Can there be a more beautiful, relaxing and remote summer holiday destination in Europe than Favignana? There’s guaranteed sunshine, world-class food and quality beaches so get yourself to this Italian gem pronto.
Once a major port on the north west coast of Sicily, the city of Trapani is now the getaway to the Egadi Islands, with hydrofoils and car-ferries departing for Favignana, 20 minutes away. There are two other islands in the Egadis (not to be confused with Sicily’s more famous offshore archipelago, the volcanic Aeolian Islands), so island-hopping is possible on the connecting ferries.
Stepping off the ferry at Favignana’s port is like stepping into the early 20th century. Fishermen fix their nets and sell the catch of the day to tourists, residents and restaurateurs, while bicycles whizz by, outnumbering cars ten to one. And you can forget all about WiFi and English newspapers. Although its popular with Sicilian and Italian holidaymakers, it’s not yet on the radar for Brits.
Hiring a bike is a great way to see the island. Cycling around the north coast you will find little coves and beaches from which you can see the other two Egadi Islands – the smaller and even less developed Levanzo and Marettimo. Cala Rossa is one such cove – the sea is a glorious aquamarine colour here, and millionaire’s yachts are moored in the bay. Although the water looks amazing from here, some of the beaches are less so – expect rocks rather than sand, so it might be worth buying some of those rubber swimming shoes.
Some people say Favignana is butterfly-shaped, with a narrow isthmus of land in between two ‘wings’ earning it the nickname La Farfella. The south coast has some lovely sandy beaches such as Lido Burrone, where there are strong winds coming from Tunisia, just 80 miles away.
No mention of Favignana is complete without talking about the food – lovers of fresh seafood, and tuna in particular, will be in heaven. Tuna fishing was the island’s main industry until tourism took over, and every restaurant serves its own version of insalata favignanese (tuna salad) – a mix of tuna, olives, tomatoes, lettuce and olive oil.
There are plenty of restaurants and bars in and around Favignana’s main square, Piazza Madrice, some offering good quality set menus of mixed seafood platter to start with, followed by your choice of pasta. In many restaurants, you won’t find a menu – choices change daily depending on what’s been caught. A sensible idea as, if I could have the swordfish and aubergines with spaghetti every day, I would never want to leave. If you love the tuna as much as I did, you can take some back home with you – shops sell tins and steaks of the stuff.
Favignana is famous for hosting the annual tuna slaughter, the mattanza, which takes place every May. Fishing boats surround schools of mating tuna, and the fishermen spear all the fish in sight, turning the sea a deep red colour. This tradition is now more important for tourism than for the fishing industry. Boats will charge to give you a front row seat of the killing, and you’ll have no chance of finding accommodation during the event unless you book well in advance.
How to do it
I flew to Trapani with Ryanair back in 2008, but the Irish budget airline has removed it from its list of destinations from the UK now. As a result, adventurous travellers who make the effort to get to Favignana will be rewarded by experiencing an even quieter island and are almost guaranteed not to see another Brit while there.
Get a budget flight to Palermo, and from Palermo’s airport, it’s a 70 minute bus journey (€10 one way) to Trapani’s port – see bus timetable here. Ustica Lines operate ferries to the Egadi Islands (€10.30 one way) – see ferry timetable here.
If you want to follow in our footsteps, stay at the self-catering Elisir Apartments – an easy ten minute stroll to the centre of Favignana’s main town. There’s no pool, but the rooftop terrace, with views of the other Egadi islands, has a hose to cool yourself down after a spot of sunbathing.