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So close to Sicily and away from the crowds

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For years, I’d heard about Pantelleria, a rugged, off-the-beaten-path paradise 89 miles southwest of Sicily and about 50 miles east of Tunisia.A A bigger impact” paints an alluring idyll of mud baths, romantic ruins and secluded swimming coves. Celebrities such as Madonna, Sting and Julia Roberts have been drawn to its striking African-Meets-Italian vibe, as has Giorgio Armani, who has lived here since 1980. The fact that no one is impressed adds to its allure.

“We always tell newcomers that you either love it or hate it,” said fashion designer Sciascia Gambaccini, who has owned a vacation home on the island for 33 years. “This is not Capri. We don’t have Chanel. There are no luxury resorts here. It’s very windy here. The beauty here is the slow pace and the wild landscape.”

The absence of white sand beaches is like a badge of honor. Locals drag their gear to the jagged lava rock habitats along the coast and jump into the turquoise waters. The town of Scaury, with its old-fashioned pastry shops and dingy olive stands, gives it a “Godfather”-like charm.

And the wind, well, is part of it. Locals will tell you that nature rules here, and when the sirocco blows, you just have to let it be.

Thousands of years ago, farmers living on the rocky, windy island of Pantelleria, which lacked fresh water, developed methods to grow crops.

They built terrace walls out of porous lava rock to block the wind and use dew to irrigate fruits and vegetables. These steep terraces undulate across the island, adding a raw texture to the lava rock cliffs. The ubiquitous lava-stone dwellings known as dammusi also add to the otherworldly landscape.

Pantelleria is 32 square miles in size, and the topography of the island changes completely as you move from one part of the island to the other. As I sped along the narrow main road and unpaved paths, the scenery changed from lush crater-formed valleys to barren plateaus covered in Mediterranean scrub to hilltop villages dotted with pink bougainvillea to wooded mountains. Flowering cacti and caper bushes with purple stamens grew freely, as did herbs. When the wind blew, you could smell the scent of wild oregano.

Pantelleria’s ancient roots are evident everywhere.

In Murcia, bars Ceciventi Overlooking the Bronze Age funerary monuments. At Nika, I thought of the Romans as I jumped into the gurgling thermal baths that the Romans chiseled into the stone. The town of Pantelleria is dominated by a castle that was originally built in the Byzantine era, buildings added by the Normans, and a bell tower built later by the Romans. Spanish.

Reaching the island is not easy. Danish Airways dataIberia Airlines Volotea and Italy Italy There are flights from within Italy, but only on certain dates. After the high season (late May to late September), it becomes more difficult to get there, with options limited to one-way flights or an overnight ferry from Trapani, the main island of Sicily. (Pantelleria is part of the province of Sicily.)

Last June, after I took off from Palermo and landed on a volcanic dot in the sea, I felt the temptation to laze around. It was hot. The combination of wind and cicadas was like an island lullaby. I arrived in the late afternoon, just in time for aperitivo, which Pantelleria has its own version of. People climbed onto rooftops, sat on pillows, and watched the sun slowly sink into the sea. I experienced this peaceful rooftop scene, or anti-scene, in different restaurants, hotels, and homes during my week on the island.

Notably, there was no loud music. Nature was the protagonist, and people were in awe of it. Tesla? Mercedes? Land Rover? No way. Everyone drove a shabby car, with the Fiat Panda being the most popular. When a friend picked me up in this toy-like contraption, I understood why. Their small size and light weight made it easy to squeeze into tight parking spaces and dodge oncoming traffic on single lanes, a maneuver that usually requires parking in the bushes or on a narrow cliff.

While there may not be beach days, there are certainly days for swimming in the lava outcrops. Turkish Balata It is my favorite, partly because getting to this bay is an adventure under About 800 feet high, the lava cliffs. My friend drove the battered Panda across the steep dirt road, bumping over boulders and sending plumes of dust flying off the windshield. After parking, we hiked down the mountain for 10 minutes. We laid towels on the black rocks and jumped into the sea. A thick rope was attached to the rocks to help swimmers pull themselves up.

Some days, swimming is spontaneous. La Bella At Scurry Harbour, I stripped off my clothes (I’d learned to stuff my swimsuit into my handbag) and waded through sea urchins into the clear water. Around me, sunbathers read (real books) and children snorkeled and played (real) games. It felt like 1985.

The best way to see the island is by boat. But it was difficult to arrange due to the strong winds. Finally, the gusts died down and I set out with a lithe captain in a Speedo to explore the lava-formed caves that are only accessible by sea. We entered the Grotta delle Sirene by boat and Satariawhere Odysseus was said to have been bewitched by the sea nymph Calypso. We got a close look at Elephant Archa lava arch that resembles an elephant drinking water. Then we stopped in front of the cave spadillo pt. After a panini lunch, we dived into the turquoise sea, which was rich with parrot fish. We saw only one other boat, which left as we arrived.

If people know Pantelleria, they’ll likely mention two of its most famous exports: passito (a sweet wine made from zibibbo grapes) and capers. Making wine on an arid island with no fresh water is no easy feat. The vines are trained to grow horizontally to avoid the wind. To irrigate themselves, they’re planted in caves so that dew can drip onto their roots at night. This centuries-old practice has been recognized by UNESCO as an “intangible cultural heritage.”

Each of the island’s 22 winemakers creates his or her own distinctive amber-colored passito, and each waxes poetic about how the harsh conditions create a “meditation wine” perfect for sipping slowly after dinner. “When you drink it, you can feel the people and the land behind the flavor,” says fifth-generation co-owner Antonio Rallo. Donafugata Vineyards And serve as Sicily DOC Wine Alliance. “It’s impossible to make this kind of wine anywhere else except on this island.”

Sun, wind and mineral-rich volcanic soil are also the secret of Pantelleria’s capers, a fruit prized throughout the gastronomic world for its sweetness. Since most vineyards grow both grapes and capers, the tasting will feature food that showcases both.

Emanuela BonomoA rare female winemaker here, she explains how the wind creates rich notes of lava minerality and salt in her products and small-batch wines. In the vineyard, she serves sautéed zucchini with mint and oregano, caponata and cheese It’s topped with dried zibibbo grapes and fig jam, and large lemons sliced ​​thinly and drizzled with olive oil. Everything is topped with fragrant capers. Ms. Bonomo also wants to make sure I understand that everything is “fatto a mano”: she and all the other farmers still harvest by hand.

At Mr. Lalo’s vineyards, guests can walk through centuries-old olive trees and gardens, through a natural stone-walled amphitheater, and admire the gnarled, low-lying vines and caper bushes. There are multiple wine tasting options, and the most exciting is a dinner under the stars, pairing the wines with classic Pantesca dishes.

In addition to the rugged terrain, geothermal activity makes the island a thermal playground, with hot springs and natural saunas. Near Armani’s home in the fishing village of Gadir, there’s a small pier with a number of bathtubs hewn into the stone. I followed the locals and dipped myself into a slightly slimy tub (the water temperature ranged from 104 to 131 degrees Fahrenheit). About six minutes, then cool down in the nearby harbor. Don’t mind the egg smell. The water contains sulfur and minerals, so it’s effective for pain relief.

On the day of the boat ride, I swam to the Sataria Caves, where Three hot spring caves filled with algae, with water temperatures ranging from warm to moderately hot. The largest hot spring on the island, Specchio of Venere The Mirror of Venus is a turquoise lake located in the crater of a volcano, surrounded by mountains and vineyards., The appeal is that people slather themselves in a healing (and smelly) mud. Does it work? Well, the prickly heat on my arms and chest stopped itching, and my travel-tightened back relaxed.

The hot springs were great, but what really excited me was detoxing in the natural stone sauna in the cave. I hiked along the western slope of Montagna Grande for about 10 minutes before I knew I had arrived. Benicula Cavesor Bagno Asciutto, I saw steam coming out of a crack in the rock, and then an old man in a tight bathing suit appeared. Inside, nine people sat on the hot rocks and ground (bring towels!), twitching in the 104-degree steam. Afterwards, everyone relaxed on shaded benches, admiring the The monastery plain valley.

Thanks to the volcanic cliffs and verdant valleys, there are excellent hiking routes to offset the pasta and wine: 80% of the island is national park, Pantelleria Island National Park 63 miles path Pass through the Mediterranean scrub to reach the forests of Monte Gibele and Montagna Grande.

Each time I expected crowds of tourists like I saw in Rome earlier this month. But it never happened. Pantescaaperitif hotspot; not Nikia or The Prince and the Piraterather than in Allwatera chic boutique filled with the kinds of silk robes and well-tailored linen trousers that tourists dream of getting on vacation in Italy.

if Sikeliamy chic 20-room hotel, would have been home to costumed guests scrambling for selfies during fireball sunsets in Amalfi. Not here. “This island is enchanting. But it’s not for everyone,” says hotel owner Giulia Pazienza Gelmetti. “It’s challenging to get here. It’s challenging to get to the beach. It attracts a certain type of person. And for those who can do it, the rewards are huge.”


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