Our first full day (yesterday) was pretty magical. It started with meditation and yoga. We did our session outside in the Piazza Azzuro, the constant wind flipping our mats and reminding us of how alive we are. The sound of the sea so loud, a constant companion. The freshest air continuously prompts us to breathe in fully. I love doing yoga outdoors here. The air smells like a blend of parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, eucalyptus, and sea!! I know, that seems impossible, but I don’t think I am exaggerating here! This place is impossibly beautiful and smells divine. Our senses are alive here. I looked up “shades of blue” to find the word to describe the color of blue sky here: Palatinate blue I am so thrilled there is word to describe this color since, somehow, I can’t scan in any photos! The temperature was really pleasant and it got warmer as the day went on.
Yoga was followed by breakfast. Erminia’s aunt makes the most scrumptious breakfast tarte with zibbibo grapes (the local grapes from which the passito is made). That with hard boliled eggs, local cheeses (la tuma, il primo sale), fresh fruit, blood orange juice (the blood oranges come from the island), bread rolls, yogurt, and, of course, rich Italian coffee more than jump starts our day!
Tonino, our guide, arrived at 10 am sharp and we went on our land tour of the island. Cliffs, bays, dark green thick lece trees, dwarfed vineyards, orange, and lemon orchards, dwarfed olive orchards and pomegranate trees are some of what we saw. All the fruit trees are bonsai-ed to keep them low to the ground and safe from the wind. Stones are tied to the ends of branches to train the trees to grow low to the ground. Sometimes the trees have these gigantic trunks and the foliage looks like a fluted skirt. We saw an 800 year old olive grove and we also saw a 2000 year old olive tree that was encircled in a Pantescan garden. The Pantescan garden (il giardino pantesco) is a perfectly round enclosed lava rock wall about 8 feet tall made to protect the precious fruit trees, including this ancient olive tree, from the winds. We also saw caper plants growing wild all over the island. Pantelleria is the largest exporter of capers. If you have eaten capers, 90% chance they have come from this island.
When Rebecca and Mary were boarding their flight to Pantelleria from Rome, the ticket agent said to them, “Pantelleria! You are going to Paradise!” Rebecca imitates the guy really well! Read that with a thick Italian accent and you crack up! And then they encountered other Italians who were clueless at to where this magical spiritual island is. We are in a very remote unique island. When Italians know of this island, they usually say, “Ah, Pantelleria. C’e la casa di Giorgio Armani.” Yes, Armani’s house is not far from us, here in Cala Tramontana.
Highlights of the tour: visit to a cave sauna, perhaps unique in the world, reached by an old Roman road that Julius Caesar walked on (because he also came to this natural sauna!), visit to Calypso’s cave where Ulysses got shipwrecked and where we went to the hot springs and swam in the sea!, visit to the Byzantine tombs of 800 A.D which were carved in the live stone and where MaryAnn sang a Russian song devoted to her mother and which brought tears to our eyes, a stop for lunch at Tonino’s dammuso. There we ate pasta with a Pantescan tomato sauce made with fennel, capers, and currants, fish. We also had a tomato and red onion salad, bread, grapes, etc etc. And later,while driving down winding roads, passing cliffs, sea, white vaulted-roofed lava walled dammusi, low growing olive groves, Tonino sang, with his fabulous voice, “Mamma”. Wow!
As mentioned above, for some reason, I am not able to download any photos, so that will have to wait for my return!
Back at our dammusi, we did afternoon yoga followed by the most amazing dinner. Rina and Erminia made one of the island’s specialites: ricotta filled ravioli served with a tomato sauce. That was followed by a zucchini frittata, plus another dish which had two very thin layers of frittata sandwiching a thick layer of spinach and mozarella (I could have eaten this alone and be happy for 10 days), and oven baked eggplant discs coated in bread crumbs and almonds. All this followed by ricotta stuffed cannoli! Needless to say, it takes extreme discipline not to over stuff yourself here!!!
Tonino said the funniest thing. He was telling us how the Pantescan people have immigrated all over the world and have made home in parts of Great Britain, Europe, Africa, North America, and Australia. “We Pantescans are like parsley.” Parsley? I didn’t think I heard correctly, so I asked him to repeat himself. “Si!!”, he said, “Parsley.” I laughed and asked him what he meant by that and he explained, “You know, parsley grows everywhere! And we are like that. We take root where ever we are and we live!” I love that analogy! It is so Sicilian. I want to be like parsley!