Professional Researchers Tracing YOUR Genealogy

Pelagie Islands (AG)

GenTracer Italian Research Sicilian History Italian Photos
Newsletter On-Site Italian Research Italian Links Italian Towns
Publications Next Trip Genealogy Links Maps
Researcher Jewish Italian Research Italian Records WWII POWs

Pelagie Islands (Agrigento Province) consist of the islands of Lampedusa, Linosa and Lampione. The name Pelagie comes from the Greek word "pelaghia", meaning islands of the high sea. The archipelago is the southern-most extension of Italy, situated south of Pantelleria and west of Malta, nearer to the North African coast (113 km) than to Sicily (205 km). This comune is called Lampedusa e Linosa. Post-code 92010, tel. 0922.

The surface area of Lampedusa, which was known in ancient times as Lapadusa, is 20.2 sq. km., its perimeter 26 km., and its population over 5300. The surface area of Linosa, called by the Romans Algusa or Aethusa, is 5.4 sq. km., with a perimeter of 11 km. and a population of over 400. Lampione is an uninhabited islet with a surface area of only 1.2 km.

The climate of Lampedusa is warm throughout the year and tempered by winds thaat blow winter and summer so that in summer the heat is tolerable and the nights pleasant. Rainfall is only 300 mm per year and there are no streams or springs on the island. Linosa is mountainous and less breezy so it is warmer. In summer the temperatures can top 40 degrees centigrade.

Lampedusa and Lampione are calcareous islands and lie on the continental shelf of Africa. Linosa is volcanic with three volcanoes that have been dormant at least 200 years and so geologically belongs to Sicily. The soil on Lampedusa is eroded by the sea at a rate of about 1 meter a year, so that an 1847 map shows Capo Ponente as 150 m. further out to sea than today. The formerly abundant flora and fauna, including Aleppo pines, have disappeared and leave a typically Mediterranean steppe landscape with sparse bushland. However, the tropical succulent plants are flourishing. The once plentiful wild rabbit can still be found with larks and cormorants and gulls, as well as lobster, grouper, and murry-eel as well as the further offshore swordfish and tuna fish. Linosa is greener because of its volcanic origins. It is a home for spurge, mastic trees, sea lily and prickly pear as well as the cultivated crops of vines and lentils. The surrounding sea contains groupers, ricciole, white bream and turtles which lay their eggs on the beach. In addition to the same birds as Lampedusa, Linosa is home to the cuckoo owl, a protected bird of prey.

The Isola dei Conigli just off the coast of Lampedusa is a nature reserve where turtles come in from the sea to lay their eggs in a still unspoiled setting.

Traces of Greek, Roman, and Saracen settlements have been found on Lampedusa. After the expulsion of the Saracens by the Greek telesiarch Gregory in AD 813, the island was inhabited by various populations, sometimes only very sparsely, until 1843 when Commander Bernardo Maria Sanvisente was sent by Ferdinand II, the Bourbon King of the Two Sicilies, together with a following of soldiers, ecclesiastics, administrators, 120 men and women in all, in order to repopulate the island. We owe to Sansivente various descriptions of conditions on the island and of the foundation of the colony that gave rise to the present-day Lampedusa. Linosa was sparsley populated in Roman and Arab times, probably serving as a supply station for ships engaged in the slave trade. In 1845 Governor Sanvisente landed with 40 persons intending to found a colony on the uninhabited island. He found Roman water tanks and signs of Arab residents.

One important place of interest often visited by both inhabitants and tourists is the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Porto Salvo. Apparently it was also venerated by the Turks, and runaway slaves and shipwrecked sailors could find food and drink there, ready for use. According to one strange legend, an escaped slave once took refuge in the Sanctuary, where he succeeded in building a raft on which he hoisted as a sail the canvas bearing the image of the Madonna of the Sanctuary, so he was able to reach the coast of Liguria.

The economy of the Pelagie is mainly based on fishing and agriculture, the fish-canning industry and tourism. The population of Lampedusa and Linosa doubles in the summer with the arrival of the tourists.

Churches (Agrigento Diocese) include the following:
Maria SS. del Carmelo (Lampedusa - suburb of Pelagie Islands)
San Gerlando (Linosa - suburb of Pelagie Islands)

Links to other sites about Pelagie Islands include:
Lampedusa and Linosa
Italian Wikipedia
Italian Towns
Italian Postal Codes
Sicily Web
Sicilian Net

My latest book on CD is titled Sicily - A Reference for Researchers and is now available. With a file for each town (plus many other files), it relates the history of Sicily as reflected in the photos, records and festivals of its towns. It contains over 2500 text and photo files and can be ordered at CD order.

Order Italy Kathy Kirkpatrick

e-mail You can always reach me here!
© Kathy Kirkpatrick 1997-2008