A Hidden Italian Gem – Pantelleria


Have you heard of Pantelleria? If you haven’t, you’re not alone.

I think I impressed one of the Italian partners I met with at ILTM last fall because I had heard of it. And I recently fell hard in lust for it! 

Last year, I fired up the film of a favorite Italian director Luca Guadagnino (who also directed I Am Love). A Bigger Splash (2015) also stars Tilda Swinton along with Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Dakota Johnson. 

Wow! I mean, yeah, the acting is good. The story is thrilling. But the setting of Pantelleria truly astonishes me. 

This Italian island is actually closer to the African continent – 60 kilometers from Tunisia – than to Sicily, which is 100 km. And like Sicily, the history of the island is rife with various conquerors from ancient times who all left their mark on the culture. Known in ancient times as Cossyra or Cossura, the landscape is a wild paradise. There’s lava rock diving into the sea. And the Lago di Venera, or the Lake of Venus, is an unmissable sight that is featured in the film. The mud bath there so entices me! 

The house where A Bigger Splash was filmed is in an area called Tenuta Borgia. Special houses on the island are called dammusi, and these villas spread out on one floor and are made of lava rock. And apparently, the best restaurant on the island is called Il Principe e il Pirate (which means the Prince and the Pirate).

Pantelleria’s name is believed to be derived from the ancient Phoenician word for “blessed.” The island was colonized by the Phoenicians, followed by the Greeks, and then the Romans. The island was known for its production of the prized “Pantelleria wine,” which was exported throughout the Roman Empire.

Then in the 8th century, the island was conquered by the Arabs and became an important center of agriculture and trade throughout the Mediterranean. The Arabs built many of the island’s notable architectural features, including the Kamma fortress and the Baths of Venus.

In the 12th century, the island was conquered by Norman King Roger II, who established a feudal system on the island. The Norman Kingdom of Sicily ruled the island until the 13th century when it came under the control of the Kingdom of Aragon. Then in the 16th century, the island was occupied by the Spanish, who established a naval base on the island. The island remained under Spanish control until the late 18th century when the French occupied it during the Napoleonic Wars.

In 1860, Pantelleria became part of the newly unified Kingdom of Italy. And further, the island played an important role in World War II, as it was used as a military base by the Allies to invade Southern Europe to defeat the Italians and Germans.

Today, Pantelleria is a popular tourist destination known for its unique natural features, its traditional culture, and its wines. It’s also super relaxing and peaceful, away from the hustle and bustle of over-tourism.

Here are just a few reasons to add Pantelleria to your travel list —


Pantelleria is known for its unique natural features, including volcanic landscapes, hot springs, and grottoes. Visitors can explore the island’s rugged terrain and admire the views of the sea and the surrounding islands.


The island has many small and secluded beaches where visitors can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. Some of the most famous beaches are Cala Levante, Spiaggia di Scauri, and Cala Cottone.


Pantelleria is an excellent destination for hiking, with many trails that offer beautiful views of the island’s volcanic landscapes and the sea. Visitors can hike to the top of the island’s highest point, Montagna Grande, for a panoramic view of the island.


Pantelleria is known for its wines, particularly the Passito di Pantelleria, a sweet wine made from Zibibbo grapes that are sun-dried before being pressed. Visitors can visit local wineries and taste the island’s wines.


The island has a rich culture and history, with many historical sites and traditional villages to explore. Visitors can visit the ancient ruins of the Punic-Roman city of Cossyra and the Arab-Norman fortress of Kamma. Also, they can explore the traditional villages of Pantelleria and discover the island’s unique architecture and way of life.


The island is known for its delicious local cuisine, influenced by both Sicilian and African flavors. Visitors can try traditional dishes such as couscous, caponata, and fish dishes like “pantesca” soup.


The island is an ideal destination for relaxation, with many secluded spots to unwind and enjoy the island’s natural beauty and peaceful atmosphere.

Until you can get there, I highly recommend the film. But if you’re ready to visit this heaven on earth in person, I have a great partner in Claudia Da Rin Luxury Hospitality. Her portfolio of boutique hotels, villas, and yachts embody Italian high design and service.

From her, I learned about Sikelia, which is a luxury retreat located on Pantelleria with only 20 suites. They call a stay there an artistic and emotional experience. 

Sikelia offers refined suites housed in ancient dammusi, where internal architectures of monastic rigor and refined details of contemporary elegance coexist.

What is a dammusi exactly? They are underground vaults carved from the excavation of limestone, finished in masonry, and intended for housing. The internal temperature remains constant between summers and winters. The Dammusi are typical houses in Pantelleria. The name of these ancient buildings originates from the Arabic word dammus, which refers to the particular shape of its vault. Built by Arabs in 1123 before they were defeated by Normans, who conquered the island along with the rest of the archipelago. The buildings are characterized by small windows called “Stone Eyes.”

Back to this very special hotel – Sikelia is an exclusive, timeless place that is synonymous with luxury and tranquility. All the photos here are from this very extraordinary hidden gem.

They say from here, you can discover the thousand contrasts of the island of Pantelleria. The staff is attentive and personal and will envelop you in a warm welcome. The elegant and refined cuisine will lead you to appreciate the ancient tastes of the peasant tradition. The hotel also maintains an Arab garden to indulge in the ancient rites of grape care and rediscover the slow rhythms of the earth.

Pantelleria, the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean, with its dark rocks drawn by the wind, its sharp shapes softened by the roundness of the white dammusi, the natural sources of hot water and the regenerating mud, precious heritage of the volcano gave rise to them. The music of the wind, which suddenly rushes against the cliffs as if to remind that nature is the absolute master here. But also your best life partner. And finally, the sea, of an intense blue, in which to get lost and dream. And from which to be told stories of an Africa closer than we ever could have imagined.

It truly is all magical!

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