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Introducing Pantelleria

This volcanic outcrop is Sicily’s largest offshore island, although it lies closer to Tunisia than it does to Sicily. Buffeted by winds, even in August, the island is characterised by jagged lava stone, low-slung caper bushes, dwarf vines, steaming fumaroles and the Bagno dell’Aqua (Lago di Venere) mud baths near Bugeber. Near Siba, at the summit of Montagna Grande (836m), there are also steaming natural saunas, Stufa del Bagno di Arturo.

The island is more famous for its secluded coves, which are perfect for snorkelling and diving. The northeastern end of the island provides the best spots with a popular acquacalda at Gadir. Here you can while away your day wallowing like a walrus in the hot, shallow springs. Further down the coast you will find ever more scenic spots such as Cala di Tramontana and Cala di Levante. Boat excursions are available at the dock; contact Minardi Adriano (0923 91 15 02; Via Borgo Italia 5; per person €25) for day trips.

The only archaeological site on the island is at Mursia, where the remnants of sesi (ancient funerary monuments) are the only remaining evidence of a Bronze Age settlement. Many of the tombs have been destroyed and the lava rock was used to build the famous dammusi (houses with thick, whitewashed walls and shallow cupolas). The exotic and remote atmosphere of Pantelleria has long made it a favourite with celebrities from Truman Capote to Madonna and Giorgio Armani, who has his own dammusi here.

There is a small tourist office (0923 91 18 38; www.pantelleria.com; Piazza Cavour; 9.30am-12.30pm & 5.30pm-6.30pm Mon-Sat, 9-11am Sun) in the corner of the Municipal Hall.