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There are 2 entries on this page: 1. General (Islands of Sicily)    2. The Isle of Women! (circled in red, below)

1.The Islands of Sicily
or the Island of the Sirens?

The only official Island of the Sirens that I know of is a 1943 20th Century Fox musical by that name—but only in Italian. The original English is Coney Island, starring Betty Grable and probably some other people. I mention this because as I was looking for ways to spend my enormous wealth, I came across an article on a new wet wrinkle for the “discerning” (super-rich)—namely, portable islands:

Want to own your own island but can't find one in your desired location? The world's first portable islands will let the super-rich create eco-friendly getaways anywhere on Earth. Each island home will adhere to the customer's every need - with the renderings including options such as swimming pools, boat docks and greenery.

I was undecided—towing fees would be enormous. "Middle of the Pacific Ocean, please, and step on it." What else have they got? Ah...

If you're more interested in a traditional private island, then take a look at these stunning and remote properties.

There were some in the Caribbean, Maine, and, lo and behold, Italy—those were listed, strangely, as the Island of Sirens, Italy.

Even in Naples, when we say “Sirens” we think of “Siren Alley” (as it is known to the less discerning of us), the length of coastline that makes up the eastern side of the Sorrentine peninsula, that stretch known as the Amalfi coast. They have Li Galli islands, for example, but nothing called Island of the Sirens. I think the only place that calls itself the Anything of the Siren(s) besides all the restaurants (even some in the Alps)—the only piece of land that could remotely be compared to an island—appears to be Lo Scoglio delle Sirene [The Rock of the Sirens] just off the island of Vulcano in the Aeolian archipelago north of Sicily. Nice rock, but no swimming pool, boat dock or greenery. It's in this photo somewhere, a shot of the rest of the Aeolians taken from Vulcano.

The Italian constitution specifies that “Sicily, with the Aeolian islands, the Aegadian islands, the Pelagie Islands, Ustica and Pantelleria, constitutes an autonomous region.” (Sicily, of course, is the Big Island, but for the rest of this discussion, I am not counting it as an island. It's the mainland. This is about the islands around Sicily.) The above-mentioned islands and archipelagoes are part of the Italian region of Sicily. There are big and small islands, all in all over 100. None of the small ones are inhabited; 18 of the larger ones are. Taken together, the islands around Sicily make up a bit more than 1% of the total land area of the region of Sicily. That is, about 285 km² out of 26,000 km² for all of the region of Sicily. About 33,00 persons live on the islands around the Big Island of Sicily.

The main groups of islands or archipelagoes around Sicily (see map at top) are the Aeolians, the Aegadies, and the Pelagie islands; smaller groups are the islands of the Stagnone and the Cyclopean Isles, to the west and east, respectively, of the main body of Sicily. Individual islands are Ustica to the north in the Tyrrhenian sea and Pantelleria in the Sicily canal to the south. From a geologic and historical point of view, even the Maltese islands (south of Sicily, shaded light-grey on the map) that now make up the Republic of Malta, are part of the so-called "Sicilian archipelago". On the other hand, the Pelagie islands, particularly Lampedusa and Lampione, are really a peripheral part of Italy, politically; geologically and geographically, they are part of the continent of Africa, meaning that they rest on the African tectonic plate.


the Aeolians (named for the Greek god of the wind) - Group of seven main islands: Lipari (the largest; thus, the Aeolians may also be called the Lipari islands), Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea. Strombol (pictured)i and Vulcano are both active volcanoes and erupt frequently. Scientifically,  the archipelago is part of a "volcanic arc" that includes the nearby island of Ustica (mentioned below) and a series of submerged volcanoes to the north named Magnani, Vavilov, Marsili and Palinuro, as well as two that are unnamed. The Aeolian islands are on the UNESCO World Heritage List because of their scientific importance (from the UNESCO description):

The Aeolian Islands provide an outstanding record of volcanic island-building and destruction, and ongoing volcanic phenomena. Studied since at least the 18th century, the islands have provided the science of vulcanology with examples of two types of eruption (Vulcanian and Strombolian) and thus have featured prominently in the education of geologists for more than 200 years. The site continues to enrich the field of vulcanology.

The Aeolians together have a total stable population of about 14,000 persons, but, as an increasingly popular summer vacation destination, are swarmed with at least 200,000 visitors during that period.

the Aegadies - are the three islands of Favignana, Marettimo, Levanzo and a few smaller rocks in the sea, 7 km off the western coast of Sicily between Trapani and Marsala. It is interesting anthropologically as there are traces of early human habitation from the Stone Age. Historically, the islands were in the hands of the Phoenicians and were the site of the last  naval battle of the First Punic War in which the Romans defeated the Carthaginian fleet and definitively annexed all of Sicily. The stable population of the three islands is a few hundred persons, but the summer tourist trade adds to that number considerable. The islands are the site the Protected Marine Reserve of the Aegadies Island, instituted in 1991 and the largest of its kind in Europe.

the Pelagies - The Pelagie Islands are the three small islands of Lampedusa, Linosa, and Lampione, located in the Mediterranean Sea between Malta and Tunisia, south of Sicily. To the northwest lies the island of Pantelleria and the Strait of Sicily. Geographically, Lampedusa and Lampione belong to the African continent. The islands have been largely deforested and are relatively barren even of what used to be native olive groves. The stable population is about 4500. Although the island is a potential vacation spot for tourism, the recent geopolitical situation in North Africa has made it less and less desirable since the island is a main goal for refugees from that continent, most of them embarking in Libya. The Libya-Lampedusa refugee smuggling route is notoriously perilous, even deadly. The refugee population of the island threatens to overwhelm facilities to handle them. The island is the site of a marine protected area, instituted in 2002, concerned with preserving the Loggerhead Sea Turtle.                   (pictured: northeastern cliffs of Lampedusa)

the islands of the Stagnone - These are four islands (termed a 'microarchipelago') of San Pantaleo (Mozia), Isola Grande, Schola, and Santa Maria that make up the perimeter of and small islands within the Stagnone lagoon, off the coast of Marsala in the west, the largest lagoon in Sicily. San Pantaleo (Mozio) was an ancient Phoenecian colony, and the whole lagoon is today a protected regional nature preserve.

the Cyclopean Isles - another microarchipelago, these isles (pictured) are located in the shadow of Mt. Etna in the east.  The Cyclopean isles are thought to have been at one time joined to the mainland. The isles consist of Lachea, the large faraglione (rock), the small faraglione, and four other prominent rocks arrayed in the form of an arc. The name reveals the role they play in Homer's Odyssey. Indeed, these isles were the abode of the one-eyed monsters called the Cyclopes. The rocks in the water are said to be the missiles hurled by the blinded cyclops Polifemus at the fleeing Ulysses:
Ripping off the peak of a towering crag, he heaved it
so hard the boulder landed just in front of our dark prow
and a huge swell reared up as the rock went plunging under--
a tidal wave from the open sea. The sudden backwash
drove us landward again, forcing us close inshore...
--Homer, The Odyssey, book IX lines 538-542 (trans. Robert Fagles)
Ustica - The single island of Ustica is 67 km/41 miles NW of the city of Palermo on Sicily. It is about 3.5 km long and 2.5 km wide and has a stable population of about 1300. It is not part of the relatively nearby Aeolian group. It is isolated and surrounded by relatively deep water, which makes is attractive for scuba diving, the main tourist draw. It shows evidence of stone-age inhabitants and may have been settled permanently from the Aeolians. It has been more or less constantly inhabited in historic times: Phonecians, Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans; as well, there was a Benedictine monastery built on the island in the 6th century AD. It was the site of  battles between Christian and Muslims and the victim of numerous Saracen raids. It was fortified by the Kingdom of Naples in 1759 and in more recent times served as an island of exile for political prisoners under Mussolini in the 1920s and '30s. In spite of the scarcity of water, there is an ongoing attempt to develop tourism.

Pantelleria - is a single island in the Strait of Sicily, 100 km/62 mi southwest of Sicily and 60 km (37 mi) east of the Tunisian coast, which can seen in the distance. The island is part of the Sicilian province of Trapani. It has an area of 83 km2 (32 mi2) and is the largest volcanic satellite island of Sicily.
The island is the summit of a largely underwater volcanic complex that last erupted in 1891 below sea level. The stable resident population is about 7700. The island is of enormous anthropological interest because of the presence of unearthed dwellings and artifacts dated at 35,000 years old. As well, there are ancient tombs similar to the Nuraghe of Sicily. In historic times, the island was in hands of the Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs and then Norman Italy. Pantelleria was also crucial in WWII to the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943 since planes could be based within striking distance of Sicily. Pantelleria has an airport and is a popular tourist destination, holding as it does a large nature preserve, a natural lake (pictured), hot springs, and many items of archaeological and geological interest.

s far as I know, none of the inhabited islands are up for sale. That wouldn't make sense, anyway, since there are already private property owners on them and they might be standing by to repel boarders. What you want is a small uninhabited island that is owned by the state or, most likely, the region. That is, semi-autonomous regions in Italy such as Sicily and Sardinia have some liberty in what they can sell off, and with the wave of privatization currently going full blast in Italy, you might be able to pick up a few acres to plant your palms and boat harbor. I hear that in Sardinia, Santo Stefano island is for sale, but so far nothing is going in Sicily, again as far as I know. Me, I'm holding out for Coney Island.

image credits: top - "Isola di Sicilia": Hanhil based on NordNordWest derivative work: Yiyi -license  CC BY-SA 3.0 at Wikimedia Commons;
 - Aeolian photo,
mmarkos90 wikipedia; Lampedua, J. Sciberra; Cyclopean Isles, gnuckx; Pantelleria, Francesca Fabbrica.

2.  added May 20, 2017

Isola delle femmine -  The Isle of Women

I'm tempted to say that this is the oddest place name in Italy, but I don't think it's for sale, with or without the women. (It's circled in red on the large map at the top of this page—north-western coast.) The name refers both to the small town just west of Palermo called Isola delle femmine and the tiny uninhabited island (image) 500 meters off shore that the town is named for. The isle is uninhabited now, but there is a broken-down remnant of an ancient tower on it that was probably a watch or 'sighting' tower originally.) It's not called the Isle of Women because of the wildly lascivious tribe of beautiful, highly intelligent women who once inhabited it and liked to ambush and make love to marooned sailors while discussing Kierkegaard because that never happened, so put your money away.

More plausible (but equally false) is that the tower is what's left of an old women's prison or (also false) that the isle was once a refuge for women and children to keep them away from the plague-infested mainland, or (really really false) that there were a number of Turkish women who sailed all the way from Turkey to escape the harem of their brutal master and who are said to have founded the town itself on the mainland and to have given refuge to abused women. (That's a shame because you really want that one to be true). All false. Alas, there are extant documents from the 1100s that call the island fimis, apparently an altered form of the Arabic fim, which means a strait or a narrow passage in reference to the passage between the mainland and the isle. Over centuries and lots of punning on fim, it became accepted—and a lot more fun—to refer to the isle of femmine instead of "the isle separated from the shore by a narrow passage," especially since the Sicilian pronunciation of femmine is the same as fimmini. Residents of the Isle of Women are not called whatever you might think, but simply isolani—Islanders.

But hold on! There is something else! A very common surname in the small town of Isola delle Femmine is 'Di Maggio'. U.S. baseball great, Joe DiMaggio's (1914-99), parents, Giuseppe Di Maggio (1872-1949) and Rosalia Mercurio (1878-1951), came from Isola delle Femmine, and if you look in the phone directory, there are still a number of Di Maggios in the town. (Italian spelling typically separates the prefix in such names—thus, Di (or di) Lorenzo, Di (or di or da) Vinci, with apostrophes before a vowel, as in D'Annunzio. (The legal Italian surname on documents starts with the letter d, not the attached 'real' name. Joe DiMaggio wrote his own name with the prefix attached the way the Scottish prefixes Mac or Mc are written. Many American sources, however, list him as Di (space) Maggio. Alas, there does not seem to be a Marilyn Di Maggio in the town (unless you count Marilena, but you can't because there is no Marilena, or at least she has no phone. I know. I checked. If you don't know what I 'm talking about—for shame!—I assure you that I checked the 20-25 yr-old female demographic on my block, and they all knew at least that someone named Joe Di Maggio was married to the Marilyn Monroe! Of course, they had no idea what baseball was or what a center-fielder was, but I'll take what I can get). Joe DiMaggio played for the New York Yankees and was famously nicknamed The Yankee Clipper. Giuseppe and Rosalia did not sail aboard a Yankee Clipper, unfortunately. They arrived separately as steerage passengers in immigrant steam ships of the day, he in 1898 aboard the Kaiser Wilhem I from Genoa to Ellis island, New York. He was bound for San Francisco to pursue the family profession of fisherman; she joined him in late 1902 aboard the Roma from Naples to Ellis Island.The DiMaggios were among many Islanders who left for America.

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