Pantelleria is the largest island off the Sicilian coastline,
is also closer to the Tunisian coast (Capo Mustafà is 44 miles away)
than to Capo Granitola in Sicily (62 miles).
Despite this isolation,
Pantelleria was colonized by the Phoenicians and then by the Greeks.
It was controlled by the Arabs for almost 400 years (in fact,
its name derives from Bent el-Rbia meaning “daughter of the wind”)
and was then conquered and fortified in 1123 by Roger I.
Since that time its history has run in parallel to the vicissitudes
The strong wind that blows here all year around has forced
the inhabitants to protect their plants and kitchen gardens
with enclosures and walls,
and to prune the olive trees so that they grow almost horizontally,
close to the ground.
Wind is also responsible for a typical style of building called dammuso,
a square, whitewashed peasant’s house with walls almost 6 ft thick and
tiny windows in order to provide the best insulation.
Water is scarce on the island,
so the roof of these homes are shaped to collect rainwater.
What to see in Pantelleria
The coastal road is 28 miles in lenght,
it starts at the town of Pantelleria and goes past the archaeological
zone of Mursia (with a series of megalithic structures called sesi
in a local dialect) and then goes up to high ground.
The main sights here are Punta Fram, Cala dell’Altura
and Punta Tre Pietre,
where another road takes you to the village of Scauri.
The coast is steep and craggy with some inlets like
the Balata dei Turchi,
a favourite landing place for Saracen pirates,
or the lovely Cala Rotonda up to the Punta Tracino promontory,
with a striking rock formation in front of it,
which separates the Tramontana and Levante inlets.
After the village of Gadir and the lighthouse of Punta Spasdillo
the road descent to the Cala Cinque Denti inlet hot springs
and then back to its starting point.
The town of Pantelleria at the foot of the Barbacane castle,
was almost destroyed by allied bombings in World War II.
Life revolves around Piazza Cavour and the new Chiesa Madre,
both facingthe sea.
Renting a bicycle is very pleasant way of getting around and
getting to know the island and the local way of life,
as well as the handicrafts,
the famous Moscato passito dessert wine and the locally grown capers.