Do you want to visit a place where history and legends coexist? Welcome to Isola delle Femmine! This is a nice town close to Palermo but the ‘Isola’, the island will be the centerpiece of our article. Why? Because its charm and mystery make people curious…and there’s a lot to learn about this islet. For example, why is it called ‘delle Femmine’, so ‘of Women’? Let’s discover more on Sicilian Secrets’ blog.
Isola delle Femmine is a small city on the northern coast of Sicily, between Palermo and the Airport Falcone-Borsellino. But the ‘Isola’, so the ‘island’ is right in front of it. It’s suggestive, nobody lives there and its origin sound mysterious and legendary.
The first question concerns the etymology, ‘The island of Women’ (Women = Femmine, in Italian)…why?
One of the most famous stories says that during the Roman Age, the author Pliny the Younger wrote to Emperor Trajan and in this letter described a prison for women that he saw on this islet in Sicily. But nobody found any traces of artifacts of a prison on the island, there are for sure some cisterns that date back to the Carthaginian or Punic period and were used to ferment mixtures of fish scraps, spices and oils into a sauce called garum, a very valued food addition in the Roman era.
The idea of a prison on Isola delle Femmine is present in some other legends and in many variations. Have you ever heard about the story of thirteen Turkish maidens, condemned for serious crimes that were set on a boat by their relatives and after many days, after wind and storm, shaken by waves, arrived on a small island where they lived alone for seven years? One day, when their relatives changed their mind, they searched these girls and once they found them, they moved back all together on the mainland and founded a new town to celebrate peace. This city was called Capaci (‘cca = here + paci = peace) and named the island who hosted these women ‘Isola delle Femmine’.
Unfortunately, even in this case there’s no evidence that can prove the reliability of this story!
The (maybe) true origin of the name
Myths are always interesting, but let’s understand more about the true origin of the name of this islet. There are two possible stories: the first one is about a byzantine governor called Euphemius. The island was named after him, so it became island of Euphemius, in latin insula Euphemii and, maybe evolved into ‘insula Femi’, then ‘insula Fimi’, then ‘Isula di Fimmini’ (Fimmini means women in Sicilian dialect) and finally, in Italian, ‘Isola delle Femmine’ (Island of Women).
Another hypothesis is that the latin word ‘Fimis’ came from the Arabic word ‘Fim’ that means ‘mouth’ to describe the strait between the island and the coast. Who knows? In any case, this island still fascinates people and is a great spot to take a nice picture at the sunset!
On the island
Nowadays, on the island you can see the remains of a tower called ‘Torre di fuori’ (Outside Tower) that was used to catch sight of the ships and protect the land. It was a strategic point, right in front of another tower on the mainland (Inside Tower), to defend Sicily against the enemies coming from the sea. From the promontory it’s possible to see Capo Gallo, Monte Pellegrino, Ustica, Carini and Capaci…what a view!
Moreover, Isola delle Femmine is now a nature reserve managed by LIPU, the Italian association that protect birds.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Italians emigrated from Italy and moved to the United States, especially to California.
The parents of the celeb baseball players Joe DiMaggio were born in the town of Isola delle Femmine!
And if you want to visit this nice Sicilian village, book your holiday at Saracen Sands Hotel & Congress Center. It is the landmark for the leisure hospitality, and you can enjoy your stay by the sea, visit Palermo (only 15 mins away) and Western Sicily. At Saracen you can taste the best of Sicilian cuisine, as well as Mediterranean and international specialties.
Click here to know more!