Behind a seemingly hostile façade, the volcanic nature of Pantelleria hides incredible resources. Stone has been used since ancient times as a working tool and has been essential to the islanders’ daily lives and activities: transported to become drystone walls used for the traditional terracing, transformed with sacrifice and commitment, as well as being shaped into the traditional “Pantescan” homes, the dammuso.
It is such an extraordinary experience living in a dammuso, in an environment that takes you back to secular traditions and rhythms of daily life. Immersed in an environment filled with charm and natural beauty, from the turquoise sea to the green vineyards, the caper and olive fields, the majestic mountain overlooking the island, the traditional terracing with drystone walls and so much more…
Its sustainability becomes architectural with in this structure, unique in its kind, where locally quarried stone has been used in a way that integrates them into the landscape. The dammuso of Arabic origins has a cubic base covered by a dome shaped roof, which gives its name to this kind of dwelling. In fact, the name dammuso comes from the Sicilian word “dammusu” meaning “vault” or “intrados”.
Adjoining rooms are built in the same shape as the central structure. The thick walls of these houses insulate them, keeping the rooms cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The dammuso is divided into the following rooms: la kammara (the living room); the private arkova (bedroom) and sometimes having also a cammarino (a smaller bedroom). Other typical interior elements are the casena, the pinnata (roof with the cannizzo made of canes) and the passiaturi (a type of open-air corridor that connects the rooms to one another). Often the oven is located in a space adjacent to the dammuso, or in an exterior room designated kitchen. The particular shape of the rounded roofs is a masterpiece of architectural and engineering work, conceived above all for the collection and canalization of rain water into the cisterns which are situated in close proximity to the dammuso (average annual precipitation is approximately 35 mm).
Outdoors, the enchanting panoramic Pantescan views, luxuriant vegetation coupled with an exotic nuance given by the presence of palm trees, complements the magnanu (the vegetable garden), the ajra (the courtyard) that was used for threshing grain, and stennituri (the dryer-room) used for drying grapes, figs and tomatoes. Last but not the least important part of the house is “U Jardinu” (the Pantescan garden), which is enclosed by 4 meter high drystone walls, designed to protect citrus plants from strong winds, safeguarded and nurtured through the generations.
Nature’s Guardian: The Pantescan garden
Like a mystical and sacred place, a citrus tree grows in solitude inside a Pantescan garden as if it were an offering to nature. The main entrance to the Jardinu (the garden) is accessible through a small gate, so small you need to bend over forcing the visitor to bow in front of the tree and nature’s beauty.
Behind 4 metre high walls, pitched inwardly, is the symbol of the perseverance of the “islanders” in taming the elements while respecting and safeguarding them through the generations. Like a magnificent treasure chest, inside the winter garden there is the perfect microclimate helping to protect the tree from winds that blow nearly all year round and from drought.
It is impossible to live Pantelleria without having your gaze drawn at least once to its drystone walls, yet further proof of the “islanders’” constant hard work to create the ideal environment for their crops.
A labour of real subtraction and at the same time of restitution to the land: built from the rough stones extracted from the soil to improve it. The walls contain the hill and mountain slopes, creating the terracing that is ideal for cultivating, becoming at the same time welcoming places for their colours and scents of the Mediterranean maquis. A simple and happy expression of the perfect union between humans and nature named Pantelleria.