Pantelleria, Province of Trapani, Sicily

The island of Pantelleria, south-west at 85 km off Sicily, 70 km from Tunisia, going in altitude from the sea level to the summit of the Montagna Grande, an extinct crater, 836 m. a.s.l, occupies an area of 117 square km (45 sq. miles). The main centre is Pantelleria Town, on the north-west. Daily ferries and hydrofoils connect the island to Trapani, and planes fly in daily from Palermo and Trapani. There is a bus service around the island, and it is possible to hire a moped for a few days, which is a good way to visit.


  • Population: about 6,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code:
  • Frazioni & Localities: Scauri, Tracino & Kamma, Rekale.

The Territory

The island is fertile, but lacks fresh water. It is well known today as a tourist destination, as well as for the production of a typical wine called "Passito of Pantelleria". The strange volcanic landscape of lava slabs, small bays called "cale" and huge rocks in the sea (similar to the faraglioni of Capri) coexist side by side with human constructions as dry-stone walls, Arab-style gardens, the "dammusi" - houses in lava stone with white-domed roofs.

History - Antiquity

The island was always of great stratecic importance for the Mediterranean. The original inhabitants that built the Neolytic village came from Africa, and were of Iberian stock. The island probably remained uninhabited for long time, until the Carthaginians occupied it about the beginning of the 7th century BC, establishing their acropolis on the twin hill of San Marco and Santa Teresa, about a mile from the present town of Pantelleria. The Romans occupied the island in 255 BC, lost it again the next year, and recovered it in 217 BC. Under the Empire it served as a place of banishment for prominent persons.

History - the Middle Ages

In 700 the Christian population was annihilated by the Arabs, from whom the island was taken in 1123 by Roger of Sicily. In 1311 a Spanish fleet, under the command of Requesens, won a considerable victory here, and his family became princes of Pantelleria until 1553, when the town was sacked by the Turks.

History - Modern Times

Its capture was regarded as crucial to the Allied success in invading Sicily in 1943 due to the fact that it would allow more planes to be based in range of the larger island. Pantelleria was heavily hit in the days before the scheduled invasion by bombers and warships, and in the end the garrison surrendered as the landing troops were approaching. It became a vital base for Allied aircraft during Operation Husky.

What to see

  • The Specchio di Venere - a lake inside the crater of a former volcano.
  • The pretty vineyards in the Piano Ghiraldia at the far east end of the island.
  • The seaside hamlet of Gadir and its thermal pools.
  • 3 km (2 mi) south-east of the harbour, a neolithic village, with a rampart of small blocks of obsidian, about 25 ft (7.5 m) high, 33 ft (10 m) wide at the base, and 16 ft (5 m) at the top, with remains of huts, pottery, tools of obsidian, all preserved today are in the museum at Syracuse.
  • To the south-east, in the area known as the Cunelie, a large number of tombs, known as sesi, similar to the nuraghi of Sardinia, though smaller, consisting of round or elliptical towers with sepulchral chambers in them, built of rough blocks of lava.
  • 2 km (1 mi) south of the present town of Pantelleria, the Carthaginians acropolis, with remains of walls in rectangular blocks of masonry, and a number of cisterns. Punic tombs were also discovered, and votive terra-cottas in a small sanctuary of the Punic period were found near the north coast.

Where to stay