On the “roof” of Pantelleria there is also the forest. The path, which climbs from Sibá, climbs for a long time between dry stone walls and thorns, and then crashes into a cool stone oak. A few minutes more, between the cyclamen and the moss-covered boulders, leads to the ridge of the Montagna Grande, which culminates at 835 meters. The views from here sweep over the rocky promontories of the Arco dell’Elefante and Punta Spadillo and the terraces where capers and vines have been cultivated for centuries. A path with a stretch carved into the rock goes down to the Grotta dei Briganti, which empties into a lava rock. “Here they hid for centuries to escape the danger that came from the sea. In the sixteenth century, men, women, and children fled from the raids of the Barbary pirates. After the unification of Italy, young people hid to escape military service“Explains Piergiacomo Bianco, who left Puglia to work here as a guide.
Montagna Grande, descent on the fireproof slope, photo SA
Sonia Anelli, Director of PN Isola di Pantelleria
Punta Spadillo, signs, photos SA
Dammuso at the foot of Mount Gibele, photo SA (2)
Cala Cottone, walkers, photo SA
Balata dei Turchi, photo SA
Arco dell’Elefante, photo SA
Montagna Grande, forest, photo SA
Lake Venus, photo SA
Park guides to Grotta dei Briganti, photo SA
All islands are special and Pantelleria is more than others. Gabriel García Márquez described her as a “sunset of volcanic rocks“, surrounded by a”eternal sea“. Over the centuries, Phoenicians and Romans, Byzantines and Arabs have passed here, then the Bourbons, united Italy, World War II bombs. After the return of peace, tourism arrived, which discovered the intense blue of the sea, the seabed, the skilful architecture of the dam museum, the fortress houses of the local farmers and the “Pantelleria Gardens”, which protect the citrus fruits from the sun. For some time now, the island has chosen to give a different picture of itself.
“Pantelleria National Park was born six years ago to facilitate recovery after a devastating fire. It protects 6560 hectares, 80% of the island’s surface. We work to create a better environment also for the residents, to attract visitors all year round, to create jobs“explains Sonia Anelli, from Parma, the first woman to manage an Italian national park.
THAT hundred kilometers of trails and paths cleared of vegetation of the park, CAI and Sicilian forestry, and indicated by signposts, by signs and on a free distribution card, is one of the first results of this work. 52 guides have been trained and some of them have come from far and wide. Besides Piergiacomo, from Puglia, Matteo, who comes from Friuli, Bruno, who left Varese, Maria Rita and Damiano, who traveled south from Palermo, accompanied me through forests, fumaroles and dammusi. It is an infectious passion, for many of their customers come from Emilia, Trentino, Germany and France.
Small rental cars are usually used to explore Pantelleria’s winding streets. Some adventurous visitors prefer a motorcycle or scooter. The trails allow you to continue where the wheels stop, towards the most spectacular places on the island. From the lighthouse of Punta Spadillo you look out over coves and seabeds known to divers, from Rakhali and from Salto la Vecchia you go down to Balata dei Turchi, a landing guarded by a lava rock. The Mirror of Venus, the only freshwater pool on the island, offers a sweeter atmosphere.
Trails between nature and history touch the Sesi (“nuraghen” in Pantelleria), the Roman and Phoenician Acropolis, the “natural sauna” in Benikulà, a cave heated by a steam discharge, the crater on Mount Gibele. Unfortunately, the Barbacane Castle, which houses the Archaeological Museum, and the giant (330-meter) underground hangar built in the 1930s to house Mussolini’s fighters and bombers are closed to visitors.
Pantelleria can be reached by air all year round from Palermo, Trapani or Catania, and in summer also by direct flights from other Italian airports, ferries depart from Trapani and Marsala. On the side www.parconazionalepantelleria.it you will find the hiking guides’ contact information and you can download descriptions and tracks of the marked routes. Pantelleria Island Consortium, www.pantelleriaisland.itoffers accommodation at all levels and packages for CAI sections and other groups of hikers. In all seasons you need a good supply of water and solid footwear, because the tracks and paths are mostly rocky.
The ring of Punta Spadillo and Cala Cottone
(80 meters in height, 1.30 hours, E)
This beautiful ring starts from the parking area (48 meters) in Punta Spadillo, which can be reached from Perimeter Road. A few minutes on a gravel road, between lava peaks, leads to the park’s volcanological museum and the Punta Spadillo lighthouse, flanked by ancient bunkers. You follow a paved road (track marker 973), touch a fence that houses some Pantelleria donkeys, touch a large pond, and come into view of some houses. On the left (path 973A) you go down to the sea at Cala Cottone. Go back, turn right onto an unmarked path (“coastal path”), and continue along the edge of the cliff to Punta Spadillo.
From Punta Spadillo to Lake Venus and Pantelleria
(ascent 140 meters, descent 190 meters, 3 hours, T)
This route also starts from Punta Spadillo, which should be reached by bus. From the museum and the lighthouse, follow the path (track marker 973), which goes down to Laghetto delle Ondine, bypasses Cala Cinque Denti and reaches Perimeter Road. Follow it downhill, then go down to Specchio di Venere (or Bagno dell’Acqua). You walk around it, go up the trail signs 980, cross a ridge (75 meters) and continue among the Khaddiuggia houses. The route goes around the airport, touches the houses of San Marco and reaches the Acropolis (110 meters), with walls and cisterns built by Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans. A final descent, at the end of the asphalt, leads to the capital and the port.
Montagna Grandes ring
(altitude difference 600 meters, 4.30 hours, E)
The best way to climb Big Mountain starts from Sibá’s houses (326 meters), which can be reached from Bukkuram or Scauri. After signposted 971, walk up between fields and dry stone walls to a picnic area. Go up into the woods to the ridge of the Montagna Grande (825 meters), and go right (path sign 971A) towards a stone building with sacred images, a dammuso and the entrance to the Grotta dei Briganti, where you enter with the help of a rope. Go back to the top, walk around the military facility and walk down a wide fireproof runway. At a crossroads turn right (track sign 972) and down into the woods overlooking Mount Gibele up to a gravel road (556 meters). It continues in the woods and then in the open air and touches two large dry stone buildings. After a stop at Favara Grande (380 meters), a fumarole surrounded by boulders, turn right and continue (path sign 975) overlooking the Valle di Monastero towards the “dry bath” of Benikulà and the starting point.
From Rekhale to Kuddia Attalora and Balata dei Turchi
(680 meters in height, 5 hours, E)
This route, in the extreme southern part of the island, reaches Balata dei Turchi, a natural landing site guarded by a high crumbling rock wall. From Rekhale’s houses (206 meters) walk up (path sign 979, then 979A) to Kuddia Attalora (558 meters). Go back, turn right at three intersections, and reach Perimeter Road at the beginning of a track, paved and then land, which goes down to the sea. Follow it halfway up, overlooking Punta Limarsi, go right at a crossroads and reach Balata dei Turchi where you can swim. Go up the same route, turn left at an intersection and walk up a steep path (track sign 976) to the square Salto la Vecchia. On the Perimeter Road and then along the country roads you return to the starting point.