Milk Magazine (English) - - CONTENTS - Text: Francesca Sironi – Pho­tos: Mon­ica Spezia

A dammuso on Pan­tel­le­ria, Italy

The scent of lush na­ture, in­tense colours, the sea, the earth and vol­canic rocks min­gling... Lo­cated be­tween Si­cily and Tu­nisia, Pan­tel­le­ria has in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful land­scapes. “But it is not a wel­com­ing is­land with scorch­ing sun and wind. Ev­ery­thing is dif­fi­cult to ac­com­plish. And yet if you can hold out, you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence unique sen­sa­tions. And then you’ll fall in love.” This is what hap­pened to Elena and her hus­band, Lu­cio, who, orig­i­nally from Palermo, are now based in Mi­lan. “This is­land has be­come home,” she says, “and this is where our heart is. We got mar­ried here and ev­ery sum­mer we come and stay here with our daugh­ters and friends.”

The build­ing is a late-18th-cen­tury dammuso, a tra­di­tional Si­cil­ian house. “Find­ing it was a slow process. We spent years look­ing for it. I made many trips from Palermo to Pan­tel­le­ria in search of a house I liked. Ev­ery time some­thing was amiss... Yet one win­ter’s day, I was taken to see a prop­erty on the south­ern coast. It was a clus­ter of abandoned houses amidst rocks and low dry-stone walls.” You can hardly no­tice it from a dis­tance. Be­hind it, the blue sky melts into the sea and the Tu­nisian high plains are ablaze in the sun­set. “I knew I wanted it at first sight. It was big enough for the whole fam­ily. After months of pa­tient ne­go­ti­a­tions, we were able to buy it.” To reach the house, you have to zigzag through thick veg­e­ta­tion: palms, prickly pears and typ­i­cal Mediter­ranean shrubs. “You turn off the main road onto a dirt road that we had par­tially paved. We also had the ditches dug for the elec­tric ca­bles.” Ba­sic fa­cil­i­ties were in­stalled, but the rest was left bare, spar­tan, Pan­tel­le­ri­astyle. It took a year to make the house liv­able.

“Then, lit­tle by lit­tle, we com­pleted it. I had imag­ined bare rooms, with lit­tle or no fur­ni­ture, sort of monas­tic. I did not want to al­ter what was al­ready there too much. It was ru­ined, but it had a pro­found, old, ru­ral char­ac­ter.” Five-foot-thick stone walls, dome roof­ing, a rough-hewn façade em­broi­dered with lichens and eroded by time. “I patched it up with Pastella (fin­ish­ing mix­ture con­tain­ing mar­ble dust).” Rig­or­ous and skil­ful ar­chi­tec­ture, com­posed of mod­ules di­vided into three: the cam­mera, i.e the main room and sort of liv­ing room, the cam­merino, i.e. stor­age space, and the al­cova or sleep­ing quarters. “Ob­vi­ously we had to make a few changes. The liv­ing area, for ex­am­ple, has been en­larged by tak­ing up some of the al­cova space. The bath­room is where the an­i­mal trough once was. The old wooden con­tainer was still there sur­rounded by hay... Among the few pieces

of fur­ni­ture in the liv­ing area, there are ta­ble and chairs by Mag­istretti and a ba­sic sofa more like the tatamis in the sleep­ing ar­eas. The rest is stored in the ex­ist­ing wall niches. “To add our per­sonal touch we chose to play with tex­tiles: kil­ims and woollen cush­ions de­signed by our friend Mariella Ienna. High-quality In­dian ar­ti­sanal pieces.” Dur­ing the day, when the doors are open, na­ture wafts through the rooms un­bri­dled. “Mul­ber­ries, vines, fruit trees, cit­ruses and pis­ta­chios; I wanted to add to the orig­i­nal figs and cen­te­nary olive trees. It is part of my very per­sonal and very Si­cil­ian coun­try-med­ley view of a gar­den.

And on the ter­rac­ing there also are cacti, plants my hus­band likes. For a for­eign touch, there’s a Ber­ber tent, straight out of the Sa­hara, a sou­venir from a Mo­roc­can trip. It’s used as an al­ter­na­tive shel­ter from sun and wind and is an el­e­ment of ex­otic sur­prise for our nu­mer­ous friends who visit. They come to the is­land to en­joy a slow pace of life, hap­pily eat­ing to­gether, go­ing to the beach and tak­ing naps. Long con­ver­sa­tions at sun­set and sweetly scented silent nights stud­ded with twin­kling stars.” Primeval charm.

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