Description of the main geographical, historical and cultural aspects
The island of Pantelleria is placed in the Strait of Sicily, between Europe and Africa, almost dividing Mediterranean Sea in two parts. Its privileged geographical position, in the middle of millenary navigations and traffics, made it a landing place for ancient civilizations and a land, where the nature of the two continents merge in plants, animals and landscapes that seem to sum up the best elements of the two Mediterranean shores. The island is nearer to Africa than to Europe: it is only 70 km far from Bon Cape in Tunisia, while it is 102 km far from Granitola Cape in Sicily. The outline of local architecture, flora and toponymy clearly testify this closeness. From the sea is possible to appreciate the sweet lines of the island’s coasts and the unique contour of a Vulcan (the Big Mountain) that reaches a height of 836 meters, extends for 51 km of coast and has an area of 83 square km, being the third Minor Italian Island after Elba and Sant’Antioco.
Pantelleria’s historical events started in a very remote past and developed till today, mostly around the military and commercial interest deriving from the geographical position.
The military history, made of dominations and incursions, hides a more peaceful, but equally heroic history of people forced to farm impervious and rocky soils in order survive.
Since the 5th millennium b.C. the island was known for its repositories of obsidian, the volcanic rock with sharp edges used to make knives, gravers, scrapers, arrowheads that was the most important good of prehistoric trades.
In the first centuries of the second millennium, during the bronze age, the island was dwelled by people who settled on Cimillia hills, near Mursia, which left us the megalithic tombs (known as sesi) as an evidence of its might. In later times, with Phoenicians, the island became a trade port between Africa and Sicily, and than, with Carthaginians and than with Romans it tuned in a strategic harbour for the military control of Sicily Canal.
Subsequently it has been dominated by Vandals and Byzantines and by Arabian till 1221.
The foundation of Pantelleria Castle goes back to the Byzantine period: it has been the walled-in city’s bulwark till the mid last century. In 1361, after Angioinian domination, Pantelleria has been released as a fief to Emanuele Doria; here started the island’s longest dark age, that lasted till 1845. The end of the feud (1845) marked the beginning of a new prosperity era, during which also the furthest quarters’ fields, already deforested for life-support economy, have been terraced.
Traditional events in the territory
Pantelleria’s social organization bears down on the family. Still in the first decades of the past century every social relationship took place in the dammuso (a typical farm) and there where few chances to go out and meet other families’ members. These rare occasions were solely represented by holy days or civil feasts. Among the religious rites, a very important event is the procession in honour of Madonna of Margana. This procession, with a massive participation from all the hamlets, takes place twice a year: the last Sunday of May Our Lady’s painting is brought from the Mother Church to the Sanctuary of Margana hamlet, while the last Sunday of October the it goes back to Pantelleria city centre.
Another important religious event takes place on the 16th of October in honour of Saint Fortunato, the patron saint. It consists in a boat procession up to the harbour, where people douse wreaths into the sea.
On the occasion of San Giuseppe Feast, on the 19th of March, an altar is set and enriched with holy statues and natural gifts: fruit, bread, flowers, etc…
Among civil feasts, carnival is surely the most involving; that’s why clubs are very important for Pantelleria community’s social life.
Other religious rites are celebrated in honour of Saint Giovanni and in honour of Saints Pietro and Paolo. These feasts preannounce summertime and consist in a series of games and competition till sunset.
Particularly successful was “a cursa di scecchi” (a donkey-race), that took place all around “Specchio di Venere” Lake’s perimeter at mid-August holiday.
Description of local Products
Pantelleria’s gastronomy is affected by the different influences the several people who dominated the island left.
There are excellent bitter ravioli, stuffed with ricotta cheese and mint leaves, and the fragrant Pantelleria pesto, a top dressing prepared with raw tomato, olive oil, garlic, basil and hot pepper.
From near Africa comes the fish-based couscous, always enriched with a variety of vegetables and generally served as a single course.
You can taste also the “ sciakisciuca”, a hot caponata (stewed vegetable dish) and the “cucurummà”, made with the savoury local squashes. From East comes the traditional Easter sweet called “ cannateddro”.
Traditionally Arabian is the “mustazzola”, a simple puff pastry stuffed with a seed corn dough, honey or mulled wine, cinnamon, candied orange peel and other spices.
Worth tasting are sweet ravioli filled with sugared ricotta cheese and cinnamon; “sfinci”, a sort of fritters coated with honey, or other typical sweets, called cassateddri and pasticciotti.
Some Popular Saying
A’u to’, vacci tu ( Sort it out by yourself )
A’u lagnusu, Ddiu l’aiuta (God always helps lazy persons )
A la Cannarola di l’invèrnu semu fora ( On Candlemas – the 2nd of February- we are no more in Winter)
A’ quartara chi và ad acqua o si rumpi o si ciacca ( An amphora full of water breaks or is damaged)
A ruvìna ‘un c’è sparàgnu ( Ruin knows no restraint)
Amici e parènti ‘un ci cattari e un’ci vinniri nenti ( Never buy or sell things to friends and parents)
‘A campana fa dùmmi e dàmmi ( The bell makes “din” and “dan”: it means that you must both give and receive)
A’ megghiu parola è chiddra chi ‘un si dici ( The best word is the one you never say – when it’s a bad one)
Sentences from the book “ Io, tu e Pantelleria” (Me, you and Pantelleria) by Rosanna Gabriele
……….a little black cliff, a lonely paradise, worth discovering and loving.
Its charm lies in the sea, the wind, now breeze now storm, in the dry and black stones, in sunsets, in the green of its vineyards and mountain, in the arid yellow of a torrid summer’s drought, in the heat of the never-missing sun, in the changeable and different landscapes that one moment leave you dumbfounded, the next surprise or enchant you.………
A poetry from the book “Io, tu e Pantelleria” (Me, you and Pantelleria) by Rosanna Gabriele
Profumu dì lu mari
E di lu suli;
sapuri di lu sali
e di l’amuri;
rumuri di lu ventu,
abbagli tutta a’ genti
da’ tò via.
Mòddra comu l’erba
Chi ti nasci,
dura comu li petri
aùti e vasci,
seria e assai possenti,
mùstri la facci
duci e preputenti.
Tu cùrri supra
L’ondi da’ passioni,
vistata di lu nìviru
la tò biddrizza,
rinnènnula chiù vera,
e china di mistera.
Li ciuri ti ciaurinnu
Ed ogni pètra
Ti vesti di coluri
e li tò cùddii
cu tutti ‘ddri ciancàti,
ti dùnnu chiddri grazi
du’ mari irrequietu
cummògghia tutti ‘i petri
‘nta so’ luci
e joca cu
li raggi di lu suli,
chi dùnnu vita
a chiddru chiTu dùni. The perfume of your sea
Of your sun;
The taste of your salt
And of love;
The sound of your wind
That prunes you,
You dazzle so many wandering
Soft like the grass
That grown in you,
Hard like the high and low
serious and powerful,
you show your face
sweet and overbearing.
You run over
The waves of passion,
Dressed with the black
So making it truer,
And full of mystery.
Flowers perfume you
And each stone
Dresses you with colours
As a bride,
With all those slopes
Lend you the graces
An then the blue
Of the restless sea
Covers your stones
In the light
And plays with the rays
Of your sun,
All the things that you give