Favignana: let's discover the butterfly on the sea

The archipelago of Egadi is situated 15 miles from the western coast of Sicily. It consists of three main islands, Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo. and two islets, Maraone e Formica. Favignana is the most famous and visited. It is characterised by its wonderful beaches with emerald water, white houses with blue doors, rocky coasts, abandoned quarries and hidden caves. For those who have already been here and for those who would like to visit us, we briefly tell about Favignana, sharing with you some of the most important sites of interest.

Favignana is the largest and most equipped of the Egadi Islands. It is dominated by St. Catherine mountain where you can visit the Saracen Fort on the top. It has some of the most beautiful coves of the archipelago. In Favignana, tuna fishing was practised until a few years ago . It was both a traditional and sustainable kind of tuna fishing and a bloody spectacle which intrigues a lot of tourists.  

To discover the village you can start from the port where you can meet some fishermen who darn their nets. Walking towards the heart of the village you will meet Villa Florio. This beautiful neo-Gothic building was built in 1878 on a project of one of the most famous architects of those years, Damiani Almeyda. Passing through Piazza Europa (where at the centre there is a statue dedicated to Ignazio Florio), you will get Piazza Madrice which takes its name from the church dedicated to the Virgin. Go to the square, you can choose among several tours. The most important are the tour at the St. Anne neighbourhood (the oldest part of the village where you can find the most ancient and beautiful houses) and the route which leads to the former Florio Tuna Factory which is an interesting museum today.

In the heart of the village, close to Piazza Madrice, the historic S'Anna district is the oldest part of Favignana. It is characterised by a maze of alleyways and small houses, all very similar, built according to canons and criteria that guaranteed women a certain kind of 'comfort' and favoured community life. Doors and shutters were splitted in half horizontally so that they could be easily transformed into windows. Courtyards were built to wait for men returning from the sea or the quarries or the countryside. Each house, embellished by steep stairs, decorative ceramics, vaults with exposed 'tuff', has a small underground garden, where everyone could cultivate their own vegetable garden. The neighbourhood is also home to one of the largest disused quarries on the island, known as the Sant'Anna quarry, which is now also home to a beautiful open-air arena (where films are screened and various shows are held during the summer season). . 

The Matrice (or Madrice) church was built in 1759  by architect Don Luciano Gambina, at the expense of Don Giovanni Luca Marquis of Pallavicino and Lord of the Egadi Islands. It is located off-centre from the centre of the square, to allow a 'safety' transit to and from the nearby Fort of San Giacomo.

The façade features a Baroque-style wooden portal and an architraved window enriched by a decorated stained-glass window depicting the image of the Immaculate Conception. At the top of the façade there is a bell gable with three bells.

The church is in the shape of a Latin cross with a single nave 33 metres long and 18 metres wide, with a transept and a 26-metre dome. Inside there is a wooden Crucifix of the Trapanese School dating back to the 18th century and a marble statue of the Immaculate Conception of the Spanish School, probably from the late 17th century, previously located in a small church now dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua.

Curiosity: the church is 33 metres long, like the kilometres of coastline on the island.


The story of the Florios and the tuna industry has most marked the island's past, which thanks to them became the 'queen' of tuna fisheries. The Florios had moved to Sicily from Calabria, settling in Palermo. Thanks to the stability guaranteed by King Ferdinand of Bourbon, the brothers Paolo and Ignazio Florio were able to relaunch the activities they had run in Calabria, namely the wholesale and retail trade in spices, aromas, colonial products in general and quinine (used to cure malaria). They were immediately successful and they soon invested in other sectors. They arrived in Favignana in 1841, where Vincenzo Florio decided to take over and relaunch the tuna factory also through important technological innovations, such as the use of olive oil for long-term preservation). However, an even more important role for the island was played by his son Ignazio who, at only 36 years of age, at the head of the Florio empire for more than a decade, decided to buy the Tonnara from the Pallavicino family of Genoa. From that moment on, the tuna industry grew enormously and the island took a leap forward, experiencing an industrial development comparable to that of other Italian and European countries. Ignazio Florio radically transformed Favignana into one of the most important industrial sites of the 19th century in Sicily, a true symbol of excellence.

Palazzo Florio in Favignana: between Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau  

The Palazzo Florio is a splendid neo-Gothic building, built in 1878 by one of the most famous architects of the time, Damiani Almeyda. Externally it looks like a stately and aristocratic palace, inside the serious neo-Gothic style is made lighter and at the same time elegant by the Art Nouveau furnishings and splendid wrought ironwork, the work of the Florios' Oreta foundry.

In addition to being the residence of the Florio family, the palace often hosted illustrious personages invited to Favignana during the 'mattanza' (last part of the tuna fishing) period. However, the Florios had also elected it as a refuge from the stresses and sorrows of life. It was here that Donna Franca spent a long period after the death of her daughter Giovanna. A visit to the recently restored Palazzo Florio is certainly an experience not to be missed in order to breathe in the air of history and art that offers unique emotions. The palace now houses the municipal library and the tourist info point and also houses a small 'Antiquarium' and a collection of shells.  

Former Florio Tuna Factory

The most important industrial establishment for tuna processing in the Mediterranean was built in the second half of the 19th century thanks to Senator Ignazio Florio (1838-91). The first nucleus of the factory, the warehouse known as the 'Torino', was built on the opposite side of the current harbour arch, on which the old warehouses (the 'camparia') stood, on the initiative of Giulio Drago from Genoa. After the arrival of Ignazio Florio, the new owner of the islands, large warehouses, fish packing rooms and facilities for employees were added to the original nucleus, as well as the area, known as the "camposanto" (graveyard), intended for drying the tuna heads used to obtain oil for industrial use.

In this new and modern production reality, similar to the continental workers' citadels, a work cycle was organised involving several hundred employees. With the construction of the factory, the renewed impetus given to fishing and the marketing of the prized product, on the main national and foreign markets, was amply rewarded by success, in terms of image and profit. And even when, in the early decades of the 20th century, the fate of what had been Sicily's most important industrial and financial group appeared doomed, the Florio factory, fully active and productive, survived the bankruptcy of the entrepreneurial dynasty, passing, at the end of the 1930s, first to the I.R.I., then into the hands of the Genoese industrialists Parodi and from them, finally, to the Sicilian Region.


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  • July to September: 10:00 to 13:30 | 17:00 to 23:00


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Before the revolution of 1848 the castles of Favignana were well fortified by the Bourbon government, equipped with cannons and abundant ammunition, especially that of Santa Caterina. Under Bourbon rule, the Egadi castles were turned into prisons. Punta Troia (in Marettimo) ceased to function in 1844, Santa Caterina in 1861. The Castle of San Giacomo in Favignana will continue its function as a prison until today (with various modernisation and extension works over the years).

The castle (or fort) of Santa Caterina stands at an altitude of 314 metres. From this position there is an incredible view, with a clear view of the entire western coast of Sicily. The castle's role was as an observation and signalling place. The castle is first historically attested in the Angevin period, in the 13th century. It was enlarged for the first time between 1568-1571, on the initiative of the Viceroy Marquis of Pescara. The main role of the castle of Santa Caterina was the continuous surveillance and exchange with other forts (mainly Marettimo and Trapani) and with vessels at sea, using signals of various types.

The castle of S. Giacomo is coeval with that of S. Caterina and, according to the hypothesis of local historiography, the Turks, who had been infesting Sicilian ports and beaches for centuries, induced King Ferdinand the Catholic to order the lord of Favignana Andrea Riccio to fortify the island and to restore the castles of S. Caterina and S. Giacomo. Under the rule of the Bourbons, the castle of S. Giacomo was adapted as a penal bath and since the fort would not be able to hold a large number of servants, it was felt necessary to excavate in the rock on the opposite side of the castle at the level of the moat floor as many rooms as could be obtained.

Today, the castle is entered through the central gate of the prison, while there is another one behind the prison, used to let in prisoners' relatives in for visits. The prison is surrounded by a high perimeter wall, through which, after passing through the main gate, one is introduced to an alleyway that leads to the ancient structure of the castle of St. James. There are a number of memorial plaques in memory of some patriots who were imprisoned at S. Giacomo at the time of the Bourbons.

The island of Favignana is the one of the three islands where access to the sea is easiest. It is plenty of coves, bays, sandy or pebble beaches and rocks of the most varied shapes. Among the sandy beaches, the largest are certainly Cala Azzurra, famous for its splendid crystal-clear waters, and Lido Burrone, one of the few equipped beaches. Adjacent to the Florio establishment, in the village, we then find the Praia. On the other side of the island, the small sandy beach of Marasolo is certainly very attractive (and also uncrowded). The whole of the 'cala del pozzo' coastline, where small beaches follow one after the other, up to the Faraglioni, also falls into the beach category.  

Then there are those 'hybrid' areas of coastline, where there are both rocks and sand. This is the case of the 'Calamoni', a perfect combination for those who love sandy coves and flat rocks. Then there is Cala Graziosa, secluded and very suggestive. Finally, two very characteristic pebble beaches: Cala Rotonda and the Preveto-Pirreca beach.

The complete list of beaches and coves in Favignana:

  • Bue Marino
  • Cala Azzurra
  • Cala Rossa
  • Cala Graziosa
  • Cala Rotonda
  • Calamoni
  • Grotta Perciata
  • Grotta dei Sospiri
  • Lido Burrone
  • Marasolo
  • Praia
  • Preveto – Pirreca
  • Punta Fanfalo
  • Punta Faraglione
  • Punta Ferro
  • Punta Lunga
  • Punta Marsala
  • Punta San Nicola
  • Punta Sottile
  • Scalo Cavallo
  • Scivolo

Click here for a complete list and further directions

Favignana has been 'excavated' by man to extract stone for centuries, particularly calcarenite (porous stone, vulgarly called tuff). The 'tuff' of Favignana was used throughout Sicily and beyond. It was extracted on the island, loaded into typical Trapanese boats called 'schifazzi' and transported by sail to the port of Trapani and Marsala. Calcarenite is a valuable material, both for its compactness and fine grain and  its white colour due to a particular concentration of calcium. Mining activity was particularly intense and widespread. and the entire island was affected, inland and along the coast. The land has thus been shaped, even underground (where there are tunnels and underground routes). Over the years, mining activity has declined. Today, only one quarry remains active.

The hypogean gardens

The disused quarries on Favignana have always been used creatively by the islanders particularly in recent decades. There are disused quarries that have been transformed into vegetable gardens and citrus groves. Some quarries house simple warehouses, other ones transformed into animal shelters. Taking a walk around the island  you will notice quarries of different sizes and shapes along the roadsides, where lush plants grow.

Thanks to the protection of the wind and with the help of the sun and the Aegadian climate, the islanders have managed to exploit a very special habitat with favourable conditions (warm in winter and cool in summer). In these places, which have been called 'hypogean gardens', one can admire impressive fruit trees such as the fig, almond, pear, orange and prickly pear.

Of all of them, it is worth mentioning the gardens of Villa Margherita, a truly evocative park resulting from the initiative, creativity and willpower of Ms Maria Gabriella Campo.

  • Open: every day (from May to October)
  • Reservation: compulsory
  • Duration of visit: about 2 hours and 30 minutes on foot
  • For information and reservations: +39 389 8048028 - info@villamargherita.it

The first human appearance on the Egadi Islands dates back to the Upper Palaeolithic period, as shown by archaeological finds and graffiti in the islands' caves. At that time (10,000 BC) Favignana and Levanzo had not yet become 'islands' (unlike Marettimo). Levanzo must have been joined to Favignana by a narrow land bridge that stretched from today's Cala Dogana towards the area of S.Nicola.

Traces of ancient prehistoric settlements have been found in Favignana in the Uccerie caves near the Faraglione and in the Pozzo cave in the San Nicola locality. Splinters of flint, obsidian, fragments of worked bones, shells and other objects of the time demonstrate the use of stone for the construction of daggers, arrowheads and domestic tools.

Fragments of raw, purified and well-fired clay, coloured in black and red paint, were brought to light, bearing witness to human settlements in the Bronze Age.

Grotta del Pozzo

At the Grotta del Pozzo, in the locality of San Nicola, a Neo-Punic tomb was discovered, accessible via a stepped dromos (descending corridor) and around 10 inscriptions. Of these, the most prominent is located about 1.80 cm above ground level and is arranged in two rows. The epigraph has special features due to the presence of two letters that date back to the Punic alphabet of the 4th-2nd century BC, such as the letter 'tau' and the letter 'mem'. Furthermore, both the fourth and fifth letters from the right of the second line, the 'h' and the 'm', are reversed in relation to the ductus practised in Semitic script, oriented from right to left.

On the basis of these findings, archaeologists claim that from the 4th century B.C. to the 2nd century A.D. the Grotta del Pozzo on Favignana was used as a place of worship by people who used Phoenician at least as a liturgical language, perhaps the inhabitants of the island of Mozia themselves, colonists from Carthage or clans affiliated with the Elymian peoples of western Sicily (from Segesta and Erice in particular).

Phoenicians and Punics on Favignana

The greatest concentration of Phoenician-Punic evidence on the island of Favignana is found in the locality of San Nicola, where a small community is thought to have existed. Two tombs from the late Hellenistic period, containing two skeletons and a clay oil-lamp, have surfaced from excavations in the Calazza locality and an entire Hellenistic necropolis with rectangular burial niches was found near Cala San Nicola.

Roman Period

Favignana has few memories of the period of Roman rule. However, mosaics of Roman imperial origin and a nymphaeum, probably used as a women's bath, have come to light at San Nicola.

The Egadi battle 'museum

At the Florio factory there is a beautiful archaeological exhibition dedicated in particular to the Battle of the Egadi (between the Romans and the Carthaginians).  This is an important collection. Amongst anchor logs and amphorae from the Greco-Roman and Punic periods, bronze rostrums found over the years at the site of the final battle of the First Punic War (241 BC), off Levanzo, stand out.

The 'Battle of the Egadi', hosted in the premises of the Former Florio tuna factory in Favignana, is a true journey through the history and places of the First Punic War. It consists of an exhibition hall and an immersive hall entirely dedicated to 3D cinema. The visitor embarks on a narrative journey that starts with a scientific investigation and ends with a strong emotional and experiential involvement.

The exhibition is constantly being 'updated', thanks also to the research that is periodically carried out. Recently, in the spring/summer of 2019, two more rostrums, sixty-eight Greco-Italic amphorae, two Dressel, four Punic and four plates were found. The two bronze rostrums bring to eighteen the number of those recovered of the nineteen identified in recent years. Two helmets of very fine workmanship were also identified and recovered in the same area, at a depth of eighty metres, by Gue divers. The two bronze finds present a peculiar decoration in the shape of an animal at the top, and therefore certainly belonged to graduates of the Roman army. Also two pairs of paragnatids, metal side guards applied to the helmet, designed to protect the soldiers' faces, were recovered. These two helmets, together with another recovered in recent days, are added to the twenty-two already recovered in previous campaigns. Some of them, already restored, are on display at the Museum of the 'Battle of the Egadi' in Favignana.

But the real novelty of the research is the discovery of a metal sword, about seventy centimetres long with a blade five centimetres wide, which probably belonged to the soldiers of one of the two armies. The rostrums, helmets, ship's crockery and numerous amphorae did not complete the picture. The soldiers' weapons had never been found. In the same place as the sword, two large nails with a quadrangular cross-section were recovered, which probably belonged to one of the boats sunk during the clash.


Useful resources to know the geography of Favignana:

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Viaggi e Vacanze Elite Island
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Area Marina Protetta Isole Egadi

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