Giorgio Armani and friends flee as wildfires engulf parts of Sicilian island

Authorities are suspecting arson after two fires were started on the island of Pantelleria

Flames burn beyond fashion designer Giorgio Armani's villa on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. Photo: Armani Press Office
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Fashion designer Giorgio Armani and dozens of others were forced to flee from their vacation villas overnight as firefighters worked to extinguish the remnants of two wildfires on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria on Thursday.

A photo shows flames that appear to encroach on Armani’s villa, but his spokesman said they stopped short of the property. Armani and his guests fled to a boat in the harbour overnight.

Salvatore Cocina, the head of the region’s civil protection agency, said arson was suspected in two wildfires that forced about 30 people to seek refuge in boats or on safer parts of the island. Firefighters used Canadair planes to douse the flames, along with ground teams to protect homes. Authorities said no structures appeared to have been lost.

Vincenzo Campo, the island’s mayor, told the Ansa news agency two Canadair planes were working to put out the last flames on difficult terrain and that the wind had dropped off.

Firefighters are putting out the remnants of two wildfires on a Sicilian island that forced fashion designer Giorgio Armani and dozens more to flee vacation villas overnight. AP

“After the great fear of last evening and the night spent at work, Pantelleria is returning to normal,” Campo said. “It seems the worst is over.”

Local officials appealed for any information that would help identify the cause of the blaze, which started at two points 400 metres apart.

Pantelleria, between Sicily and the Tunisia, is a popular beach and trekking destination that includes ancient archaeological sites and natural geographic formations.

Armani, 88, purchased the villa in 1981 and travels there every August. Writing for L’Officiel Singapore, he called the home his "summer refuge".

"I live outdoors when I’m there. It’s the only place where I truly feel I can switch off and escape from the stress and wear and tear of working life. I used to visit only in the summer, but recently, I’ve headed there for long weekends in the autumn and spring," he says.

"It’s so close to Tunisia that the weather is always warm and inviting. My sister says it’s the only place that makes my face change. It’s because I’m genuinely relaxed; the stress disappears."

— Additional reporting by The National

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Updated: August 18, 2022, 3:21 PM