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Pantelleria. You will be forgiven if you’ve never heard of it. It is about as far away from mainland Italy as you can get and still be considered Italy. It can be found between Sicily and Tunisia. Whether or not you’ve heard of Pantelleria, you may not know these five fun facts about the island:1. The island’s dammusi date back to the 10th century. Dammusi, the signature homes of the island, were first built during the 10th century and are unique to Pantelleria. These homes have a rectangular foundation of volcanic rock, topped by a domed roof of plaster and red tufo (volcanic rock). The ancient buildings have cisterns to collect rainwater, which are still in use today – a necessary element of survival on the island, as Pantelleria has a dry climate and no natural source of water. Part of a quintessential Pantescan experience is staying in a dammuso, many of which are luxurious with ocean views.
2. Pantelleria is a locavore’s paradise. Residents of the isolated island more or less only eat what can grow there – though food is also imported from Sicily to complete the local fare – but this is the Mediterranean, after all, so the food is delicious and fresh. Typical Italian foods such as olives, cheese, capers, lemons, and tomatoes, combined with seafood from the ocean below, make eating local a breeze. It wouldn’t be Italy without wine, of course, and Pantelleria’s zibbibo grapes produce moscato and passito, a sweet amber wine made from dried grapes.
3. There’s no sand on this volcanic island. Formed from submarine volcanic activity, Pantelleria is surrounded by high cliffs and rocky outcroppings (Elefante and Salta-la-Vecchia are the two most well-known), leading to spectacular views from land and sea. The 32-square-mile island is so small that visitors can easily sail around it in an afternoon, soaking up the sun and exploring hot springs in rocky coves.
4. It’s a celebrity getaway. At first glance, the remote island may seem unassuming (though beautiful) and quaint, but hidden along its twisty, narrow roads are villas of celebrities such as Giorgio Armani. Madonna, Isabella Rossellini and Sting are also said to be regular visitors. Once on the island, it’s no wonder why Pantelleria captures famous hearts: its quiet paradise, crystal-clear blue water, and vivid sunsets make for a blissfully relaxing getaway.
5. It only takes 45 minutes to drive across the island. Rent a car or a scooter and discover the island’s small trattorias that offer home-cooked meals with Italian and Arab influences, sample wine at a vineyard, or go for a hike. The beauty of Pantelleria lies in the contrast between the green vineyards and farms, bright blue ocean, and deep black rock, and the island is best seen from both land and sea.
How to get there:
Pantelleria is closer to Tunisia than Sicily, but flights and ferries run often from Trapani and Palermo. Direct flights from Rome, Milan, and Venice leave daily during the peak season (May/June and September/October, as summers bear North African heat and winters don’t offer visitors much to do), and less-frequent flights leave these same cities during the low season.
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