Sailing Holidays in Favignana, Sicily

Sailing Holidays in Favignana

Favignana is the largest and most important of the Egadi Islands, three islands off the western coast of Sicily. Favignana has good, frequent ferry connections with the other islands and with Trapani; the proximity of Trapani Airport makes the island remarkably accessible from the rest of Europe. This easy access hasn't - yet - spoiled the island, which is a fairly low-key destination most visited by Italian holiday-makers. Although there are tourist amenities, the island's character seems little-altered, and travellers who come here are happy to fit in with the leisurely island way of life. One of the charms of the Egadi Islands is that they have never been populated with villas of the rich, nor frequented by the showy, and no out-of-character attractions have been developed for tourists, so compared with the crowded tourist islands of Capri and Ischia, and the chic atmosphere of some of the Aeolian Islands, Favignana and its Egadi siblings have a refreshing simple authenticity. Favignana's shape is often fancifully compared to a butterfly; it is composed of two flat stretches of land on either side of a high rocky spine, topped by a decaying fortress. Ferries arrive at Favignana town, the only substantial settlement on the island. The town is situated on the eastern side of the island, which is connected to the western side by a road-tunnel through the hill which divides the two plains. Favignana town is a cheerful place, with a real local atmosphere and a friendly attitude to the tourists who arrive. The centre of town is pedestrianised for the evening passeggiata. In the main squares, Piazza Madrice and Piazza Europa, old men sit outside cafes passing the time of day, and children play on their bicyles while their parents do the shopping or stop for a chat. Favignana belonged to a family from Genoa for a couple of centuries, until it was purchased by the entrepeneurial Sicilian Florio family in the nineteenth century. The grandest house in town, and the tuna fishery across the harbour, were both built by the Florios, who ran a successful tuna-fishing business on Favignana. Tuna-fishing is still important here; Favignana has one of the very few traditional tuna fisheries (tonnare) still operating in Sicily. Each year in May or June, when tuna fish migrate in large numbers past the islands, the fishermen entrap them in a sequence of nets culminating in the 'Chamber of Death' where the fish are pulled to surface and bludgeoned to death in a gory spectacle called the mattanza. The mattanza has its own historic rituals, including working songs, and it is controlled by a leader, often hereditary, called the rais, who is the holder of generations of tuna wisdom and superintends the timing and operation of the fishing. Nowadays the mattanza is a tourist attraction, which can be viewed by visitors and which features in bloody postcards. Ever since the Roman era, Italians have used their offshore islands as prisons, and Favignana still fulfils this function. A prison, built on and around the site of a Norman castle, sits close to the centre of Favignana town.