetto di Punta Spadillo are both natural pools of saltwater fed by the sea with transparent bottoms and colors that vary from green to blue.
What’s on the Menu?
And as if all of this weren’t enough reason to visit, the food in Pantelleria is a delicious mixture of both Sicilian and Arab cuisine in what’s known as pantesca.
The absolute musts are the couscous pantesco which is made with fresh seafood and fried vegetables; the insalata pantesca with the island’s famous capers, potatoes, and dried fish; a unique pesto sauce known as Ammogghio; and the delicious dessert, Bacio Pantesco made of fried dough and ricotta. Make sure to pair it with the island’s sweet wine Passito di Pantelleria made from Pantelleria’s unique grape variety called zibibbo.
Getting to Pantelleria is not difficult. Both ferries and hydrofoils depart from Trapani for the island with a duration of 2 to 8 hours. A small airport is served by several low-cost airlines from both Sicily and other major Italian cities. Once on the island, it’s best to rent a car or a scooter to be able to travel around the island in complete freedom.