PANTELLERIA, THE BLACK PEARL OF MEDITERRANEAN
Interno di un Giardino Pantesco
Due to the volcanic origin of its territory, Pantelleria is called the "black pearl" of the Mediterranean and its name, of Arab origin, means "daughter of the wind".
Almost 14 km long and 8 wide, the island is 110 km from Sicily and only 70 km from Tunisia, and it is the emerged part of a volcano, which rises about 2000 meters above an oceanic crust in the canal of Sicily.
The territory of this extreme edge of Europe is characterized by unspoiled nature and an immense biodiversity heritage. Generally hilly, the typical Mediterranean vegetation alternates with bare hills and black lava flows, which give it the appearance of an almost lunar landscape. The highest peak is the Montagna Grande, which reaches 836 meters and is the main crater of the volcano.
Over the centuries, due to its central position in the Mediterranean basin, Pantelleria has been a meeting place for many people, inhabited since the age of Ancient Bronze: evidence of this are some Megalithic lava stone structures, built with funerary purpose, called "Sesi", similar to the Nuraghi of Sardinia, which can be admired in Mursia locality.
On the island there are still very active phenomena of natural thermalism: for example, the cave of Satarìa (in the locality called Scauri), has been known since ancient times thanks to its water with temperatures up to 40°, considered an authentic elixir of long life. According to tradition, this was the home of the goddess Calypso, who hosted the famous Greek hero Ulysses, promising him eternal youth. Pantelleria is identified with the ancient Ogigia Island sung by Homer in the 5th book of the Odyssey. Famous for its thermal mud baths with beneficial properties for the body is also the enchanting Lago Specchio di Venere, so named because the goddess Venus would have been mirrored here before meeting her beloved Bacchus. Located more or less in the center of the island (in the Bugeber district), this natural lake occupies the caldera of an extinct volcano and it is a privileged place for birdwatching; its waters in autumn and spring, become a transit point of the migratory flows of cranes, herons and pink flamingos.
Among the dry stone walls of lava stone, which frame the picturesque landscape, and the white domed roofs of the "dammusi" (typical houses with a unmistakable Middle Eastern touch), there are fields of Capers of centuries-old tradition (which have received the PGI certification since 1996), and vineyards that are unique in the world, where it is produced the sweet Zibibbo grape, from which Moscato and Passito di Pantelleria are obtained, excellent dessert wines.
The cultivation of Zibibbo grapes, based on the sapling vine, is unique in its kind and was introduced by the Phoenicians: it reveals the wisdom of the Panthsan farmers, who have been able to face, for over two thousand years, the inhospitable climate of this place characterized by little rain and strong winds. The small vine saplings grow inside holes dug into the ground, which collect the scarce available water and shelter the plant from wind and salt. For this reason, in 2014 UNESCO recognized the ancient cultivation of sapling vine of Pantelleria as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity: it is the first agricultural practice in the world to have obtained this prestigious recognition.
Another extraordinary example of the farmers’s skills on the island is the "pantesco garden", a rural construction of ancient origins, similar to a circular enclosure, made of dry lava stone walls, uncovered and closed from a door. Inside it, only one citrus tree is cultivated which, protected from the winds that lash the island, and with the nocturnal humidity absorbed by the porous lava rock, can grow luxuriant even in the absence of rain, thanks to the microclimate that it generates inside the enclosure. In 2008 the FAI (Italian Environmental Fund) received a historic Pantelleria garden donated by the Sicilian winery Donnafugata, in which a centuries-old and very luxuriant orange tree is cultivated.
At the center of the island there is the imposing medieval castle, a lava stone fortress that dominates the entire port, used as a prison until 1975, and subject to constant enlargements over the centuries, by Byzantines, Arabs, Normans and Spaniards. Consisting of four floors, one of which is almost completely underground, the Castle has a planimetric layout with a central core that gravitates around a trapezoidal courtyard, with bastions in the north-west and north-east side and another courtyard and a circular tower on the south-east side. In its rooms you can admire the famous "imperial heads" dating back to the first century AC, found inside some cisterns on the Acropolis of San Marco and Santa Teresa. Much appreciated for their beauty and integrity, they have been hosted in many museums around the world and represent Giulio Cesare, Antonia Minore (Drusus’ wife, Tiberius’s brother and Emperor Claudius’s mother) and Titus.
Visiting Pantelleria is really an unforgettable experience from the cultural, naturalistic and enogastronomic point of view!