The wild, windswept volcanic island of Pantelleria, Italy, — known as the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean — marries beach and mountain vacations like few other places can, with its hot springs of thermal waters on the Big Mountain and unspoiled crystal-blue-green sea waters that beckon sailors and sun worshippers.
It’s beautiful and savage, and attracts travelers looking to relax and unwind from the hustle and bustle of life.
It’s the island on which Ulysses spent seven years loving the nymph Calypso — or so legend has it.
And I doubt you can get a bad meal here.
Surprisingly, Pantelleria is not a fisherman’s island. It’s a hunter’s island, with rabbit as the staple meat. But over the past decade or so, the “Panteschi,” as island residents are called, have embraced seafood and all the joys that hail from the ocean, and fish-based meals grace a growing number of restaurant menus.
The island is famous for its capers, which once grew wild but now are cultivated and make up a leading part of the island’s agriculture and its dishes. It’s the key ingredient in the pesto, and the celebrated Pantescan caper sauce drizzled over spaghetti or noodles.
Other primary ingredients in Pantescan cooking are almonds, tomatoes and olive oil. And wine. For drinking.
While the island is geographically closer to Tunisia than to Italy, much of its cuisine is Italian-influenced — it is an Italian island, after all. So wine is key. Be sure to sample the crisp, white wine made of the indigenous Zibibbo grape, and the sweet dessert wine “passito” (pronounced pah-see-toe), chilled of course, and produced from sun-dried Zibibbo grapes.
If good food abounds, breathtaking views overflow on the 32-square-mile volcanic Italian island.
One such spot is the Lake of Venus, situated in the crater of an extinct volcano. The lake attracts
tourists and locals because of its black-green mud, which they use to smear all over their bodies, which, once dried by the sun, leaves skin feeling baby soft to the touch. Granted, its sulfur smell is anything but pleasant, but the natural — and free — mud spa is touted as a therapeutic solution to pimples and rheumatism.
There are no sandy beaches on the island — which, by the way, has just one working stop light. Sunbathers cluster on craggy rocks and boulders looking for a smooth area to lay out a towel or thin mattress.
Boat excursions that circumnavigate the island are a popular way to take in the island’s varying rock formations — and frequent stops on the tour allow swimmers to jump in and swim in some truly pristine clear waters that envelop the beautiful, savage Black Pearl island in the Mediterranean.