There are places, near Palermo, whose origins are mysterious and shrouded in charm and legends. This is the case, for example, of the islet of Isola delle Femmine, located along the coast of the homonymous district, less than 20 km from the Sicilian capital.
Isola delle Femmine‘s beach is the destination of many tourists and Palermitans during the summer period, and the islet, which emerges a few kilometers away into the sea, always arouses a lot of curiosity: its extension, which does not exceed 15 hectares, can be admired in every detail even from the highway that connects the Falcone and Borsellino Airport with Palermo, thanks to its proximity to the coast.
As anticipated, the origins of the island are mixed between history and legend, starting from its name: for many years the name “Isola delle Femmine” was believed to derive from the presence of a female prison right next to the ruined tower that stands on a small promontory. In reality, it is the Italianization of “Insula Fimi”, an appellation whose origin also has a double interpretation: it could derive from “Isola di Eufemio”, that is the name of one of the Byzantine governors of Sicily, or it could have originated from the Arabic “Fim”, a term used to designate an opening, perhaps inspired by the narrow channel that separates the islet from the coast.
Isola delle Femmine has been at the center of numerous romantic and bloody legends, above all because of the presence of the aforementioned mysterious tower, whose origin, in reality, is much less romantic: corresponding “at sea” to a similar tower located on the mainland, this structure is nothing more than a strategic sighting post, whose construction is to be attributed to the same architect who oversaw the construction of the famous Piazza Pretoria in Palermo. During the Second World War the construction was constantly used and suffered serious damage as a result of the bombings, from which the current decading aspect derives.
From a naturalistic point of view, Isola delle Femmine is a small paradise of fauna and flora. Considered an Oriented Natural Reserve, the area has been under the management of Lipu since 1998, as it is one of the most important spots for the migration of numerous birds, thanks to its sheltered and unspoiled position. Even the seabed surrounding the island is a real jewel for snorkelers who, thanks to the currents, can admire lots of marine species unusual for the area.
To the present day, the island is at the center of fierce debates regarding its intended use (it is privately owned, although it is an integral reserve) but one thing is certain: it is one of the symbols of Palermo‘s western metropolitan area, which contributes to enrich the landscape of the coast, offering breathtaking sunsets.