|Hundreds of thousands for years ago a great explosion in the heart of the Mediterranean provoked the emersion of the top of a submarine volcano.|
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So Pantelleria outcrops violently and domineeringly as a dark and burning island, born from the sea, the magma, the incandescent lava.
The following volcanic eruptions and the implosion phenomena, the collapse of the lava and of its constructions, and the so-called “calderic collapese” have produced the present look of the island.
It is rich in hills and mountains which developed from the minor craters, “cuddie”, and sometimes they have kept the look of vents such as Monte Gibele, cuddia Mida, cuddia Rossa, cuddia Bruciata.
Even if the latest eruptions, documented by the chronicle, date back to 1831 and 1891, the Volcano draws attention even nowadays. Actually secondary volcanic phenomena go on all over the territory: the fumaroles (steam jets) reach extemely high temperatures, visible from the slopes of Montagna Grande, on the shores of the lake. The most important one is the so-called Favara Grande used by the islanders as a source to water the cattle.
The fumaroles inside caves are called heaters and they are considered real saunas as “Bagno asciutto” at Sibà or the heater at Khazèn. There are also the hot thermal water springs which get into the sea from different parts of the coast: in Grotta di Sataria, at Scauri, at Gadir, at Cala di Nicà along the shores of the beautiful Lago di Venere. The waters of this lake are fed by underground sources rich in soda.
The Lago di Venere or Bagno dell'Acqua with its muds rich in mineral substances is a vast oval shaped hollow – the longer axis is about 600 metres – and it offers one of the island's most attractive landscapes especially if seen from Bugèber, the “contrada” overlooking the lake on its southern side.
Pantelleria is black for its lava stone and obsidian and yet green for its rich vegetation. The incredible woods at the top of Montagna Grande (800 metres) offer: pines, oaks and forest trees over six metres tall. The Mediterranean bush, present all over the island alternates wild olives, blueberries, rosemary, and Indian figs. The great variety of flowers, in spring and fall, clothes the island with the most vivid and bright colours.
It is hard to think of such a surpising land offering suburnt coasts and and African climate and, not far off, fresh woods, an alpine landscape, and mountain paths penetrating into the depths of trees and plants. Here, in the proper season, you can even enjoy yourself gathering the different kinds of mushrooms.
Island of green countysides, island of pesants. The hinabitants of Pantelleria watxh after and entrust their hopes to the land instead of the sea. They cultivate it in terraces bounding the land cultivated with vineyards and capers with dry stones.
Raisins, several white and red wines, especially the Moscato Passito, protected as wine of guaranteed origin, are all produced by the island's most famous grapes, the “Zibibbo”.
As for capers, those of Pantelleria are held by the experts as of superior quality if not the best in the world, And what a sight, especially at dawn, a field of flowering capers impregnating the air with its strong and penetrating smell!
The nice “contradas” of the countyside are characterized by striking names of Arab origin evoking African atmospheres: Khaddiuggia, Margana, Mursia, Sataria, Nikà, Rekhali, Muègen, Tracino, Khamma, Gadir, Kharucia and others. Here the pesants of Pantelleria have built their house, the “Dammuso”. It is a typic building of the island having a square or rectangular plant with lava stone walls and dome vaults made impermeable and whitewashed with lime. There are as many dome vaults as the number of rooms making up the dammuso. Inside the ceilings are dome vault and cross vault and the typic house structure is a central room, the bedroom or alcove and a closet. The floors in the oldest dammusi are of terracotta bricks or polichrome majolica hand decorated. The purpose of the dome vault is to canalize and direct the rainwater and gather it in the cistern which is generally excavated under the terrace (“passiaturi”) leading into the dammuso. The dammusi with their strikingly white dome vaults make Pantelleria's landscape unique...You can often find a low, circular tower made of dry stone near the dammuso: from its highst side the foliage of one or more trees can be made out. Nobody could tell they are seeing a garden. Such walls protect the gardens of Pantelleria and their fruit trees, oranges and lemon trees from the winds. They old within a little paradise of colours and perfumes like a treasure in a jewel case.
Pantelleria, the blue island, with a beautiful transparent sea, that catches all the nuances and gradations of blue: from the most pale to the most deep. Wherever you are, on the jagged rocky shores, low, steep or high, outlined by streams of lava which have solidified, you may observe the extraordinary contrast of colours: blue, black, green, white.
Setting sail from the port of Pantelleria and turning to right, you reach Bue Marino, with its flat shores on one side and the high and perpendicular ones on the other side. Continuing, you pass over Punta Khariuscia and Cala Campobello, to the beautiful creek named Cala Cinque Denti for its peculiar jagged shores, sheltered from the Scirocco wind, and finally to the lighthouse of Punta Spadillo. After the deligthful Cala Gadir, Punta Tracino and the Faraglione divide Cala Tramontana and north-east from Cala Levante at south-east of the Punta. From her you can enjoy the amazing panorama of Punta dell'Arco, also called “Arco dell'Elefante”, as the rock that leans on the sea forms an arch similar to the head of an elephant that sinks its proboscis in the water. This rock stands out, colossal and black, against the sky and the sea and it is often hit by the white foam of the waves.
The area called Dietro Isola is extraordinarily beautiful: the stack called Il Ficodindia, for the presence of some Indian figs on its high part; Balata dei Turchi, where pirates and robbers used to land; the high ground Salta la Vecchia with its high rocks – up to 280 metres high – perpendicularly on the sea. Going up towards the port of Pantelleria, you can find the creek Nicà, Scauri with its port, Punta Tre Pietre, Punta Fram where the brown lava rock put on strange forms and seem to be sculptures of an artist.
Pantelleria, the ancient island. Its soil has met with the steps of Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabians, Normans, who have built the castle on the port called “Barbacane”, symbol of the island, probably built on a Byzantine blockhouse and later enlarged and modified in the construction by the Spaniards in the 16th century.
The first people who settled in Pantelleria was the one of the Sesi, which first settlement dates back to about 5000 years ago, during the Neolithic era.The origins of the Neolithic people are unknown, certainity they settled in the area between Mursia and Cimillia, as revealed by the archaeological discovery of the built-up area – the town of the living – and of the necropolis of the Sesi – the town of the dead.
In the built-up area there are ruins of houses or huts, where pieces of pottery, crockery, tools and objects made of obsidian (the black lava rock) have been found.
An impressive wall, called Muro Alto, built with big blocks of stone (about 210 metres long and 8 metres high) of which are evident the ruins, divided the built-up area from the town of the dead. The Sesi are funerary monuments, of elliptical form, with numerous entrances, long inside corridors or galleries and cells of various dimensions.
The most important Sese, and the most impressive for its dimension it the Sese Grande or Sese del Re, certainly assigned to the dominant and most powerful family of the village.
Pantelleria, island of gentle and wild, harsh and attractive landscapes. Island rich in contrasts, generous of strong emotions, lonesome and captivating...
Pantelleria, the real island!
Texts and photos, gently permitted, are property of A.P.T. Trapani - www.apt.trapani.it
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