The island of Favignana is one of the most enchanting and least man-made places in Sicily. The island of Favignana belongs to the Egadi archipelago – to the east of the Sicilian region.
The island of Favignana has an area of about 19 km² and a coastline of 33 km jagged and rich in cavities and caves. In ancient times the name of Favignana was Egusa (Aegusa for the Latins), from the Greek Aigousa (Αἰγοῦσα), that is «that has goats», given their abundance on the island. It was also known by other names such as Aponiana, Katria, Gilia and is remembered by numerous writers including Pliny, Polibio, Nepoziano, the anonymous Ravennate. From the Arab geographers it was known with the name Djazirat ‘ar Rahib (“island of the monk” or “of the hermit”), as a castle of the Norman period, the so-called Castle of Santa Caterina, where it lived for the just a monk. The painter Salvatore Fiume called it a “butterfly on the sea” because of its characteristic shape. The current name (formerly Favognana) derives from Favonio, a warm west wind that determines the very mild climate. Although in ancient times it was rich in vegetation, today it is poor due to the deforestation. The island is crossed from north to south by a mountain ridge whose maximum altitude is that of the Monte Santa Caterina, of 314 meters. Two other peaks are the 296 meters high Punta della Campana and the Punta Grossa (252 meters). On the southern side are the Preveto, Galera and Galeotta islands.
Flora and Fauna
Favignana is part of the natural reserve of the Egadi Islands established in 1991. The island is quite barren and is home to the typical Mediterranean vegetation and the garrigue. The vegetation is therefore made up of wild olive, lentisk, carob, Euphorbia dendroides and sumac. There are some interesting endemisms such as the sea cabbage (Brassica macrocarpa), the maritime flowering plant (Calendula maritima), the finocchiella di Boccone (Seseli bocconi). A study of the 1960s on the vegetation of the Egadi Islands reports about 570 species in Favignana. In the east area of the island there are many gardens called hypogea, cared for and cultivated inside the now-abandoned tuff quarries. It is one of the few Sicilian minor islands in which there is a population of Sicilian emerald toad (Bufo siculus).
The human presence in Favignana dates back to the Upper Paleolithic, traces of very ancient human settlements occur mainly in the caves of Faraglione and Pozzo in the San Nicola area. It was known to the ancient Greeks with the name Aegusa (Αιγούσα, island of goats). The Phoenicians settled in Favignana starting from the 8th century BC until the year 241 BC when, the Roman army led by Gaius Lutatius Catulus, routed the Carthaginian fleet in the final battle of the First Punic War called the Battle of the Egadi Islands, in which Sicily was definitively annexed to Rome. After the collapse of the Roman Empire the islands fell into the hands of the Vandals and the Goths and later of the Saracens.
Ruggero of Altavilla and Normans
In 1081 the Normans, under the rule of Ruggero d’Altavilla, built a village and mighty fortifications: the fort San Giacomo (inside the former prison in the village) and that of Santa Caterina (on the top of the mountain). Finally followed the fate of Sicily until the sixteenth century, belonging as a barony to the families Carissima and Riccio, then passed during the mid-seventeenth century together with the entire archipelago, property of the Pallavicini-Rusconi of Genoa with the title of marquis and then , in 1874, of the Florio family who strengthened the island’s traps.
The Island of Favignana in modern times
From the Bourbon period until fascism the island was used by the government mainly as a prison and a place of confinement for political opponents. During the Bourbon period the Mazzinian Giovanni Nicotera was imprisoned in the pit of S.Caterina which was then freed by the Garibaldini after the landing of the Thousand . During the Second World War the island was equipped along the coasts, given its strategic position, with an impressive network of casemates and military fortifications, most of which are still preserved today.
Favignana as Quarring Site
Favignana, since the times of Roman domination, has been the quarrying site of the white shell tuff (in reality it is improperly called tuff because it is a calcarenite and not a rock of volcanic origin as is the real tuff) used in construction. The so-called tuff has represented an important economic source for the inhabitants of the island. The long mining activity, particularly present in the eastern part of the island, has given rise to particular ditches, ravines and caves transformed today, especially by private citizens, in particular and suggestive gardens, gardens and houses.
- la spiaggia della Praia
- Burrone (sand)
- Cala Azzurra (rocks)
- Cala Rossa (rocks)
- Bue Marino (rocks)
- Cala Grande
- Cala Ritunna (cala rotonda)
- Grotta Perciata (rocks)
- Calamoni (rocks and sand)
- Scivolo (rocks)
- La Praia
- Punta longa
- Preveto (little stones)
- Marasolo (rocks)