Palms in a courtyard, Palermo
Well, hello there. Fancy seeing you here! I must say it’s been a while. What have you been up to? Tell me…
Well, juggling about a million projects and building up those air miles! If I never saw Charles De Gaulle Terminals 2D, E and G again I’d be a very happy man. Modern travelling requires that you plan your outfit prior to your departure:
– What shoes to wear? The Acnes have those lovely metal bits on the shoelaces that set off the scan. Mmmmm, will most probably have to take them off. Which brings me to the sub-question:-
– What socks to wear? Make sure they’re decent (its almost like going on that first date where you’re hopeful that something might happen later, not that you’re that kind of girl but you never know what state of mind you’ll be in after a few too many GT’s, so best to prepare and pop on the “shag pants”, just in case.)
– Do I pack the shoe horn in my hand luggage just in case there isn’t one available? Those Acnes do need breaking in and thus require some amount of effort to put on. Decisions…
– Fuck it. Just go for the all white, All Star Converses then.
– What about beltage? Not the Margiela’s then. Those beautifully hefty buckles…
See what I mean? It’s hard work. And that’s before we get to what I refer to as Traveller’s Waltz, that pre-security striptease that separates the men from the boys, the experienced traveller from the novice. Simultaneously sliding off belt and jacket whilst elegantly urging hand luggage forwards with a gentle kick-push. All this done with the swanlike grace of Naomi Campbell doing one of her notorious nineties catwalk turns…
Ah ya yay! Drama!
Anyway, I digress. I went on a proper holiday for the first time in years this summer. After much umming and ahhing we decided on Sicily — a week in Palermo and the Gulf of Castellamare followed by a week on the island of Pantelleria, which is part of the Sicilian province of Trapani and is the closest point between Italy and Africa, sort of bang in the middle between Sicily and the coast of Tunisia.
More on Dirty P ,as I like to refer to Palermo later. For now, let us focus our gaze on that other P — Pantelleria.
Languidly stretched out in what seems to be a perpetual sunbathe, gentle waves lapping at her feet and cool winds providing the occasional respite from the scorch, Pantelleria is quite small and it takes about forty five minutes to travel around it by car. The island is all that remains of a sunken volcanic rift resulting in a starkly beautiful landscape of rolling rivers crumbly black lava rock, vivid cactus greens and an endless oceanic stretch of azure. Exotic and strangely lunar.
We stayed in what is called a “dammuso” — traditional huts crafted out of local volcanic rock that belie the north African influence — that overlooked the spectacular Lago Specchio di Venere, a huge saltwater thermal lake in a now-dormant crater. Its a jaw dropping sight the first time you see it, a turquoise disc glimmering in the sun. The lake is also famous for mud bathing – i fanghi . Slathering yourself in the dark, pungent, nutrient-rich clay and sunning yourself until you resemble a not-so-lithe Giacometti sculpture is at once hilarious and deeply soothing.
You will eat well. Very, very well. The local capers are a revelation when paired with tomatoes, potatoes, onion and olive oil. You will also sleep well. The island’s hard to reach location and lack of any real beaches means that it isn’t a tourist trap. Not, perhaps, ideal for a young family but perfect for a group of friends or couples looking to get some QT.
So, if you want to totally switch off, read a few books and recharge your batteries its definitely worth the visit. Oh, and you might get to spot Giorgio Armani going for a stroll in the town centre — he is one of the many celebrities that have summer homes there, attracted by its splendid isolation.