Sunday, November 12, 2017


This would be the final posting on Pantelleria's soaks, at least that's the intention.

All three remaining "soaks" are located on the west coast of Pantelleria. 
Starting north to south, heading out of Pantelleria village proper (well maybe it's a town) the first hot spring is that of Saturia, about half way down the west coast. 

The background concerning this soak is special. on Sataria:
'Legend has it that here is where Ulysses and Calypso loved eachother'.
'Recent studies have identified the cave as Homer’s ‘Calypso’s cave’ on the island of Ogygia'.

The context (Wikipedia):
'Calypso is remembered the most for her role in Homer's Odyssey, in which she attempts to keep the fabled Greek hero Odysseus on her island to make him her immortal husband. According to Homer, Calypso kept Odysseus prisoner at Ogygia for seven years,[6] while Apollodorus says five years[7] and Hyginus says one.[8] Calypso enchants Odysseus with her singing as she moves to and from, weaving on her loom with a golden shuttle. During this time they have sex together, although Odysseus soon comes to wish for circumstances to change'.
Sataria doesn't see much traffic in the sense of soakers apparently; there are at least very few parking spaces directly available on the perimentale road. Possibly a mismatch?

From these parking spaces it's down a long line of concrete stairs and you arrive at what at first looks like a tidal pool. But in the cliff side itself is a cave with what was presumably once a grander bathing affair complete with a booth for a ticket seller / life saver (?). See below:


A description of what to expect: the Rough Guide to Sicily (2017):
'... Sataria, where concrete steps lead down to a tiny square-cut sea-pool, ideal for splashing around in. In the cave behind are more pools where warm water bubbles through, reputed to be good for curing rheumatism and skin diseases: a handful of people can usually be found jumping from pools to sea. There’s room on the concrete apron around the pool to lay out a towel, and it’s the only place for kilometres around with any shade – a nice place to eat your picnic'. on Sataria:
'Sataria's thermal springs are found to the south-west along the perimetral road. Located in a little creek and hidden in a beautiful cave, it is one of the most interesting spots on the island. 
Here you will find pools of curative spring water that soothe arthritis and rheumatisms and you will be able to pass the whole day freely enjoying the beneficial effects of its waters'. :
'A natural cave by the sea, Grotta di Sateria offers three easily accessible covered pools, into which hot springs flow at a temperature of around 40°C'.
We venture on. 
On the far (and dark) side of the cave are a few pools from which the thermal waters emit. 
Alas, as I hadn't had the fortune to be blessed by the weather gods on my island visit, again the sea was in a sorry state and during the night it had flooded the entire cave, so the available waters were coolish and even the hotter pool was jam packed with seaweed. 

No one around though to spoil good dip, but if I had wanted to enter the tidal pool, I was in serious contention to be sucked out to sea.

Tripadvisor does have an entry on Sataria:
#3 of 3 Spas & Wellness in Pantelleria 
Based on 2 reviews (in Italian) it rates Sataria with 3 stars. One translation (ouch):

'I speak of a state of abandonment resounding with filth and stench of pee. It looks like a homeless dormitory. SHAME ON YOU'.
More info from the Pantelleriaguide website:
'The Sateria name comes from the Greek "Soter√¨a" and means a health cave'.  
Under sail
Heading further down the coast there is a hot spring in the port of the village of Scauri. 
I had asked around, but no one knew for sure where it was, so I decided not to scout the whole port area for what would have been an elaborate quest. 
It's there. 
There are a few references with little guidance, f.i. the earlier mentioned ViverePantelleria.

A couple hundred meters down from the port near La Vela restaurant, right under the cliff of Scauri village itself, is another minor (?) hot spring. 
Well, it was warm but not much flow. Nor much space. And tides washing in. A collectors item? 
Interesting though are the Byzantine ruins on the cliffs directly bordering the shorelined rocks (and hot spring). See Italian website visitpantelleria.

The location is also a foodies haven. La Vela is nice enough, higher up on the cliff La Nicchia is termed as the island's best (we beg to disagree) while next to the port is Altamarea,  another delight. 
Rough Guide on this hot spring:
'Scauri Porto is a wonderful place to while away summer days, with good swimming in the harbour, and two tiny hot pools just along the coast (5 min walk from la Vela)'.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


View northwards towards Lago di Venere from beyond Bugeber

The geothermal gem of the Italian Pantelleria is not at all located on it's coast where many of her hot springs are to be found, but inland in a former crater. 
And here, it's not necessarily the hot springs which are it's unique selling point. It's the setting, the hot springs just play a supporting roll. 

The near perfect circular inner cone is filled with milky waters and surrounded by greenery. Coming from the interior of the island, you'll see this setting with the backdrop of the Mediterranean behind it, a sight to see (above). 

Besides the setting, an added attraction of this site is the ability to offer visitors a near windless experience; Pantelleria is prone to winds such that the local economy has specialised in crops which stay low. Capers, creeping varieties of grapes and olives to name a few. Or using rock enclosures to make windless so-called Arabic Gardens. 
The distinct agriculture certainly adds to Pantelleria being a destination for foodies.

So on the many days with winds, the tourists flock to the lake to enjoy the sun and to swim. But they also lather themselves with mud and rinse this in the lake followed by a soak right on top of the many vents which are situated along the shore line. 

The lake is known as Lago di Venere (which translates as Lake of Venus) though also coined as Specchio di Venere (Mirror of Venus). Siciliamo (Jan. 4, 2011) explains: 
'Like so much of Sicily, Lago di Venere is the site of an ancient classical Greek legend  
The legend behind this place is that as the water was so strikingly blue and clear in its colour, it was used as the vanity mirror by the goddess of love, Venus.  She especially liked to compare the beauty of her reflection in the lake with that of her rival Psyche'. 
The crater in which the lake is situated is roughly 50-200m in depth while the circumference of the lake is somewhere around 1500m. The Lago is largely shallow, though the depth is noted to reach 12m. Despite the mountainous surroundings the lake itself is only just above sea level so seawater seepage is helping in adding to the salinity.
The shape of the lake could be circular, others would say oval, while a third train of thought prefers heart shaped. Suppose it's dependent on the level of the water.  

The shores are hardened mud, while just within the waterline mud depths can be considerable. Wading in to the water you might sink half a meter might into the mud.

Sunny days at the paradise ūüĆī#lagodivenere#pantelleria#hotwater#naturalspa#isoladipantelleria#magnificnature
The hot springs are located at the least accessible (though still a short stroll from parking areas) southern part of the lake and lie at a shallow depth just within the shore line. 
Finding them is obvious.  
The springs (40-50°C) are surrounded by collections of smaller rocks which act as an windbreak and contain the waters creating a heated pool. See the photo above.

e background can be found on this Italian website (with characteristics such as chemical composition etc.) of all Pantescan hot spring sites, a great find.

In contrast to other Pantescan attractions there's quite some info on Lago di Venere and it's hot springs. Viverepantelleria:
'Bugeber's Lake (or, Specchio di Venere – Venus' Mirror) is one of the jewels of the island. Its water sparkles like a light blue and green gemstone amidst a typical lush vegetation of endemic plants. Its waters occupy the crater of an extinguished volcano.
The residues of this volcanic activity heat the waters of what is now the most known and visited of the thermal springs of the island. The water of the lake is rich with soda, it is perfect for a healthy peeling of the skin. The temperature is very high and in some places bubbles may be seen on the surface. Mud to spread on the skin is found in these hottest places when the tide withdraws'.
Magoguide (2016):
'The Lake of Venus is a saline endoreic lake. That means it’s a lake where the water doesn’t flow out through an outlet but simply evaporates leaving behind all sorts of chemical deposits. Although it is fed to some extent through rainfall, this lake is primarily filled by a series of hot springs (as high as 132F or 56C) located on the South side. Because the underlying structure of the lake is pouris and very near sea level, sea water also seeps in and contributes to its salinity'.
Translated from gogotherme:
'The presence of thermophilous algae, which is resistant to high thermal water spring temperatures, is essential for the formation of the precious black-green-colored mud which, due to its intense concentration of sulfur, is spread on the skin by tourists for aesthetic purposes ( natural scrub)'.
Lakeside slash soakside is quite a vibrant place even though either visitors are occupied with the more mundane activities such as lumbering in the springs or mud drying on the shore.
Tripadvisor surprisingly concludes that it's both no. 1 (rated 4.5 stars from 764 reviews, >90% Italian) and no. 2 (4.5 stars from 274 reviews, >90% Italian) of things to do on Pantelleria, not recognizing that the slight differentiations in name actually concern the same site.  

Some first hand experiences. From a year ago from girlastray:
'The Lago di Venere (“Lake of Venus”) is probably the most stunning of the all natural wonders to be found here, with its salty hot waters shining a surprising shade of blue when the sun rises over it. Here, you can not only bath but also cover your skin with soft black mud, famous for its healing effect on eczematic skin. If you are a traveler with a nasty case of atopic eczema as myself, you will be happy to spend hours and days here! I felt like the world´s happiest pig rolling in this magical black mud just to see my skin get softer and smoother even after the first bath. Really, I can´t even think of enough praise words to describe the benefits of the mud although at first, it might feel strange to spread it all over yourself, taking into account the sulphuric smell rising from the springs! Sulphur contained in water, however, is just as fit to cure skin diseases as the mud itself. Thermal springs are also known for being a good cure to rheumatism'.
Note the rocks along the shore: between lie the thermal springs with soakers in action.

The Daily Telegraph (11 Feb. 2016):
'But if that doesn’t sound too appealing, think again, as the Specchio di Venere (“Mirror of Venus”) – a heart-shaped lake in a volcanic crater, fed by rainwater and hot springs, and of a colour that modulates from emerald to aquamarine to turquoise to deep blue – is both luxuriously self-indulgent and gratifyingly therapeutic. Slather on the mineral-rich mud, rinse off with a swim to the centre, and emerge, regenerated, with skin like velvet. Bring some water with you, and be aware that there’s no shade. Early mornings and evenings are the most atmospheric times (and the locals recommend a nocturnal dip under the full moon)'.
 Siciliamo (continued):
'People bathe in the lake and sometimes exfoliate themselves with the thermal mud as a beauty treatment while others swear by the healing powers of the lake.  My experience amazingly corresponded with this.  A week earlier I had a minor motor scooter accident on another Sicilian island, Ustica, off the coast of Palermo.  While I was largely unhurt, the accident left deep gashes and cuts to my leg.  I immersed myself in Lake Venus the day I arrived in Pantelleria and covered my skin with the volcanic mud that is to be found on one side of the shore.  After an hour or so, I stood up to walk further into the lake in order to wash off the mud.  When I returned to shore I noticed the scars and the deep cuts on my leg had almost healed.  Where there had once been a deep scar and crusty surface before, now there was a small mark that resembled an old wound that had almost healed.  It was almost as if my accident had occurred three months earlier and my scar had all but healed. I don't know what are the chemical properties that make up the thermal mud found in Lago Specchio di Venere, but I am sure that if a company had the rights to bottle and sell the mud, they would be sitting on the rights to "The Fountain of Youth".  I know I would buy a lifetime's supply - and maybe more!  In fact, I am sure there must be a natural cosmetic beauty company doing this now.  I will research and report back to the Blog.  Stay tuned future immortals'.
Magoguide (continued):
'This lake is hugely popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s the only place on the island with a soft, white, sandy beach. On a windy or cool day when it’s impractical to go to the shore areas for bathing, the beaches on the lake can get packed. And it’s not unusual to see folks slathering on the mud from the lake which is thought to have therapeutic value. Madonna did it.
As it's a very special place, we ended up coming here more often. As said, there's little wind, warmer waters, soaking and it's an easy circular walk around the Lago. Enough to occupy yourself for a couple of hours.

A typical visit would entail a swim followed up by slathering on mud, letting this dry, rinse and soak. The amounts of mud seem unlimited. The shore line provides ample sunbath space (maybe too much = there's no shade) though concerning the soaking possibilities these require a bit more planning. 
The hot springs are not deep, so for a good soak one lies down which means space is at a premium. However note that the springs are very localised, so you'll have a cool head, a burnt back, frigid thighs, while you toes have turned red.
The Lago di Venere forms part of Riserva Naturale Orientata which is part of the province of Trapani Nature Reserve:
'The Mirror of Venus is frequented by a lot of water fowls such as Ducks, Limicolous, different species of Herons and Flamingos. Sometimes you can also find Great crested grebe, Cranes, Storks and Spoonbill, recognizable by their peculiar peak. The Blue tit is an endemic species of the island. You can see it near the Montagna Grande'.
It also explains the lack of development and thus the more or less pristine nature of the lake itself. Let's hope that tourism is regulated such as to not threaten nature itself. 
On a side note, on the occasions we were here, there were hardly any birds to be seen.

Magoguide (continued) notes that there's more to the surroundings:
'In recent years there have been archeology excavations near the lake, unearthing a temple along the Northeast shore of the lake possibly built as early as the 9th century BC by the Phoenicians (Morgan thinks to the Phoenician goddess Astarte) and later taken over by the Romans and dedicated to Venus. Pretty cool'.
As said the area lends itself as a good base for walking. A stroll around the lake is little effort while extending this with walking a trail over the crater lip requires more effort, but deems better rewards.
Heading towards the coast one can pick up on trails surrounding Punta Spadillo, whereby one can for instance visit the Museo Vulcanologico, a museum dedicated to the geological past of the island as well as the role it played during WW II (on the front line).  
Tripadvisor puts a visit to the museum as no. 18 of 27 of things to do on Pantelleria awarding it 4.5 stars based on 27 reviews, none of which are English. We found it an interesting break.

Head inland there's a beautiful track heading up to the village of Bugeber from where one can continue inland into the mountainous and forested interior of Pantelleria with more challenging trails, for hours of rambling.

Magoguide describes another walk, the website has good map material:
'One of our favorite hikes on the island follows an ancient path that can be reached along the Northeast shore. Just follow the shore with the lake on your left and you’ll see signs towards Gelfiser right after the beach ends. Although it’s a long, uphill climb, the views of the Gelfiser lava flow are beautiful. You eventually descend into a little valley that has yet more WWII barracks and guard stations, strategically placed to protect the airport which isn’t far away. If you keep following the path, you’ll see signs on your left that point you towards the Gelfiser lava flow that you can crawl all over if you like'.

Other info I've been able to delve up: there are (annual) horse races which are held every August and concern racing around the lake.

Sense of belonging
As could be imagined, bathing in mud in swimmers is in itself not too bad, however rinsing somehow is less effective: you'll be carrying amounts with you until you can have a thorough shower. Brasher bathers here though, will remove their fig leaves or (discreetly)  be observed not to be bothered with using clothes in the first place. 
Did we know that the local government wants to be more tolerant? We did: infonaturista has this to add from 2015 which can be verified from other Italian websites:
'The mayor of Pantelleria, Salvatore Gabriele revoked the order of 17 July 1982 signed by his predecessor Giovanni Petrillo.
The order prohibited not only nude, but topless, describing in offensive bare breasts of women. In the new order, the mayor Gabriele writes: "Given that the island is the destination of international tourist flows, expressions of different cultures and nationalities, with different lifestyles, this Administration finds of considerable interest in the island of Pantelleria, ensure that all the plurality and respect for their choices, by virtue of a tradition of openness and international tourists now consolidated, without fences and unlikely taboos of all kinds.
The island belongs to the world.
The civic sense of the people makes the difference." says the Mayor Gabriel - "I intervened because this was an ordinance discriminatory".
Naturisimosicilia pictures the lake itself when discussing skinnydipping opportunities on the island, though does not mention the Lago itself. It does seem that such a line of thought just exemplifies the spirit of Pantelleria.

Euro soaks visited