Pantelleria: Escaping From Life In Armani’s Way
It’s common knowledge that Giorgio Armani appreciates consistency. The clothes he designs are invariably minimalist and elegant. When it comes to dressing himself, he prefers a uniform (most often navy pants and a navy T-shirt). And each summer, when lie’s ready to unwind from planning ten fashion shows and running a $6 billion empire, his six-week vacation follows a familiar itinerary. In mid-July, he meets ten friends in St-Tropez to sail his 213-foot super-yacht, the Alain, around Mediterranean islands including Ibiza, Formentera, Sardinia, and the Aeolians. The final destination is always Pantelleria, a remote Italian island that is closer to Africa—in distance and in some ways, in character—than it is to Sicily. There, the group stays at Armani’s home for about three weeks, the longest time the 82-year-old designer spends in any one place all year.
Though he’s a Pantelleria acolyte now, Armani says that when lie arrived 40 years ago, “it wasn’t love at first sight.” Tagging along on his friends’ trip to the 32-square-mile island/1 found it stark, hostile, and coarse,” he says. “Then I realized something haunted me.” Pantelleria isn’t exactly packaged for tourist consumption. The arid landscape is ringed in volcanic rocks that glimmer in the sun and dotted with dammusi, boxy local houses with dome-shaped roofs made from lava rock. It has no sand beaches (on his first visit, Armani recalls having bruised his legs climbing on the rocks down to the sea) or glittering nightlife. The roosters and dogs make more noise than the not-quite 8,000 locals. But the low-key, low-frills scene is what Armani has grown to love about what he calls “this rock in the sea.” He spends most of his time at his compound in Cala Gadir, on the northeast coast, an expanded version of the property lie bought in 1979, three years after his first visit. “I lived here when there wasn’t electricity on the island,” he recalls.
“You had to pump your own water.” Services have definitely improved—today, Armani’s estate includes seven dammusi (decorated, of course, with furniture and tableware from his Armani/Casa line), outdoor terraces, and a pool, and is served by a staff of 12 when lie’s here. Still, his days follow a simple routine: early-morning walks along the ancient Roman paths, breakfast by the pool, perhaps a stroll to Gadir, the port down the hill from his home, and boat rides in a tender to search for swimming spots. Though he often cats at home, where meals arc cooked by Marianna, his Pantellerian chef for over 30 years, lie also has a few places in town where lie’s a regular. “I feel like one of the locals here,” he says. Anyone who visits Armani’s Pantelleria should be prepared to live like an islander, too. “Come with a spartan spirit,” he advises. “Forget the jet set, the partying, the cool people, and the nights until the wee hours. They don’t exist. And no one wants them here.”