In the middle of the sea between Tunisia and Sicily, a little volcanic island pokes it's head out of the water, beaten by strong winds and basking in hot, Mediterranean sun. That island is the magical, secluded, Italian wonder that is Pantelleria.
A truly hidden gem
Pantelleria is a tiny, idyllic paradise island that's hidden between Sicily and the eastern coast of Tunisia. It's only accesible by ferry or a flight via Sicily. Due to its isolated location in the Straits of Sicily, the island has barely suffered the effects of tourism, and remains a perfect sanctuary of North African and Italian influence to this day. Its rugged, volcanic landscape and unusual architecture are just some of the reasons why this stunning Italian island is like no other.
Lago Specchio di Venere
The Lago Specchio di Venere, of the "Mirror of Venus" is situated in the northeastern part of the island, just a few minutes from the airport. This incredible phenomenon is a natural thermal lake, formed in a volcanic caldera. The lake was formed after a section of the earth's crust sunk due to volcanic activity. The leftover crater filled with rainwater over time and is kept heated by the mantle below. This gives it a strange turquoise colour and creates the perfect conditions for thermal bathing. The bed of the lake consists of a clay-like mud which visitors can rub on their skin for a free and completely natural spa treatment!
A dammuso (plural, dammusi) is a type of house typical of Pantelleria. They're designed specifically for the climate of the island and are the result of Pantelleria's Arabic influence. Dammusi have thick walls made from the island's volcanic rock which regulate the internal temperature during extreme weather conditions, and strange, bumpy roofs which are designed to collect rainwater in connected cisterns. Often, dammusi will have a small circular walled garden, or giardini arabi, where locals will grow citrus fruit. The purpose of the tall circular wall is to protect the growing fruit from the strong winds that hit the island all year round. Fun fact: Italian designer Giorgio Armani owns a secret dammuso on Pantelleria and frequents the island every year!
The Arco dell'Elefante is a famous rock formation on the east coast of Pantelleria. It's formed from the erosion of softer rock by the sea over many years, leaving only the hard and jagged volcanic rock standing. This has created an archway planted in the sea. Its interesting name comes from the resemblance the arch has to an elephant bowing to dip its trunk into the water! Visitors can enjoy a magical swim in the sparkling, clear water under its trunk before drying off and sunbathing on the grey rocks beside it.
Agriculture on Pantelleria
The rough, dry Pantescan landscape with its volcanic soil allows for the cultivation of two very popular crops. First, the capers grown on Pantelleria are often deemed the best in the world. They are served coated in salt, rather than soaked in brine like most store-bought capers, which gives them a unique, tart flavour. Capers are used in almost every restaurant on the island and are an essential element of the Pantescan diet. The second popular crop, the Zibibbo grape, is grown all over the island and creates a very sweet wine known as Moscato Passito di Pantelleria. The wine is made using grapes which dry up on the vine in the scorching blaze of the Pantescan sun, lending the wine a super sweet taste! From sweet to sour, the people of Pantelleria should be very proud of their unique, flavoursome produce.