When I made my vacation in Trapani (on the Island of Sicily) this year, I repeated constantly “Lasciatemi qui” (“Leave me here”) because the beauty of the western parts of the island is really enormous and breathtaking. Every corner is full of history, awesome views and nice and delicious dishes. On my last day there, I had the chance to have a one-day cruise to the Paradise which was, in fact, the cherry of the cake. Yes, it was and do you know why? Because there is a small archipelago situated off the coast of city of Trapani called …..
I S O L E E G A D I
The extremely beautiful archipelago consists of three partially submerged giants (i.e. the three isles – Favignàna, Lèvanzo and Marittìmo) plus their two “babies” (i.e. the two islets – Maraone and Formica). These pearls of Trapani don’t attract tourists and locals alike with their crystal-clear and some-shades-of-blue waters only but also with their history and archeological sites as well as with their climate – mild winters and long and extremely warm summers.
The Aegadian Islands or the Egadi Islands, as they are known and called in English, have history that dates back to the ancient times and ancient human settlements can still be visited in Levanzo and few in Favignana. Moreover, Paleolithic and Neolithic cave paintings representing the daily life including tuna fishing, animal husbandry and even dancing, can be enjoyed in the Grotta del Genovese (the Cave of the Genoese) on the smallest of the three giants – Levanzo. Most probably all this is due to the last glaciation that formed that natural passage between the two continents – Africa and Europe (Sicily, in particular).
Later in centuries, more precisely in 241 BC, Favignana and the surrounding islands were “theatre” of the naval battle between the Eternal City and Carthage after which the islands were conquered by the Romans in the First Punic War. And what happened exactly? The two fleets met a short distance offshore. The 200 Roman ships were commanded by Consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus who managed to defeat the Carthaginian fleet that possessed ships that were twice as many as those of the Romans. Moreover, Catulus sank 120 Carthaginian vessels and imprisoned 10 000 Carthaginians. The number of the dead Phoenicians was great and their bodies were washed ashore to the north-east on the island of Favignana. Their blood changed the colour of the sea water there and that’s why this shoreline obtained the name Cala Rossa (Red Cove). Actually, lots of facts show that, actually, the red clay on the beach gave the name to this particular place of Favignana (not the bloodshed).
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the destiny of the islands changed frequently. They were dominated by the Vandals, Goths and Saracens. They were also invaded by the Normans who fortified them. The archipelago, mainly Favignana was captured by the Arabs who used them as an Islamic base for the conquest of the Island of Sicily.
Later on, the extreme beauty of the islands attracted the Pallavicini-Rusconi families of merchants from Genoa in the 16th century and Marquis Pallavicino of Genoa was the one whom the Egadis were hired out to by the Spaniards in 1637. The Genoese merchants developed the islands, availed of the tuna fish offshore and constructed the modern town of Favignana close to il Castello San Giacomo.
The islands were sold out again in 1874 but this time to Ignazio Florio. The Florios (a wealthy and powerful family of industrialists from the mainland) had interests in three spheres – tuna fisheries, sulphur mining and Marsala wine. Ignazio built and strengthened the tuna cannary and tuna-fishing nets on the Island of Favignana. Le isole Egadi have still been home tuna fishery in Sicily and crowds of tourists come here to watch the spectacle called “mattanza” and dedicated to the traditional tuna cull. Apart from tuna fishery, the Florios also created and opened calcarenite quarries (type of limestone) and exported the stone to nearby Tunisia and Libya.
Let me stop here with the historic description and let us take one of the hydrofoils or numerous ferries and make our first stop on the Island of the Foehn Wind.