Island escape to Pantelleria

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Only 30 minutes away from Palermo airport the island of Pantelleria appears through the window of our plane, basking in the golden afternoon light. By the time we arrive at Sikelia the sun is about to set, projecting long shadows of palm trees over butter-yellow walls to create the feeling of warmth that will characterise our stay. We quickly climb to the rooftop restaurant for an aperitivo and savour the view of the sun sinking over Tunisia, which lies closer to the island than Sicily and explains the Arab and African influences that we go on to encounter during our time here. Sikelia itself is a converted dammuso, one of the island’s traditional stone houses, originally built to resist the strong winds that normally blow in this part of the Mediterranean Sea.

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We are lucky to have arrived on the island during vendemmia, the time of the year when the grapes are ready to harvest. We stop at the roadside and exchange a few words with the pickers, who kindly hand us a bunch of zibibbo grapes to sample. We want to visit the rock formation Arco Dell’elefante so we drive east until the shape of an elephant’s head, trunk dunked into the sea, appears in front of us. Having worked up an appetite after a quick swim, we drive on to Il Principe e Il Pirata, a cosy osteria where we feast on grilled amberjack and vegetables.

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We journey on to Punta Spadillo Lighthouse, perched on top of an old lava flow. During bad weather it’s reportedly a dramatic spot to stand and watch the huge waves crashing into the cliffs. With one hour left before sunset we drive to Gadir to relax in the hot springs by the sea and enjoy one of the most beautiful moonrises we have ever witnessed. The following morning affords us some time to spend by the pool at Sikelia before we head off to visit Specchio di Venere lake, located in the crater of an old volcano. We swim in its crystalline blue waters and taste granita catanese (almond sherbet with an espresso shot) for the first time. For lunch we discover Kayà Kayà, a bar in Porto di Scauri, where you can rent a boat if you’re feeling adventurous. We prefer to drive to the top of the highest mountain on Pantelleria, Montagna Grande, to get a proper sense of the island’s contours.

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Pictures by Nuria Val, Words by Coke Bartrina