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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lampedusa is located in Italy
Location in Italy

The Mediterranean island of Lampedusa (Italian: Isola di Lampedusa, Sicilian: Isula di Lampidusa) is part of the Province of Agrigento, in the region of Sicily, Italy and is the largest of the Pelagie Islands. It is situated 205 kilometres (127 mi) from Sicily and 113 kilometres (70 mi) from Tunisia, and is the southernmost point in Italy. Its population subsists on fishing, agriculture and tourism. It is known primarily for its role as an entry point to Europe for impoverished illegal immigrants from Africa.[1]

Lampedusa is the largest part of the comune of Lampedusa e Linosa which also includes the smaller islands of Linosa and Lampione with the latter just hosting an automatic lighthouse.



Lampedusa and nearby islands
The south coast of Lampedusa

Politically and administratively Lampedusa is part of Italy, but geologically it belongs to Africa since the sea between the two is no deeper than 120 metres. Lampedusa is an arid island, with no sources of water other than irregular rainfall. The fauna and flora of Lampedusa are similar to those of North Africa.

The Isola dei Conigli (literally ‘Island of Rabbits’), which is close to the south coast of Lampedusa, is one of the last remaining egg-laying sites in Italy for the Loggerhead Sea Turtle, which is endangered throughout the Mediterranean. The beach and the neighbouring island are part of a nature reserve: here the famous singer-songwriter Domenico Modugno spent his vacations, and died here in 1994. Next to Parise Cape is a small beach accessible only by sea, through a low grotto.

Other species living along the island's coast include mantas and dolphins. Lampedusa is also known as being the gateway from Europe to Africa.


Historically, Lampedusa was a landing place and a maritime base for the ancient Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs. The Romans established a plant for the production of the prized fish sauce known as garum. As a result of pirate attacks by the Arabs, the island became uninhabited.

The first prince of Lampedusa and Linosa was Giulio Tomasi, ancestor of the famous writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, who received the title from Charles II of Spain in 1630. A century later the Tomasi family began a program of resettlement. In the 1840s the Tomasi family sold the island to the Kingdom of Naples.

In 1860 the island became part of the new Kingdom of Italy, but the new government limited its activities there to building a penal colony.

During World War II, the island was captured by British forces in Operation Corkscrew, as an immediate precursor to the Allied invasion of Sicily.

The first telephone connection with Sicily was installed only in the 1960s. In the same decade an electric power station was built. The western part of the island became a U.S. Coast Guard LORAN-C transmitter in 1972.

In 1979, Lt. Kay Hartzell, United States Coast Guard took command of the Coast Guard base, becoming the first female commanding officer of an isolated U.S. military base.[2]

The Mediterranean during the 1980s was the scene of numerous terrorist attacks. 1985-1986 saw an increase in tensions. On April 15, 1986, Libya fired two Scuds at the U.S. Coast Guard navigation station on the Italian island, in retaliation for the American bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi, and the death of Colonel Gaddafi's daughter. However, the missiles passed over the island, landing in the sea, and caused no damage.

At the time of the missile attack, the LORAN station was under the command of Lt. Ernest DelBueno. DelBueno and his Coast Guard crew had spent the previous six months increasing their security preparedness including arming the crew and hardening the station's defenses. Expecting a traditional terrorist attack the American forces were surprised by a missile attack. American military commanders in Europe decided to temporarily evacuate non-essential crew to Sicily leaving behind a small security team under DelBueno's command. However the commander of the U.S. Navy transport helicopter from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Four (HC-4) received orders from his chain of command to evacuate the entire American crew including DelBueno and his security team. DelBueno and his security crew returned the following morning, The confusion caused a rift with many of the island's residents including some of the Italian employees of the base. Several of the civilian employees including interpreter, Marco Bartolo, returned to work and performed their jobs in an exceptional manner. As a result of the missile attack, the U.S. Coast Guard improved communications equipment, built fences and developed procedures for missile attacks and threats.

On January 4, 1989, U.S. Navy aircraft from the carrier USS John F. Kennedy shot down two Libyan fighters approximately 200 kilometers from the island.[3] At the time, a U.S. Navy logistics aircraft from HC-4 was on the ground at the NATO base, preparing for takeoff. The base commander, Lt. Kenneth Armstrong, received notice from U.S. Sixth Fleet Intelligence at La Maddalena that the Libyan fighters had been shot down, and immediately grounded the unarmed logistics flight, which was scheduled to move on to Tel Aviv. Sixth Fleet Intel also informed Armstrong that Libyan president Muammar al-Gaddafi had made direct reprisal threats against the American commanders at Sigonella, Sicily, and at Lampedusa.[4]

The aircraft remained on the ground overnight, and an Italian media frenzy followed, putting Lampedusa and Armstrong in the spotlight. Armstrong responded by hosting a media tour of the base, conspicuously wearing his body armor and pointing out defensive forces on the base. The move quieted speculation that the Americans were once again preparing to leave.[5]

The NATO base was decommissioned in 1994 and transferred to Italian military control. It can still be seen clearly on Google Earth (keyword: Lampedusa), at the west end of the island, with swimming pool and outbuildings visible.

Coastline of Lampedusa.

Illegal immigration issue

Lampedusa has made international news as a prime transit site for illegal immigrants hoping to enter Europe from Africa, the Middle East and Asia. A secret agreement between the Libyan and Italian governments in 2004 obliged Libya to take in returned refugees and resulted in the deportation of many people from Lampedusa to Libya in 2004 and 2005. The European Parliament did not endorse this.[6]

In 2006 it was reported that illegal immigrants from Africa still commonly pay smugglers in Libya for a transit to Lampedusa.[7] From there they are transferred by the Italian government to detention camps in mainland Italy and eventually released; their deportation orders are not enforced.[8] The illegal immigration into Italy's territory is a major issue in recent times, with parties who campaign with the issue as part of their promises.

The conditions at a temporary reception center for immigrants on the island came under criticism by the UNHCR for overcrowding in early 2009. The center, originally built with a maximum capacity of 850 people, was reported to be housing nearly 2,000 'boat people' with significant numbers of them sleeping outdoors under plastic sheeting.[9] On 19 February 2009, a number of Tunisian men broke a hunger strike that sparked a riot in which a large portion of the holding facility was destroyed by fire. The holding centre was in the process of being turned into a prison.


The island of Lampedusa is connected to Sicily by a ferry service with the seaport of Porto Empedocle, near Agrigento. Lampedusa also has a small national airport which carries out service mainly during the summer period.

Popular entertainment

The movie Respiro (2002), written and directed by Emanuele Crialese and starring Valeria Golino, was filmed entirely on Lampedusa.

See also


External links

Coordinates: 35°30′N 12°36′E / 35.5°N 12.6°E / 35.5; 12.6


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Lampedusa is the major island of the Pelagie Islands, part of Sicily.

Lampedusa is the most southern island of Italy located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It has a popuplation of 5.800 and is 12km long but only 3kn wide. It has been inhabited by the Fenician, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and in 1860 it became part of the Kingdom of Italy.

Get in

By boat

Daily overnight ferries run from Porto Empedocle in Sicily, and during the summer there is a hydrofoil service.

By plane

The airport is right next to the town and has direct flights with Sicily and Italy.

Get around

By Moped

The best way to see the island is to hire a moped and explore all the different beaches on the island.

  • L'isolotto dei Conigli (the Island of the Rabbits)
  • Boat trip round the island (about 4 hours)
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LAMPEDUSA, a small island in the Mediterranean, belonging to the province of Girgenti, from which it is about 112 m. S.S.W. Pop. (1901, with Linosa - see below) 2276. Its greatest length is about 7 m., its greatest width about 2 m.; the highest point is 400 ft. above sea-level. Geologically it belongs to Africa, beingsituated on the edge of the submarine platform which extends along the east coast of Tunisia, from which (at Mahadia) it is 90 m. distant eastwards. The soil is calcareous; it was covered with scrub (chiefly the wild olive) until comparatively recent times, but this has been cut, and the rock is now bare. The valleys are, however, fairly fertile. On the south, near the only village, is the harbour, which has been dredged to a depth of 13 ft. and is a good one for torpedo boats and small craft.

The island was, as remains of hut foundations show, inhabited in prehistoric times. Punic tombs and Roman buildings also exist near the harbour. The island is the Lopadusa of Strabo, and the Lipadosa of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, the scene of the landing of Roger of Sicily and of his conversion by the hermit. A thousand slaves were taken from its population in 1553. In 1436 it was given by Alfonso of Aragon to Don Giovanni de Caro, baron of Montechiaro. In 1661, Ferdinand Tommasi, its then owner, received the title of prince from Charles II. of Spain. In 1737 the earl of Sandwich found only one inhabitant upon it; in 1760 some French settlers established themselves there. Catherine II. of Russia proposed to buy it as a Russian naval station, and the British government thought of doing the same if Napoleon had succeeded in seizing Malta. In 1800 a part of it was leased to Salvatore Gatt of Malta, who in 1810 sublet part of it to Alessandro Fernandez. In 1843 onwards Ferdinand II. of Naples established a colony there. There is now an Italian penal colony for domicilio coatto, with some 400 convicts (see B. Sanvisente, L'Isola di Lampedusa eretta a colonia, Naples 1849). Eight miles W. is the islet of Lampione. Linosa, some 30 m. to the N.N.E., measures about 2 by 2 m., and is entirely volcanic; its highest point is 610 ft. above sealevel. Pop. (1901) about 200. It has landing-places on the S. and W., and is more fertile than Lampedusa; but it suffers from the lack of springs. Sanvisente says the water in Lampedusa is good. A few fragments of undoubtedly Roman pottery and some Roman coins have been found there, but the cisterns and the ruins of houses are probably of later date (P. Calcara, Descrizione dell' Isola di Linosa, Palermo, 1851, 29). (T. As.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

Italian Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia it


  1. An Italian island between Sicily and Tunisia

Related terms

Simple English

File:Lampedusa versante
Lampedusa, looking south

Lampedusa is the largest of the Pelagie Islands. Sicily is 205 km to the north, Tunisia is 113 km to the south. There are no sources of freshwater on the island, so those living there collect rainwater. Fauna and Flora, as well as the climate is similar to what can be found in North Africa.

There is a NATO base on the island. It is also a popular destination for refugees who try to enter the European Union that way.

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