|The name of the
Pelagie archipelago derives from the greek "Pelaghie" meaning high
sea islands. Located in the center of the Mediterranean Sea and
therefore a refuge and supply point for Phoenician, Saracen, Roman and
Greek ships, the island was probably the subject of disputes, raids and
battles of which there is no definite proof. Even the origin of the
island's name is uncertain. The most reliable version is that it derives
from the lightning that frequently lit up the night sky in the past,
frightening sailors. Coins found during recent excavations show that the
Romans may have settled on the island, as did the Arabs centuries later.
The sea surrounding the island is scattered with wreckage from Roman and Greek ships and thousands of nearly fully intact amphoras have been found. For many years this sea was plagiarized and the findings dispersed; even today fishing boats still find fragments of amphoras or anchors in their nets.
regarding the island becomes clearer from 1430 onwards, when Alfonso V
of Aragon, the King of Naples, granted the rights of the island to his
personal servant, Giovanni De Caro dei Borboni di Montechiaro. In 1551,
a fleet under the command of Admiral Andrea Doria and following orders
from Carlo V destroyed the fortress of Mekdia in Tunisia, cove of the
Turkish pirate Dragret.
During the return journey, the fleet stopped at Lampedusa, probably at Cala Pisana, following a heavy storm in which it lost the majority of its crew. The remaining crew settled on the island but two years later Draget had his revenge during a raid after which more than one thousands of the island's inhabitants were deported as slaves.
|In 1630, Carlo
II of Spain granted ownership of the island and the title of Prince of
Lampedusa to the Tomasi family (ancestors of the famous author of 'Il
A terrible plague hit the island around 1780, confirmed by a marble gravestone recovered in a cave where a victim of the plague was buried in 1784. In 1800 the princes of Lampedusa granted a part of the island on perpetual lease to a group of farmers of the Maltese Gatt family, who in turn, several years later, granted a part of it to the Englishman Alessandro Fernandez.
The good relations did not last very long and the Tomasi princes asked Ferdinando II (King of the two Sicilies) for authorisation to sell the island to the English.
Authorisation was not granted and instead in 1839 it was purchased for the price of 12,000 ducats by the King, whose intention was to change it into an agricultural colony.
|In 1843, the knight and governor Bernardo Maria Sanvisente, leading a group of 120 farmers hired by royal edict, landed on the island with the duty to cultivate all available land. A period of important work began, producing the still existing seven palaces, homes for new inhabitants, oil mills, warehouses for crops, small fish-salting factories and a cemetery. The Bourbons, short of money and indifferent to their Governor Sanvisente's protests, began to grant authorization to anyone who asked, to produce vegetable coal using the trees on the island. Thus, in a short period of time, the island was deprived of its vegetation and its crops became more difficult to cultivate, less profitable and more and more exposed to strong winds.|
|Governor Sanvisente resigned and while profits from agriculture were practically disappearing, the inhabitants turned their attention to fishing. In 1860, after the fall of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the Pelagie islands were united to the Kingdom of Italy. In 1872, the Italian government, determined to turn the island into a penal colony, nominated a Commissioner who annulled all land concessions, provoking a further regression of cultivation and obvious resentment from the people. The Second World War arrived, following positive and negative fluctuations of the local economy and slow improvements in communications with Sicily. Due to its important strategic position between Sicily, Malta, Libya and Tunisia, Lampedusa was fortified and even today blockhouses, communication trenches and barracks can still be seen. After the war and as the Italian economy was slowly recovering, Lampedusa was given a power station, telephone communication, a desalinator and finally an airport in 1968. The inhabitants' income was still ensured by the abundance of fish in the sea and by the sponge banks of the neighbouring waters. The first tourists begin to arrive, all keen on underwater fishing.||
arrived in 1986.
Radios worldwide announced that Gheddafi had launched two missiles against Lampedusa which had unexplainably missed their target and exploded in the sea. From this incident, everyone learned of Italy's three small islands, in the middle of a wonderful sea, situated closer to Africa than to Sicily. The television spoke of nothing else for days and Lampedusa became internationally renowned. Hundreds and thousands of tourists began to arrive and the island started a new life. Fishermen converted to tourist operators and hotels, restaurants and shops cropped up everywhere. The island's economy transformed quickly. Most of the inhabitant's income started to come from tourism and no longer from fishing. A few years later, it was announced that Gheddafi had never really launched any missiles at Lampedusa. Seemingly, the Americans who were extremely concerned over increasingly closer ties between Italian politicians and Libya (a Libyan bank had just purchased a considerable quantity of shares in Fiat), had ordered two fighters to break the sound barrier. Following the bang, Americans in the Loran base on Lampedusa, spread the news that the bang had been caused by two missiles exploding. The news spread worldwide, causing tension in relations between Italy and Libya and damaging the island's tourist promotion.