Pantelleria’s gardens: a good example of a sustainable use of water

Circular lava-stone drywalls built around a single citrus tree. These are Pantelleria’s gardens, an extraordinary example of agrarian technology implemented in an area characterized by extreme weather and climate events: lack of water sources, high summer temperatures, poor rainfall, strong winds. And it is precisely on water scarcity, threats of climate changes, and  looming desertification processes that we are invited to reflect. Some years ago, one of these beautiful gardens was restored and donated by Donnafugata winery to Fondo Ambiente Italiano – FAI (the National Trust for Italy). “My father Giacomo decided to donate this garden to FAI – says José Rallo, a fifth-generation member of the family business – to make people know about this ancient agrarian architecture, symbol of a sustainable relationship between man and nature”.

Pantelleria’s gardens and the “alberello technique”

Pantelleria’s garden reminds us that Pantelleria is firstly an island of peasants, rather than of fishermen. Farmers’ admirable gift and sacrifice have prevented the whole community from developing scurvy by securing the cultivation of citrus fruits, rich of precious vitamin C. The gardens reflect the peasant wisdom which is still at the basis of a the local viticulture carried out in area covering 400 hectares. The traditional practice of cultivating head-trained bush vines (“vite ad alberello”) with dry stone wall terracing is one of the last example of extreme and heroic viticulture. The impervious landscape itself is proof of the hard work carried out by skillful farmers  who have been able to grow Zibibbo grape, the absolute protagonist of the island, inscribed onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List .

“There is so much love and sweat in these vineyards”, used to repeat Giacomo Rallo, Donnafugata’s founder. With these words he wanted to stress the meaning of Pantelleria’s “heroic viticulture” represented at best by the world-renowned Passito wine, such as Ben Ryé. The suggestive garden of Cantine Pellegrino, built in the nineteenth century, is hidden inside Tenuta Borgia, located in Salto la Vecchia, behind the island.

It stands out for its dimensions (21 meters in length and 11 meters in width) and unique rectangular shape. The imposing dry walls preserve eight lemon trees, while two palm trees stand in the center of the courtyard. Let yourself be conquered by this incredible microcosm while sipping a glass of Nes, the award-winning Zibibbo by Cantine Pellegrino.

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