Sunday, May 5, 2019

Pantelleria – Street Sign Language Lesson XXVIII

Street Sign Language Lesson 27 < Street Sign Language Lesson 28

All these signs were spotted during a six-day trip to Pantelleria, an island in the strait of Sicily, this is administratively part of the province of Trapani, Sicily. There is nothing like a change of location to spur me to look for new signs. I’m happy to report that in this installment of Street Sign Language Lesson there are no lost cat signs or pick-up-after-your-dog signs. There must be some kind of magic at work on this island of dammusi, mofete, and vite ad alberello? Keep reading to find out what those are.

A sign in Pantelleria (town) using Glutiniamo.A sign at Cala Nicà on the island of Pantelleria warning about electrocution.
Left: A sign in Pantelleria (town) using Glutiniamo. Right: A sign at Cala Nicà on the island of Pantelleria warning about electrocution.

Glutiniamo-free – Let’s do gluten free

Way back in the post Puglia – Street Sign Language Lesson VII, we started noting how the first-person plural form could be used in interesting ways for marketing purposes. We noted signs with Snackiamo (let’s snack) for a vending machine stop, Focacciamo (let’s do focaccia) for a focaccia shop, Sandialiamo (let’s wear sandals?) for a sandal shop, Musichiamo (let’s get musicale) for a music festival, Pugliamo (let’s do Puglia?) for a shop specializing in products from Puglia. To be fair, musichiamo is a conjugation of a legitimate verb musicare – to set to music.

I thought this was all behind us, but then to my surprise we stumbled on this sign for a gluten-free shop in Pantelleria (town) with its cringe-worthy glutiniamo-free conjugation. At first, I thought: gotcha! But the joke is on me because there is a verb glutinare and glutiniamo is valid.

Pericolo di folgorazione – Danger of electrocution

We saw this at Cala Nicà, an access point* to the ocean on the south side of the island. We parked just off the island perimeter road and walked about 10 minutes down to a small group of buildings and a boat launch. One of the buildings included this sign with the word folgorazione.

* If you look carefully at the map for Pantelleria you will notice lots points labeled dicesa a mare (descents to the sea), cala (bay, cover), and punta (point). What you won’t find (or will find rarely) is the word beach. Beach as in the sense of sand or even small rocks just don’t exist on Pantelleria. It’s all lava.

Example of a dammuso roof in the Khamma area of Pantelleria.A sign advertising the sale of old dammusi.
Left: Example of a dammuso roof in the Khamma area of Pantelleria. Right: A sign advertising the sale of old dammusi.

Vendesi Dammusi Antichi – Old houses for sale

In this Cala Nicà, we also saw this sign announcing old ancient houses for sale. But these are not just any old type of house. These are dammusi, typical stone habitations of the island of Pantelleria. According to the site ildammuso.com, dammusi “are the result of the Arab civilization and of the work of the people of Pantelleria. The dammuso arose as rural element and takes into account the peculiarities of this island: the wind, the heat, the lack of rain and the richness of lava material.” The most noticeable feature of dammusi are their sensuously curved roofs that help collect rainwater water and channel it to underground cisterns.

Note that the sign used vendesi and not vendonsi, the latter being the correct way to express the concept because more than one thing is being sold. For more information, see Bergamo – Street Sign Language Lesson XXVI.


A sign warning people not to be a "lookout" in a bar on Pantelleria.A type of pasta called busiata, common in the south of Italy and on Pantelleria.
Left: A sign warning people not to be a "lookout" in a bar on Pantelleria. Right: A type of pasta called busiata, common in the south of Italy and on Pantelleria.

Si prega di non fare il palo mentre le persone giocano alle slot – Please do no watch over people playing the slots

Our morning go-to place while were stayed on Pantelleria was Bar Beluga in the Khamma/Tracino area. In the seating area of Bar Beluga we saw this sign posted above two video slot machines. Note how this sign is a good example of how Italians write in capital letters as described in our post Lo Stampatello: How Italians Write.

The phrase fare il palo caught my attention because I’d never seen it used. It means to be a lookout. So, in the translation above, we translated it as “watch over” people playing. I asked two Italians and they confirmed that was the sense of the sign. However, I find most uses of fare il palo are meant to be a lookout in the sense of protecting someone in what they are doing. I wonder if it means keep a lookout for someone gambling who shouldn’t be? So much confusion in one sign.

To add to the confusion, my Italian spellchecker flagged alle slot as wrong. When I looked it up, lo and behold slot is masculine and it should be agli slot.

La busiata – “a helical-shaped pasta”

Busiate pasta is a typical menu item on the island. It looks like the result of scoring citrus, like spiral shavings. The shape is obtained (at least when made by hand) by coiling strips of pasta dough around a skewer or twig. The name busiate come from busa, the name of a local grass Ampelodesmos mauritanicus suggesting that at one time the long stems of the grass flower heads (panicles) were used for this purpose. However, in several other source, there is the suggestion that buso is a term used by the Trapanese (people of Trapani) referring to knitting needles that the pasta was wrapped around to create the spiral shape.

Here’s a video on how busiate are made.

View of Lago Specchio di Venere on Pantelleria.View of Lago Specchio di Venere on Pantelleria.A sign describing mofette - discharges of carbon dioxide - on Lago Specchio di Venere on Pantellieria.
Left and center: Views of Lago Specchio di Venere on Pantelleria. Right: A sign describing mofette - discharges of carbon dioxide - on Lago Specchio di Venere on Pantellieria.

Bathymetry of Lago Specchio di Venere - sign in Museo Vulcanologico, Punta Spadillo.The sign about mofette in the brush around Lago Specchio di Venere.
Left: Bathymetry of Lago Specchio di Venere - sign in Museo Vulcanologico, Punta Spadillo. Right: The sign about mofette in the brush around Lago Specchio di Venere.

Le mofete – Mofette

In English, a mofetta is a volcanic discharge of mostly carbon dioxide. The plural in English is mofette. In Italian, the singular is mofeta and the plural mofete.

What does this have to do with Pantelleria? Well, Pantelleria is a very volcanic island with lots of hot springs and fumaroles. The mofette in question can be found around the Lago di Specchio di Venere, a saltwater lake inside an extinct volcanic crater, fed by rain and hot springs.

A sign indicating the UNESCO status of the cultivation of grape vines using the method "vite ad alberello." Example of vite ad alberello on the island of Pantelleria in Sicily.Example of vite ad alberello on the island of Pantelleria in Sicily.
Left: A sign indicating the UNESCO status of the cultivation of grape vines using the method "vite ad alberello." Center and right: Examples of vite ad alberello on the island of Pantelleria in Sicily.

Example of cultivation that show low-to-the-ground training of a fig tree.Example of cultivation that show low-to-the-ground training of an olive tree.
Examples of cultivation besides vines that show low-to-the-ground training of a fig tree and an olive tree.

La pratica Agricola tradizionale della coltivazione delle “vite ad alberello” di Pantelleria – The traditional agricultural practice of the cultivation of the "alberello vine" of Pantelleria

We saw this sign in Piazza Unesco (Piazza Perugia) in Tracino, Pantelleria. The sign describes the traditional agricultural practice around cultivation of vines that is recognized by UNESCO. The key phrase in the sign is “vite ad albarello” – a technique for growing vines under limited water and harsh climates. Alberello means sapling or little tree. When you look at the zibibbo vines grown in this way, they are low to the ground and spread out.

UNESCO describes that the "traditional practice of cultivating head-trained bush vines (vite ad alberello) is transmitted through generations of vine growers and farmers of the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria."  Furthermore, "the technique consists of several phases. The ground is prepared by levelling the soil and digging a hollow to plant the vine. The main stem of the vine is then carefully pruned to produce six branches, forming a bush with a radial arrangement. The hollow is constantly reshaped to ensure the plant is growing in the right microclimate. The wine grapes are then harvested by hand during a ritual event starting at the end of July."

In terms of climate, Pantelleria sees less than 20 inches of rain a year, on average. As well there is constant wind. Therefore, growing vines and really anything else low to the ground or behind walls helps reduces the transpiration. The most famous example of this are the famous giardino pantesco – or garden of Pantelleria, a circle stone structure with no roof that is used to grow citrus typically.
In regards of wind, the name of the island itself comes from the original Arab name for the island Bint al-Riyāh, which means “Daughter of the Winds” due to the strong winds tat arise from the coast of Africa.


A sign written in the Sicilian dialect indicating the name of a house, 'an old place'.
A sign written in the Sicilian dialect indicating the name of a house, 'an old place'.

U’loco vecchio – An old place

The sign on our dammuso written in Sicilian dialect. U is really “un” a masculine indefinite article often written without the N. “Loco” is luogo (in Italian) or place. This is my first Sicilian translation in this series, so this is my educated guess.



Cuddia - A hill formed by an extinct, secondary crater.

In this sign on the trail to Montagna Grande, the word cuddia is used. In fact, it is used all over Pantelleria to refer to locations on the island. A cuddia is a hill or lava flow associated with a secondary crater.

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