Lampedusa - a Pelagian Island Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Lampedusa - a Pelagian Island

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Lampedusa is one of a group of three small islands that lie in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and the coast of Tunisia. Lampedusa, together with its smaller neighbours - Linosa and Lampione - are called the Pelagian Islands or 'Pelagie', a name derived from Greek and meaning 'living in the open sea'. The Pelagian Islands are part of Italy, even though Lampedusa is only 113km off the coast of Tunisia, but lies about 200km southwest of Sicily. Lampedusa is thus the southernmost point in Italy. While politically a part of Italy, the islands belong geologically to the African land mass and the water between the island and the African coast is no deeper than 100 metres or so.

Lampedusa has a long and narrow shape, being about 10km east to west and only about 3km north to south at its widest point. Its highest point is just 133m above sea level. There is only one town, Lampedusa, which is populated by about 4,000 people. The resident population, which engages mostly in fishing and tourism, temporarily swells to 10,000 or more with seasonal tourists. Lampedusa has been 'discovered' by tourists from the rest of Europe, and reservations for accommodation should be made several months in advance. The choices for places to stay range from the island's secluded beaches to the usual pension-type places and on to luxury resort-style compounds. An interesting, but expensive, alternative is Il Gattopardo di Lampedusa. It's a very small village-style accommodation for 20 to 30 guests. Despite the high cost of over $2,000 dollars (US) per week in summer, the place is strictly informal in dress and style and guests can use cars and boats provided by the Gattopardo.

Recreation includes swimming, diving, fishing and just your basic bumming around. The place is hot (35°C under constant sun in summer) and it is nearly always windy.

Small as it is, the island has a fairly rich archaeology, with evidence of sites that date back to the neolithic age. It has served as a pirate refuge and battlefield for ancient armies and navies.

You can get to Lampedusa by a nine-hour boat ride from Sicily or by plane from various places.

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