The 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 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.
Favignana 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. 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 by torchlight. The 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 diving. Best way to visit the island is a sailing yacht charter so you can appreciate the wonderful grottoes: 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 wall