Shared Meals and Private Coves on Pantelleria

An intimate retreat suspended between Italy and Africa, Parco dei Sesi steeps its guests in the island’s simple yet profound treasures.



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LIKE A TINY diamond in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, the Italian island of Pantelleria is suspended between two worlds that couldn’t be more different. Far closer to North Africa — Tunisia is just 38 nautical miles away, whereas Sicily is about 62 — the island is a favorite luxury getaway for a certain set of people who don’t have their first or second homes here, but more often their third or fourth.

You won’t find any sprawling beachfront resorts on the island, because there is almost no direct access to the sea. Beaches and small coves are reached by private boat from Pantelleria’s main harbor or by hiking down through the volcanic rocks to the water's edge.

Parco dei Sesi, a retreat more than a resort, sometimes doubles as an artists’ colony. If it seems like you’re staying in an archeological park, it’s because, well, you are. The property touches Sesi Park, which has stone structures dating back roughly 5,000 years to when the island was first inhabited. Guests can access the park at any time, while everyone else must abide by visiting hours and use a separate entrance. In front of the resort, a lava park offers hiking trails to the water, which is visible from the property.

Like almost every building on the island outside of the main villages, the Parco dei Sesi accommodations are made from dammuso dwellings, ancient stone habitats. In fact, sesi in the local dialect means “pile of stones,” although that does not adequately describe these intimate structures. The dammusi were built to support dome roofs from which water was caught and filtered before such utilities were more conveniently provided. The dwellings are naturally cool in the summer and warm in the winter and protect from the strong winds that often sweep over the island.



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Parco dei Sesi owner Massimiliano Panseca’s grandparents lived on this property, and he spent summers in the main dammuso as a child. His French wife, Margot Panseca, and he moved from Milan about five years ago to create a life away from computers, office work, and crowds. The couple set about conceptualizing bespoke areas for relaxation, sunset watching, socializing, and hiking. There are private coves and nooks all around the property, perfect for yoga, meditation, reading, or, in my case, writing. A central swimming pool surrounded by stone walls has views of the orchards and the sea beyond.


The property is only open during the summer months because it’s hard to access the island offseason, but Massimiliano and Margot and a number of cats live there year-round. “We spend the winter months renovating, creating, building, and improving the property,” Margot explained over a glass of biodynamic wine, as we sat perched with a view of the sea at sunset. On a clear day, Tunisia is visible from that spot. “We didn’t know what this place would mean to us when we left Milan, but now I can’t imagine any other lifestyle.”

The minimum stay is one week, in part because, as Massimiliano explains, it takes a day or two to truly unwind. Once you make your reservation, the Pansecas create an itinerary of customized experiences for you. It’s difficult to get around the island without some form of transportation, so they will help you rent cars, electric bikes, or scooters. Some of the island’s best sights include the Mirror of Venus lake, which is an old volcanic crater fed by geothermal springs, and a number of natural saunas inside deep caves. There are also underwater archeological areas and seaside thermal baths. Everything is a 20-minute drive since the full island is only 32 square miles.

Exploring Pantelleria — and even driving around to the sunrise side, as they call it — is worth the effort, but returning to the property to wander around or visit with other guests is what makes this such a special spot. The 13 suites are unique but follow a neutral color palette with a focus on natural materials and fabrics. One suite has a small indoor swimming pool and spa with a roof that doubles as a terrace from which you can stare the sun down into the deep blue sea. Another suite has upper bedrooms and kid-friendly spaces. The guest areas are joined by a central courtyard that serves as a natural gathering point.

Meals are served at communal tables — many visitors become lifelong friends after spending time together on the island. But it’s not obligatory to mingle. Some guests never even know there are others on the property. It is as easy to envision coming here alone as it is to toy with the idea of a romantic getaway. As much as I enjoyed exploring the island, I couldn’t wait to get back to Parco dei Sesi to see what was for dinner, who might be at the table, and what color the sunset would be over the sea.

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Barbie Latza Nadeau Writer

Barbie Latza Nadeau is an American journalist and author based in Rome since 1996. Her books include “The Godmother” about women in the mafia and “Angel Face” about the trials of Amanda Knox. Her work regularly appears in The Daily Beast, CNN, and Scientific American.

Depasquale+Maffini Photographer

Depasquale+Maffini is a photography duo specializing in interiors and architecture. Raised in Upstate New York and first trained by his father, Michael De Pasquale studied photography in London and Santa Barbara. After studying political science, Martina Maffini lived in Paris, Buenos Aires, and New York, where she met De Pasquale in 2011. Since then, they have shared their life and work. They are currently based between Paris and Milan and work with a select group of publications, interior designers, architects, and commercial clients.


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