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La Mattanza - the tuna cull in Sicily

ALL THINGS SICILIAN

Villas in Sicily on or near the Egadi Islands >>

For gourmets in Sicily, the months of May and June mean tuna in all manner of recipes. But the story of how this tasty fish traditionally arrived on our plate is both fascinating and brutal. The usually tranquil Egadi Islands, just off the west coast of Sicily, were, until a few years ago, the scene of an age-old massacre – the “mattanza”!

Each year, unsuspecting floats of blue fin tuna pass through these waters on their way to the Atlantic. What awaited them, however, are a series of nets, "isole", which, becoming progressively smaller in size, ushered them inexorably towards the final trap - the “camera della morte”, or chamber of death.

For gourmets in Sicily, the months of May and June mean tuna in all manner of recipes.

It was here that the islands' fishermen, who would surely have found a friend in Hemmingway, were waiting in their boats, armed with spear-like weapons that were plunged again and again into the flesh of the frantic tuna. The sea boiled with blood and the “Rais” – the head of the group of fishermen – incited his team to ever greater intensity.

The fish, which can weigh up to an enormous 800kg, were hauled into the boats and taken back to the islands, leaving the sea to wash away the memory of the slaughter and restore the usual calm.

Villas in Sicily on or near the Egadi Islands >>

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