Sitting southwest of Sicily and just 50 miles east of Tunisia, Pantelleria is a mix of African air and Italian flavors, where everything is a play of contrasts between lavic dark colors, cobalt blue waters and rocky landscapes.
Often called the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean, this secluded island is home to caper farmers and winemakers, along with some more glamorous in-the-know Italians such as Giorgio Armani and actress Isabella Ferrari.
Our tour starts with the local car of choice, a standard-issue seafoam-green Fiat Panda, with Tunisian radio stations playing in the background.
The first stop has to be Lago di Venere, a bewitching place lost between dreams and reality where time seems to be standing still. Legend has it that Venus stopped at this crystal clear crater lake to take in her beauty. You can do the same and bathe in its sulphurous 110-degree waters, which are believed to help with aching muscles.
Stop for lunch at MaRai, a family-run organic farm where you can taste simple local dishes, from pane cunzatu to panelle, under the shade of palm trees. You should be aware that eating like a local is the only option in Pantelleria.
Nearby Lago di Venere are Case del Principe, dammusi - whitewashed, dome-roofed stone dwellings dating as far back as the 10th century - with access to the sea for the most authentic experience.
Next up is Cala Gadir, a series of rocky inlets located north of Khamma where it’s possible to bathe in a crystal clear sea. Drive past Giorgio Armani’s summer getaway and reach the harbour of this picturesque fishing village; you’ll find a plunge pool with natural hot springs, mixing with sea waters. Soak in the pool or chill on the sun deck along with the older visitors that populate this spot. It might not be the best sea in Pantelleria but it’s an unmissable destination, as you’ll feel in another era. Should you be suffering the island’s desert heat, head over to the small Katia ice cream shack for a delicious gelato; try the dark chocolate, caper and oregano flavour and thank us later!
Closeby, you’ll find one the fanciest restaurants on the island, Il Principe e il Pirata, a terrace overlooking the sea for a simple yet gourmet cuisine.
If you’re looking for a special experience, we suggest visiting Coste Ghirlanda. This enchanting place immersed in vineyards is perfect for relaxing moments sipping a glass of wine at sunset or a passito later in the evening. You can also enjoy the authentic flavours of the island’s evocative cuisine paired with the wines they produce.
Wine lovers should also pay a visit to Donnafugata, a 168-acre vineyard. Book a tasting session to try Donnafugata’s best blends - including Ben Ryé, their award winning passito - which are paired with small plates.
Everyone can experience the island as they prefer, following their own rhythm. But one thing that brings every visitor together, from private party-goers to slow life enthusiasts, is the daily aperitif rendez-vous in the Scauri area.
The best aperitivo can certainly be found at Kaya Kaya, a little beach bar which belongs to Altamarea restaurant. Overlooking the harbour of Scauri, Kaya Kaya has a very relaxed atmosphere and plenty of food. If you’re looking for something a bit more fancy, the bar at the Sikelia Hotel is the place to go.
For dinner, Scauri offers plenty of good choices: La Vela, La Nicchia and Osteria degli Artisti, for dinner on a terrace with sea views. Lastly, Giardini dei Rodo, is the perfect place for a special meal in a dammuso, where the local flavours will inebriate you.
Almost as if it was preserving itself, the island has mainly rocks and only a handful of beaches.
If you’re looking for a more comfortable option, the Lido Shurhuq in Mursia is one of the few swimming spots on the island where you can relax on sunbeds or have lunch.
Aperitif time in this area means SesiVenti. Immersed in the Sesi archaeological park, the aperitivo at SesiVenti is an institution during summer. Sip a glass of wine, enjoy a magical sunset from this dammuso roof and try to spot the Tunisian coastline.
Where to sleep in the area? Parco dei Sesi, one of our favourite boutique hotels. A timeless property offering eleven accommodations and a swimming pool, curated in details and surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, art and history. Parco dei Sesi is the place to be for conscious travellers and creative souls looking for inspiration and a mindful or gourmet stay.
Next up, if you’re more on the adventurous side, we recommend making a cliff-side trek down to Laghetto delle Ondine, a natural saltwater pool carved out of the rock in Punta Spadillo.
It’s hard to reach but the view is worth the tricky trek, and most of the time you get to have this beauty all to yourself. Considered to be one of the must see spots in Pantelleria, at this iconic place it's possible to swim in the light waves of the laghetto even when the sea is rough.
From here, drive all the way to Ù Truscio, for an unforgettable dining experience. In the Punta Spadillo reserve, husband and wife run a food truck proposing a really simple fish cuisine. The owner is the king of his little world, sitting with you at the table and explaining the daily menu. It is a place of unexpected contrasts with its plastic chairs and tables and glammed up guests.
Don’t miss the shrimp tartare, it’s probably the best you’ll have in your entire life.
Not far from Ù Trusciu, you’ll find Cantine Marco de Bartoli, a winery estate where you can go for a wine tasting of their incredible passito and marsala.
The final stop of our Pantelleria tour is Balata dei Turchi, a stunning bay at the southernmost reach of the island. Getting to the bay is an adventure but you’ll be amazed by a remarkable landscape: solidified lava flows down to sea surrounded by soaring cliffs up to 300 metres above sea level. Balata dei Turchi is also one of the most popular diving spots.
You can’t leave the island without a boat tour and a dive in the deep blue open sea or in one of the many caves only accessible from the water. Don’t miss the Arco dell’Elefante, a natural rock formation that looks like an elephant taking a big swig of the Mediterranean. The ultimate picture postcard of Pantelleria.
To round off this beautiful journey, spend the night at Tenuta Borgia, the lush, 30-acre property consisting of seven ancient dammusi where Guadagnino shot A Bigger Splash.