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Pantelleria (TP)

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Pantelleria (Trapani Province) is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. The town is a commune of the province of Trapani, latitude north 36 50' longitude east 0 31', 110 km from Sicily, area 83 sq km, coast-line 51.5 km, provincial roads 40 km, local roads 138 km; max. alt 836 m, (Montagna Grande), alt. Pantelleria town 5 m, population 7,442, post-code 91017, tel. 0923. Economy: Agriculture (vineyards and wines, capers), tourism.

Although the sea around the island abounds in fish, few of the inhabitants work as fishermen. The fish are caught by the great fleets from Mazara del Vallo.

Most of the grapes produced by the vines are used for wine-making. The local capers, which are grown in hundreds of tons, have become world-famous and provide a considerable source of income. The quality of the agricultural produce is due to the island's volcanic nature.

Montagna Grande, 826 m, was one of the oldest eruptions and itself provided volcanic material completing the island. Monte Gibele, 700 m, has kept its crater-shaped peak. Monte Cuddia Attalora, 560 m, has created an extraordinary lava landscape. There is still minor volcanic activity on the island at the favare (hot springs).

The island is humid, but there is little rain. There is, however, a continuous wind blowing nearly every day, either the northwest maestrale wind or the scirocco from Africa, which does not help the island's agriculture (vineyards, wine, capers) which with tourism, especially in summer, is the island's greatest source of income.

The wild vegetation consists of Mediterranean maquis and steppe (heath and graminaceous grasses), garriga (rosemary) and woodland (cluster-pine and Aleppo pine) covering about 1500 hectares; there are hundreds of species of plants.

Pantelleria was already inhabited in the Neolithic period: at Mursia there are traces of a boundary wall and a village; there were also some mysterious constructions, called Sesi, in dry stone and circular in form, probably used as burial grounds. Just one remains.

In the early historical period, its position in the Mediterranean certainly led to its being used first by Phoenician and then by Carthaginian merchants, until it was first taken by the Romans in 254 BC and again in 217 BC.

The Romans called the island Cossyra. Remains of buildings and mosaic floors testify to the presence of the Romans until the late Imperial age.

The attribution to the Carthaginian period of some walls in the San Marco and Santa Teresa localities seems unjustified; there are, however, other items (a small female head, jewels, necklaces, coins and an aryballus - in the Palermo Archaeological Museum), which indicate a long period of settlement by the Phoenicians, albeit not in great number.

After the Romans, the island was conquered by the Vandals, the Byzantines, the Arabs and finally the Normans, who annexed it to Sicily in 1113. The Arabs called in Bent el rion ("daughter of the wind", an apt name).

For centuries the island was a corsairs' paradise and it was repeatedly sacked; it was also pillaged, very savagely, by the Turks in 1550 and again in 1553.

Of interest: castle Barbacane; old town which was destroyed by Allied bombs in WWII; Lago or Specchio di Venere (Lake or Pool of Venus), 1800 m in circumference, 615 m long, 425 m wide, and the villages of Tracino and Khamma, where there is a church built in the 18th century in the shape of a dammuso (the local style of house).; arco con la proboscide di elefante (elephant trunk arch); Pantelleria can be reached by ferry from Trapani or by air; the airport is at Margana.

Churches (Mazara del Vallo Diocese) include the following:

SS. Salvatore
S. Francesco D'Assisi (Kamma - suburb of Pantelleria)
S. Gaetano (Scauri - suburb of Pantelleria)

Links to other sites about Pantelleria include:

Sicilian Net
Sicily Web
Italian Wikipedia
Italian Towns
Italian Postal Codes

My latest book on CD is titled Sicily - A Reference for Researchers and is now available. With a file for each town (plus many other files), it relates the history of Sicily as reflected in the photos, records and festivals of its towns. It contains over 2500 text and photo files and can be ordered at CD order.

Order Italy Kathy Kirkpatrick

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© Kathy Kirkpatrick 2002-2008