When you meet a characterful hotel owner, their passion really shines through.
We jumped at the chance to talk to Giulia Gelmetti, a former basketball player and now owner of super-special Sikelia. We find out the secrets of Pantelleria, an island off Sicily closer to Africa than Italy, and how Gelmetti has created such a unique place to stay in the first of our series of Meet the Maker – discovering the people behind those special places.
How did you come to own a hotel on Pantelleria?
I kept hearing little whispers about the island of Pantelleria. It was popping up in conversations with friends and something about it pricked my interest. I decided to visit, and the rugged island really answered a call inside me and I returned three weekends in a row, then I bought a property. It’s hard to describe the effect Pantelleria had on me – it has huge volcanic energy. It captured me.
Why is Sikelia so special?
Although Sikelia is on an Italian island, Pantelleria is actually closer to Africa than the Italian mainland and you really feel that influence in the warm breezes, beautiful night skies and deep silence. The hotel is built around the old Arab damussi (stone dwellings hewn from volcanic rock) but it has the ambience of a private home. I also have made it my mission to create the best experience possible for the guests. I should add that Pantelleria itself is enchanting, here you’ll find lakes, mountains, caves, clear seas, hot springs, volcanic landscapes – it’s unlike any other place I know.
What kind of person would enjoy Sikelia?
Someone who enjoys real, authentic experiences. It’s a place to connect with nature, walk barefoot and feel rooted to the earth; for people who seek silence and wide-open skies. But it’s also a gastronomic destination for those who like wholesome Sicilian food with a Pantellerian twist. Wine lovers must visit our Wine Laboratory – a vine-clad terrace where you can enjoy wines from our vineyard. Life has a simplistic quality and you’ll feel touched by nature. Watch the sun set over Africa with a passito (a sweet Sicilian wine) and I challenge you not to feel moved.
What are the best experiences at Sikelia?
This volcanic island gives so much – on Pantelleria you can do an all-natural spa safari. There are hot springs, a sauna in a cave and a lake filled with mineral mud which you can slather on your body. To understand the island more, you can visit the 5,000-year-old megalithic tombs, Arab gardens and Byzantine church. Getting out on the water is a must – take Sikelia’s boat to discover little coves with clear blue water and let the chef serve you a sushi lunch.
You’ve clearly got an eye for hotels.…what’s next?
Watch this space – Sikelia is going global. I’m looking for the right location at the moment as it needs to reach out to me with its own natural energy. Pantelleria is so very special – it will be hard to beat.