island is often referred to as La Farfalla on account of its shape
which has been likened to a butterfly a-flutter over the blue sea.
Its proper name is in fact derived from favonio, the prevalent local
wind, although in Antiquity, it was known as Aegusa. In more recent
times, the fortunes of the island have been inextricably linked
with the Florio family (see MARSALA) after they invested in a tuna
fishery here, down by the harbour, where a prominent tower still
marks the skyline. In times past, tuna fishing, and the mattanza
(the traditional, but cruel ritual of killing the tuna trapped in
the nets known as the camera della morte) comprised the principal
means of earning a livelihood on the island.
covers an area of about 20sqm. The west “wing” is dominated
by Montagna Grossa which, despite its name, rises to a mere 302m.
The eastern part of the island, on the other hand, is flatter and
harbours the island’s main town. The jagged coastline is interrupted,
here and there, with short stretches of sandy beach.
di tufo – Beside tuna fishing, tufa quarrying at one time
provided the island with a second principal source of employment
and income. Once cut, the blocks were transported elsewhere in Sicily
and exported to North Africa. These quarries, a characteristic feature
of the island’s eastern flank, give the landscape a disturbing
quality, as if great chunks had been bitten out of the hillside
by some large square-jawed monster, leaving great gaping rectangular,
stepped cavities. These are often overgrown with bushes, sometimes
– alas – used as rubbish tips, or otherwise –
luckily – transformed into secret small gardens, sheltered
from the marauding winds. Near the sea, along the east coast, some
of the old quarries have been partly flooded by waves let in by
a landslip. Where it penetrates, the sea leaves small geometric
pools of water. The most spectacular quarries are those grouped
around Scalo Cavallo, Cala Rossa and Bue Marino.
città – The main town of the island, indeed of the
archipelago, is built around a small port that nestles in a large
bay. On the skyline, perched up on its very own hill, sits the Fort
of Santa Caterina (now under militaty control) which began life
as an ancient Saracen warning station; this was rebuilt by the Norman
King Roger II, and subsequently enlarged before serving as a prison
under Bourbon rule (1794-1860).
by the seafront, Favignana boasts two buildings endowed by the Florio
family, a wealthy dynasty involved in the production and export
of Marsala wine before it developed any financial interests in tuna
fishing. These comprise the Palazzo Florio, built in 1876, which
is set back from the harbour, and, at the opposite end of the bay
on the right, the great tonnara or tuna fishery, now abandoned (plans
are afoot to completely redevelop the old buildings to provide a
multipurpose complex with a variety of facilities).
little town centres around two piazzas: Piazza Europa and Piazza
Madrice which are linked by the main street, where the evening “constitution”
or passeggiata (stroll) is enacted each evening. On the northeastern
edge of town nestles the district of San Nicola (behind the cemetery)
which preserves vestiges of the past: there is no access to this
area, however, as long as it remains private
and beaches – There are two main beaches: a small sandy bay
south of the town in Cala Azzurra, and, still in the southern part
but a little west of this, lies the broad beach called the Lido
Burrone. For those without their own means of transport, there is
an hourly bus service. The rocky bays are more exciting and thrilling,
notably Cala Rossa and Cala del Bue Marino nearby. What makes these
spots especially unusual is the fact that they were once tufa quarries;
deep in the grottoes where the roof has not fallen in, tunnel a
network of long dark and mysterious passages that can be explored
other half of the island harbours such lovely bays as the Cala Rotonda,
Cala Grande and Punta Ferro, which doubles as a popular area for
caves – The west side of the mountain slopes down into the
sea, forming a number of evocative caves and grottoes. Each summer
morning, when the sea is becalmed, the local harbour fishermen vie
with each other to whisk visitors off to see the most picturesque:
Grotta Azzurra (so-called because of the colour of the water), Grotta
dei Sospiri (the Grotto of Sighs which sounds its laments in winter),
and Grotta degli Innamorati (Lovers’ Grotto), so named because
of two identical rocks standing side by side deep against the back
Several hydrofoil and ferry services (especially during the summer)
operate every day out of Trapani (20min by hydrofoil to Favignana).
For informaton contact: Siremar 0923-540515 or Alilauro 0923-24073.
the summer, a hydrofoil service plies Trapani, Favignana, Ustica
and Naples before returning the same way (Favignana-Naples approx
6hr). Ustica Lines tel 081-7612515.
information – Two offices provide information: Consorzio Turistico
Egadi, Largo Marina 14, Favignana, 0923-922121 and the Pro Loco
in Piazza Madrice 0923-921647. The Pro Loco arranges guided tours
of the tuna fishery and other excursions that change annually. These
offices also act as points of reference for the other two islands
in the archipelago, Levanzo and
to stay – In addition to traditional hotels, various numbers
of rooms may be rented (contact the Pro Loco for names and addresses);
there is also a wonderful camp-site surrounded by vegetation called
the Camping Village Egadi.
to eat – The best restaurant on the island is the Egadi, run
by two sisters who serve traditional dishes based on tuna and swordfish.
and bicycles – The two most convenient ways of exploring the
island are by byke or moped: cycling is especially popular beacause
the island is so flat, thus requiring no great effort. To hire one,
make your way into town, any of the shops will be happy to assist.
and snorkeling – Those who like to explore the undewater scene
will find a profusion of flora and fauna below the surface. The
best places are probably Punta Marsala, Secca del Toro, the submerged
cave between Cala Rotonda and Scoglio Corrente, and the rocks off
Punta Fanfalo and Punta Ferro.
to take home? – The most popular locally-made goodies available
on Favignana are of the edible kind: bottarga (dired tuna-fish roe)
and bresaola (cured) or smoked tuna and swordfish. These local specialities
will remind you of the feasts of fish which doubtless enhanced your
evenings on the islands.
complex and ritual method of catching tuna fish follows –
or rather used to follow – very precise rules, timings and
strictly disciplined practices established by the Rais, the head
of the tuna fishermen and, at one time also the head of the village:
a sort of shaman who specified when it should begin and what procedure
should be followed. The methods by which the tuna used to be hunted
and killed date back to ancient times, indeed possibly even to the
Phoenicians, although, it was not until the islands came under Arab
domination that the most fundamental elements of the “rite”
that underpin the fishing practises of today were firmly established.
For the Mattanza is a ritual it is in its own right, complete with
propitiatory and superstitious songs (the scialome), concluding
in a cruel struggle with these powerful creatures at very close
quarters. The outcome, however, is always a foregone conclusion
and rarely, if ever, in the tuna’s favour. In late spring,
the tuna collect in great shoals off the west coast of Sicily where
the conditions are conducive to breeding. The fishing boats put
out to sea to lay the nets in a long corridor which the tuna are
forced to follow. The last nets are dropped like barriers to form
antechambers that will prevent too many fish from being gathered
in a single unit, thus averting the risk of the nets being torn
and the fish escaping. Beyond these antechambers is laid the camera
della morte, an enclosure provided by tougher netting and often
closed along the bottom. When an appropriate number of fish are
deemed to be trapped in the chamber, Rais orders the mattanza to
begin. And so the killing of the fish is initiated: what is cruel
is that, by now, the fish are exhausted after trying vainly fo find
a means of escape and panicked after being injured by inevitably
knocking into others of their own kind crowded together. One by
one they are speared or hooked and heaved aboard.
term mattanza comes from the Spanish word matar, to kill, which
derives from the Latin mactare, meaning to glorify or immolate.
Guide of Sicily
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