Favignana spoils visitors with world class beaches, fantastic food and guaranteed sunshine - and all without hordes of tourists. Are you tempted to visit? Then read on...
A 20-minute ferry ride from western Sicily lies a criminally under-visited group of islands - the Egadi Islands, not to be confused with Sicily’s more famous offshore archipelago, the volcanic Aeolian Islands. The largest of these is Favignana, shaped like a butterfly and so also known as La Farfalla. Surely there can't be a more beautiful, relaxing, remote, yet easy-to-get-to, summer holiday destination in Europe?
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 zoom past, outnumbering cars by ten to one. And you can forget all about satellite TV and English newspapers.
Hiring a bike is a great way to see Favignana. Cycling around the north coast you will find some lovely little coves and beaches from where you can see the other two Egadi Islands – the smaller and even less developed Levanzo and Marretimo. Cala Rossa is one such cove. The sea is a glorious aquamarine colour here, but be sure to bring plenty of sun-cream and water – there is no shelter from the heat of the sun, and you’ll soon get dehydrated. A dip in the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea is tempting, but remember to wear something on your feet to prevent them being cut to shreds by the rocks and the coral.
The south coast has some lovely sandy beaches such as Lido Burrone, while there are strong winds coming from Tunisia, just 80 miles away. It is here that hundreds of Africans try to enter Europe illegally on makeshift rafts every year. Most either drown or are sent to the more liberal Malta once captured.
No mention of Favignana is complete without talking about the food – lovers of fresh seafood will be in heaven. Tuna fishing was the island’s only industry until tourism took over and every restaurant serves its own version of Insalata Favignanese (tuna salad) - an orgasmic mix of tuna, olives, tomatoes, lettuce and olive oil. After a day of cycling and sun-worshipping, it was time for us to relax, fill up with some local cuisine and people-watch as the passeggiata began. 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. It's impossible to find a bad meal in Favignana, but my favourite was Ristorante Quello Che c'e c'e at 38 Via Garibaldi. Expect to pay around €7 for the insalata Favignanese and between €10-€15 for delicious fish mains.
If you love the tuna as much as I did, you can take some back home with you – there are many shops that sell tins and steaks of local tuna. Favignana is the scene of an 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 – 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.
Where to stay
Favignana is fairly popular with Sicilians and adventurous Italians, but as so few Brits go there it can be hard to find accommodation. We stayed at the Elisir apartments – an easy ten minute stroll to the centre of Favignana’s main town. There are stylish self-catering apartments for two to eight people. 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!
Ryanair recently began flying to Trapani in Western Sicily, a city bombed to smithereens during WWII and which doesn’t have a lot going for it unless grim concrete tower blocks are your thing. Check www.ryanair.com for flight details and prices. Once a major port, Trapani is now the gateway to the Egadi Islands with hourly car ferries and hydrofoils departing for Favignana. To plan your trip, www.usticalines.it has ferry and hydrofoil timetables. Trapani’s port is a fifteen minute taxi-ride from Trapani Airport.