Lampedusa and Linosa (alongside tiny uninhabited Lampione) make up the Pelagie archipelago. The name derives from the Greek, meaning “living in the open sea” and this is a fairly accurate description of these rather isolated islands. Similar in certain ways, they are fundamentally different in others.
Lampedusa is the larger of the two and the more well-known. It has a thriving tourist season that sees its population swell from around 4,000 to over 10,000 in the summer months. Those choosing the island as a holiday destination do so for two reasons: the lovely white sandy beaches and the cobalt blue sea.
Much nearer Africa than Italy (Lampedusa lies just 113km off the Tunisian coast and over 200 from Sicily), Lampedusa is also geologically African and is connected to the mother continent by an undersea shelf (the depth of the sea separating Lampedusa from Africa is rarely more than 110m).
Linosa, while also being closer to Africa than to Europe, is a volcanic creation whose origins are clear from its three craters, Monte Vulcano (195m), Monte Rosso (186m) and Monte Nero (107m), its black cliffs and its lava sand beach of Gaia Pozzolana. The hospitality of the locals is not confined to tourists, however, and the two islands receive annual visits from some very special guests: loggerhead sea turtles.
The hospitality of the locals is not confined to tourists, however, and the two islands receive annual visits from some very special guests: loggerhead sea turtles.
The beach at Isola dei Conigli on Lampedusa and the Gaia Pozzolana beach on Linosa are two of the few remaining sites where this species comes to lay their eggs. The islanders are immensely proud of this and are regularly on hand to ensure that everything goes according to plan. Woe betide anyone who disturbs their honoured guests in any way!
One curiosity of this annual event is that all the turtles born on Linosa are female. This is due to the temperature of the lava beach, which retains the heat more than normal sand. The sex of these turtles is determined by a single degree: if the temperature of the sand is over 30°C, then all the newborn are female. If it is less than 30°C, males appear.
For the gastronomic visitor, the Pelagian Islands are also a treat. Fish, quite logically, is the king of the menu and it is fairly common for your dinner’s ingredients to arrive in the restaurant only moments before you! Linosa, which is a little more fertile than its neighbour, also prides itself on a delicious lentil soup.
Scuba diving and snorkelling are amongst the favourite activities of visitors thanks to the transparent waters and the variety of marine life. Dolphins pass by regularly, enjoying the warm waters, and numerous shipwrecks make for fascinating explorations.
Getting to Lampedusa and Linosa involves either an overnight ferry crossing from Agrigento or Porto Empedocle or flights from Palermo, Catania, Milan, Rome or Naples.