The island's resource: tuff


The coast of Favignana is characterized by majestic rock formations that dominate the island from the sea, representing an example of human skill over the centuries: high rock walls carved manually, vast internal areas excavated sometimes following an orthogonal and sometimes pyramidal pattern. The history of Favignana starts from the ancient deposits of shell tuff, becoming a fascinating destination for tourists and scholars from all over the world.
Il tufo visto dal mare a Favignana

How was tuff formed in history?

Tuff is a natural product, made up of mollusc shells and seashells. The origin of tuff is therefore connected to the sea which, during the glaciations, has covered the island at least four times, transforming the island of Favignana into a large seabed, full of algae and marine fauna.

This cycle of rising and falling sea levels has generated a layer of marine sediments of over 200 meters, composed mainly of lamellibranchs and corals, giving life to one of the most precious resources of the island: Favignana's tuff, a light, almost white and very compact calcarenite stone, already used as a building material by the Romans.

Entrepreneurial activities

The extraction of tuff in Favignana has experienced a period of great development since 1700, thanks to its excellent properties and the ease of maritime transport via the characteristic lateen sailing ships of Trapani, called "schifazze". 
The increase in trade flows facilitated its supply to the large coastal cities of the Mediterranean, such as Trapani, Palermo and Tunis, but the demand for this stone also came from more distant and remote cities, such as Messina and other cities outside of Sicily.

Tuff in construction

The main buildings of the Egadi Islands, including Favignana with its magnificent Palazzo Florio, were mainly built with the characteristic tuff. In some houses in the historic center, the tuff emerges under the layer of plaster damaged by salt and atmospheric agents.

The role of the "Pirriaturi"

I "pirriaturi", abili scavatori locali, tagliavano il tufo con "mannara e zappuni", creando delle vere e proprie opere d'arte tagliando la roccia ortogonalmente.
The quarries were portions of land in which the "pirriaturi" eliminated the first superficial state of hard rock, bringing out the underlying tuff, which was subsequently cut into standard blocks called "cantuna", the most common measuring 25x25x50 cm.

La storia del tufo a Favignana

What remains of the tuff in Favignana

The tuff extraction activity lasted almost three centuries, where the mastery and ingenuity of the "pirriaturi" were handed down from generation to generation. 
However, with the advent of reinforced concrete, the mining activity was gradually abandoned.
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