So Close to Sicily, So Far From the Crowds

For years I had been hearing about the island of Pantelleria, the craggy, hard-to-get-to Eden with middle-of-nowhere tranquillity that sits 89 miles southwest of the island of Sicily and about 50 miles east of Tunisia. Luca Guadagnino’s 2015 film “A Bigger Splash” painted a seductive idyll of mud baths, romantic ruins and secluded swimming coves. Celebrities like Madonna, Sting and Julia Roberts visited, drawn to the striking, Africa-meets-Italy ambience, along with Giorgio Armani, a part-time resident since 1980. The fact that nobody was impressed by them added to the allure.

“We always tell newbies that you will either love it or hate it,” said the fashion stylist Sciascia Gambaccini, who has owned a vacation home on the island for 33 years. “This is not Capri. We don’t have Chanel. There aren’t fancy resort hotels. There is constant wind. The beauty is in the slow pace and the wild landscape.”

The island’s streets, like these in the town of Scauri, are narrow and best navigated in tiny, beat-up cars.

The absence of white-sand beaches is worn like a badge of honor. Locals schlep their own gear to the jagged lava rock perches that line the coast and cannonball into the turquoise sea. The old-fashioned pasticceria and dingy olive stalls in the town of Scauri, bestow it with “Godfather”-like charm.

And the wind, well, it’s part of the package. As locals will tell you, nature is in charge here, and when a sirocco hits, you have to go with the flow.

Ubiquitous lava stone dwellings called dammusi help give the island an otherworldly feel.
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