Known as “the black pearl of the Mediterranean” for its striking black-lava cliffs, the volcanic island of Pantelleria—the most important of Sicily’s satellite tv for pc isles, at 32 square miles—has long lured a smattering of in-the-know tourists in search of a low-key hideaway a long way from the fanfare of high-profile hotspots like Capri and Portofino.
Having bubbled up to the sea’s surface a few 300,000 years ago, Italy’s southernmost point—placed 70 miles southwest of Sicily and a mere forty miles east of Tunisia—bears the ethnic and archaeological footprints of its many disparate citizens over the centuries, which blanketed the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Normans, and most significantly the Arabs, who arrived 1,000 years ago. Its storied records—coupled with a spectacular, nearly otherworldly landscape and arid, windswept weather—informs its rugged and historical charm.
The island’s steadfast gales, which gust from the Channel of Sicily almost 340 days a year, have formatively shaped Pantelleria’s beyond and present; fittingly, its Arabic name, Bent el Rion, manner “daughter of the wind.” These battering breezes, alongside lingering symptoms of its fiery origins—like a favor, mini-geysers observed close to the island’s craters that emit boiling jets of steam each sometimes—create an atmospheric restlessness that contrasts sharply with Pantelleria’s well-known silence and wonderful lack of visitor sprawl. This interesting juxtaposition underpins the island’s inimitable atmosphere, which has drawn Italian glitterati (like Giorgio Armani, who has owned a villa here for more than 40 years) to its sunbaked shorelines for many years.
An Enchanted World
To enjoy this pristine Mediterranean paradise in peerless style, hop an hour-lengthy flight from Palermo (or one direct from Milan, Rome, Venice, Bergamo, or Bologna) and head immediately to Sikelia, the island’s first bona fide luxurious hotel. Ten years in the making earlier than its 2016 debut, the ultrachic oasis is the ardor challenge of Giulia Pazienza Gelmetti, a winemaker who counts professional basketball player and financier amongst her beyond careers. Created from dammusi—the island’s iconic stone dwellings, designed through the Arabs with shallow-domed roofs to acquire precious rainwater—it’s a chic secret world tucked behind a shimmering, 1,500-pound brass door and artfully imbued with Pantelleria’s singular spirit.
Sikelia’s 19 suites, every particular, are painted within the island’s earthy tones and impeccably integrate furnishings upholstered in lush velvet and linen with edgy concrete, glass, and metal finishes. Gleaming Gessi furnishings and embroidered Frette linens speak to Pazienza Gelmetti’s uncompromising taste, as do hammered-metallic wardrobes and oversized engraved panels by using famend Italian artist Gennaro Avallone.
The lodge comes to existence at nightfall when visitors acquire in the palm-studded courtyard below a sky ablaze in streaks of crimson and violet for cocktails followed via nibbles like Gucci, an expansion of Pantescan caper. (Caper flora blanket the island, their delicate, lily-white plants bursting forth from fissures within the jet-black volcanic rock. Grown commercially here, they appear via foodies as a number of the arena’s greatest.) On a clear evening, you can climb some stairs to the roof, negroni firmly in hand, and spot Tunisia.
Then it’s dinner time at Sikelia’s subtle restaurant, Themà, where govt chef Diego Battaglia expertly melds Arabic and North African flavors with conventional Italian delicacies to delectable effect. Signature dishes include stylish seafood crudos, spaghetti with marinated oysters and monkfish foie gras, and codfish with cuttlefish ink and apple washed down with wines from Sikelia’s sister property, L’Officina di Coste Ghirlanda, Pazienza Gelmetti’s mesmerizing vineyard and one of the island’s maximum famous draws. You can walk its meticulously terraced vineyards and olive groves and wonder at its towering pink-peppercorn tree earlier than eating at the candlelit al fresco eating place on specialties like gnocchi with pistachio pesto and Frito Misto.
Speaking of wine, Pantelleria’s Zibibbo grapes—which grow nowhere else on the earth, and whose backbreaking cultivation is the most effective agricultural practice at the UNESCO World Heritage List—make the island an intriguing destination for oenophiles. Since its tireless winds keep flora from growing tall (neighborhood farmers cautiously groom olive timber like oversize bonsais to buffer them against the gales), the Muscat grapes—harvested by means of hand and used to provide Passito di Pantelleria, the island’s international-famous dessert wine—are a true triumph of nature over adversity, thriving near the ground in small hollows that maximize colour and moisture.
Go vineyard hopping and taste any other top rate Passito on the island’s outpost of world-magnificence Sicilian winemaker Donnafugata, whose 168 acres of vineyards on Pantelleria embody 14 districts. You can also pattern its different vintages—well-known for their gorgeously painted labels—followed by way of small plates of Sicilian specialties like ravioli with clean ricotta and mint and savory eggplant parmigiana. If you’re nevertheless hungry (this is Italy, in any case), Le Cale, nestled between of the island’s maximum breathtaking coves on its east coast and imparting some of its maximum bewitching views, is a brief force away. Feast on dishes like spaghetti with garlic, oil, and uncooked crimson snapper while overlooking the Arco dell’ Elefante, arguably Pantelleria’s maximum iconic landmark: an arresting lava formation that resembles a massive elephant dipping its trunk into the ocean.