September 2022

I was in Sicily on tradeshow, and I was looking for some place afterwards to rest and enjoy in one of the Sicilian Islands.  Yes, I know Sicily is an island, but I already been there and was looking for some retreat offshore. Aeolian islands came to mind, but it took time to get there to the port and then take a boat. During the trip we visited Favignana, part of Egadi Islands, easy trip off Trapani, and I enjoyed it. So, where else? I needed easy flight connecting with my continental flight to Milan.

I saw description of luxury retreat Sikelia located in Pantelleria, and it sounded very enticing. But looking further, I noticed it is located closer to North Africa (30 miles from Tunisia) as opposed to Sicily. The more I read about it, the more I got convinced it is THE place for me to visit. The Danish airline DAT is flying from Palermo to Pantelleria, and flights were convenient for me.

So, I booked Sikelia and flights and soon I was on my way.

The plane was small, about 40 people, and they took carry-ons to separate luggage compartment. In 40 minutes, we landed in Pantelleria. The resort representatives picked me up in the airport and we were on the way to hotel. Another couple, arriving on the same flight, was dropped off at car rental and followed our minivan.

The landscape was very different from Italy and Sicily. The colors are green and black. It is a very windy island, first populated by Arabs in 8C and they called in Arabic “Bent el Riah” which means the daughter of the wind. It is also called a Black Pearl of Mediterranean.

The island is volcanic, last eruption was in 1891, so it is not active like Aetna. It is even located not in European or African tectonic plates. Is it a continent??? Due to volcanic origin, hot springs and volcanic mountains are present on the island.

The roads were narrow and winding, but there were lots of railing. Drivers were considerate and yielded and when needed backed out.

I noticed lots of terraces built from local volcanic black stone to prevent rock sliding. Local houses had either black or white roofs, also are built from local lava stone, called “damussi” – Arabic name. The top of the roofs is domed, to function as water collection. They have thick walls from lava rock.

Nowadays, people use roofs to relax on the roof in hot days, just like in many houses in North Africa.

In about 20 minutes, we arrived Sikelia, and I was “checked in”. It really no check in counter, they greeted me with a drink and in few minutes, I was escorted to my room with some introduction of property on the way. Beautiful plate of fruit and nuts was waiting for me, and the bar was stocked with Sicilian sodas and plenty of water.

The bed linen was soft and comfortable, and the robe was from the best material I’ve ever used.

I liked that resort is being compact. Suites giving guests privacy and still are centered with short walk to pool and restaurant/bar area. There are only 20 suites. I inspected other suites, and they range from traditional monastic architecture, Pantelleria style to modern. Hence different colors. All suites are consistent with soothing native colors scheme – either grey or white.

The resort caters to adults, children must be at least 12-year-old. But it is a quiet place so probably not advisable for children. No pets allowed.

After settling and rest, it was time for me to check out a bar at sunset. I climbed to the top of damussi and watched sunset from there, sipping aperitive and chatting with other guests. There was a view of Tunisia at far distance. Horizon sunset had beautiful colors.

The aperitivo followed by dinner at the hotel’s only restaurant Thema, it was delicious with attentive service. It started with compliments of the chef’s appetizer, and I chose a trio with raw fish similar to sashimi. For second course I chose risotto with oranges, and for main, grouper in some African sauce. The cuisine was refreshingly different from other Italian dishes, and while I love all things Italian, this change was welcome. For dessert I chose Bace – which is Sicilian desert, something like Connolly but different shape. The food was accompanied with local crisp white wine.

Next day I experienced breakfast Pantelleria style. I appreciated lack of buffets; the beautiful food set was arranged at my table. I enjoyed fruit, yogurt, cheeses, cold cuts, but most of all, freshly baked bread with homemade jams. There also were available eggs, but I did not try it.

Today I scheduled a tour of the island. Sikelia staff outfitted me with water and towels. I’ve met my driver/guide Antonio and ventured to explore the island in hotel’s Fiat Panda. There are lots of Panda’s on the island, no Mercedes here! Antonio joked that island’s other name is Pandeleria 😊.

It is very beautiful and romantic island, with arid landscapes, thermal springs, wine and olive production. Short vines and olive trees. It’s because of wind, they are cut in certain shape to keep down. Arabs introduced Zibbigo grapes from which Moscato di Pantelleria and Passito wines are made. These wines are granted now DOC status which is a 3rd wine, after Etna and Marsala.  As for food, the island is well known for the production of capers. Green olives also were delicious.

Big part of the island is the National Park. We got out of the car, and walked some trails where I saw Byzantine tombs, dug into the rock.

The high peak of Montagna Grande afforded the amazing 360-degree view.

With many years, Arabs, Turks and Aragonese and others, seized the island in several hostile takeovers, which helps to understand why Pantelleria is so unique in its architecture including traditional houses “Dammusi”.

We saw Georgia Armani villa built on the top of the hill.

We saw rock formation which resembles the elephant, called “Elephants arch”.

We saw some thermal waters, known and appreciated since antiquity. The spring water naturally collected in little basins just before it meets the sea and as a consequence, is of the secondary phenomena, they heat up the water. It is said waters treat rheumatism and arthrosis.

We continued to the lake, famously known for its lake: the ‘Mirror of Venus’ or ‘Specchio di Venere’.

Located in the North-East part of the island, this pseudo-volcanic lake lies inside a prehistoric caldera with thermal springs that feed it with boiling water.  I walked into the lake, and the water was clear and warm. How cool is it to bathe in the volcanic lake! I wish they have some lounges but then again it would attract more people and it will become too commercial.

Next we went to the main town of Pantelleria, where I saw a big castle and I stocked up on some food souvenirs and lunch items.

Back at Sikelia, I enjoyed pool and excellent service. The staff provided fresh towels and sheets for the lounges.

I decided to skip aperitivo to leave more space for the dinner. Dinner today was amberjack and red snapper carpaccio. I chose creative appetizer “Liquid Pizza” which consisted of bread, cheese, basil and liquid tomato cream. Main course I had pasta carbonara and Connollys for dessert.

The second dinner was no less spectacular.

My last day was relaxing at the resort, after all, that’s why I came here. It is a quiet, calming, comfortable place. I had lunch with hotel’s owner and general manager Guilia. She lives in Rome but during season she is onsite, taking care of guests. Seems like she knew each guest and did not miss a chance to say few words at the restaurant. She is a very interesting person to talk too.

Their winery Coste Ghirlanda was closed but Guilia arranged for me to tour it.

So far wine is produced in Sicily, but they are working on local production. The views also were breathtaking, and they had few event areas for dinners, wine tasting and events like weddings or special occasions.

Sadly, my stay came to end, and I had to leave next morning. Sikelia staff provided a breakfast bag which had small souvenir – damussi.

Airport was easy, clean and fast to go through.

I saw same some assistance for elderly people who do not need wheelchair.

One airport worker took lady’s bag, and another offered he an elbow to hold. So civilized.

40 min flight on a small plane got me into Palermo – completely another world!

Pantelleria was a truly magical island. Keep in mind, it is not famous with beaches, just with breathtaking views, colors, thermal waters, great food and wine.

Special thanks to Guilia, and her wonderful staff Andrea, Gaia and Guido.

Not typically Italian or Sicilian, but that’s the draw of it. Come to experience it by yourself!

Copyright  2022, Sophia’s Travel, EMCO Travel LLC