There are many stunning islands in the Mediterranean Sea and not all of them are Greece Islands in the Aegean Sea. Just off the coast of Sicily and partway to Tunisia is the stunning and overlooked Italian island of Pantelleria. Whereas most Mediterranean Islands are renowned for their beaches, Pantelleria is an other-worldly volcanic wonderland with a UNESCO wine tradition - sound interesting?The island is administratively part of Sicily. Sicily is one of the most rewarding destinations in all of Europe and Sicily is the birthplace of pasta while boasting much of Italy's scenery. If one is interested in Ancient Greece, then Sicily was once part of greater Greece and boasts the Valley of Temples. The Valley of Temples is some of the most impressive surviving Ancient Greece ruins today outside the Acropolis of Athens.
History And Background Of The Isle of Pantelleria
Pantelleria is around 62 miles southwest of Sicily and around 37 east of Tunisia. Since 2016, around 80% of the island has been incorporated into the Pantelleria National Park. The island is volcanic and the last eruption happened under the sea in 1891, evidence of the geothermal activity can be seen on the island in the form of hot springs and fumaroles.
- Highest Peak: Montagna Grande at 836 meters or 2,743 feet
- Location: The Strait of Sicily Between Tunisia and Sicily
The oldest archeological evidence for the island dates from the Neolithic but it seems that for a long while the island was uninhabited. The Carthaginians occupied it likely around the beginning of the 7th century BC. The remains of the Carthaginian period can be seen on the island today - including tombs.
The all-conquering Romans took the island in 255 BC but lost it the next year before regaining it in 217 BC. Under Roman rule, it became a place of banishment. After the Romans, various others have taken possession of it, including the Arabs, Turks, Sicilians, and others before winding up Italian today.
In World War Two the Allies bombed it heavily before invading it in the run-up to the Sicily campaign. The British commandos launched an amphibious assault on the island only to find the Italians had already surrendered there and no fight was necessary.
- WW2: Surrendered To The Allies Without A Fight (With Around 11,000 Garrisoned Soldiers)
People on the island speak what's called Pantesco - a dialect of Sicilian that's been influenced by Arabic.
Specchio di Venere - Venus' Mirror
The Mediterranean Sea for many people is almost synonymous with swimming and sunbathing on the beach. But Pantelleria has no true beaches - although that doesn't mean it's without stunning locations for swimming.
One of the most striking landmarks on the island is the Specchio di Venere that translates literally at Venus' Mirror in English. Venus's Mirror is a natural lake formed in the crater of an extinct volcano that is fed by hot springs and rain. It is a very popular spot for swimming - not to mention soaking in the local hot springs and mud bathing.
- Things To Do: Swimming In Venus' Mirror, Soak In Hot Springs, and Mud Bathe
Another favored swimming hole is Laghetto delle Ondine ("Pond of the ripples" or "Pond of the wavelets"). It is a seawater lake that's become a very popular swimming hole.
Other things To Do On The Island
The island's unique agricultural traditions, characterised by low-slung caper bushes, dwarf grapevines and olive trees laid out on terraces between dry stone walls, earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 2014.
There are of course other things to see and to on and around the forgotten volcanic Italian island. The island boasts a large network of trails and there's a natural sauna on the island for people to seek out. It is fed by vapors that filter through rocks in a small cave. Go sleuthing on the island looking for its stunning secluded coves (that are perfect for snorkeling, diving, and boat excursions).
All over the island one will find Pantelleria's unique dammusi – lava rock houses with thick, whitewashed walls, shallow cupolas, and cisterns for collecting rainwater.
The island is part of Italy and the Mediterranean, so it almost goes without saying that it has an ancient wine culture. In fact, its grapevine on the sapling of Zibibbo grapes is World Heritage Listed. This was the first UNESCO listing for an agricultural technique.
- World Heritage: Pantelleria's Zibibbo Grapes and Wine
Visit the various wineries on the island and plan ahead to coincide one's trip with local annual events that celebrate wine - like the famous Passito di Pantelleria. The event showcases the oldest tradition of Pantelleria.