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Favignana, Province of Trapani, Sicily

Favignana is on the butterfly-shaped island of the same name, the largest in the Aegadian Islands, at about 7 km (4.5 miles) west of the coast of Sicily, between Trapani and Marsala. In ancient times the island was called Aegusa, meaning "goats' island". The present name is derived from Favonio, an Italian name for the Föhn wind.

The island is famous for its caves of volcanic rock, its grottos, and the ancient tradition of fishing tuna by use of the so-called tonnara, of Arab origin. Favignana is one of the few places in Italy where this is still done.

Info

  • Population: about 4,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 91023
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0923
  • Frazioni & Localities: Levanzo, Marettimo
  • How to arrive: an hour by boat from the harbor of Trapani.

History

The Aaegadian Islands were inhabited since prehistory, as shown by cave paintings in Levanzo, among the oldest in Europe, and Favignana was probably already well-known to the Phoenicians. In the early Middle Ages it became a stronghold of the Saracens, who built the Forte Santa Caterina, rebuilt by the Normans and used as a prison during the Bourbon period. The Florio family introduced the tuna fishing activities, and on the main island there is still an old tuna plant of the 19th century, and a splendid Liberty style villa of the tuna fishing enerpreneurs.

What to see

  • The beautiful beaches around small bays, such as the sandy Cala Azzurra, the rocky Cala Rossa, with its crystal clear waters, and the large beach of Burrone Lido.
  • The enchanting grottos opening on the sea, such as the the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto); the Grotta degli Innamorati (Lovers' Grotto) and the Grotta dei Sospiri (Grotto of Sighs).
  • The other smaller islands included in the commune of Favignana, Marettimo and Levanzo, and the islets of Maraone, Formica, Galera, Galeotta and Fariglione.

Events

  • End of May, the Mattanza: fishermen, headed by the Rais, chief of the tuna station, once also the head of the village, repeat this ancient ritual of Arabic and maybe Phoenician origin. The tuna fishermen have repeated the same gestures, prayers and songs maybe for thousands of years, in the bloody hand-to-hand struggle with the huge fish. The boats cast the nets creating a corridor and tunas are driven into it to the so-called chamber of death, where the killing begins.

Where to stay