Ustica island

The black pearl of the Mediterranean

Ustica‚ also known as the black pearl of the Mediterranean‚ is a small volcanic island that lies 60km north of Palermo. It got its name from the Latin word ‘ustum’‚ meaning burnt‚ blackened‚ because of the pitch-black volcanic rock formations it owns.
All but just black‚ the island of Ustica is decorated by many colours‚ from calming muted pastel colours of the town’s painted houses to bright intense aquamarine and emeralds of the sea‚ from the soft cooling greens of the olive trees to the blazing pink hibiscus flowers.
The gorgeous island of Ustica is only 9 squared km large and is actually just the tip of a submerged volcano. The hills‚ Monte Guardia dei Turchi and Monte Costa del Fallo are the remains of ancient craters‚ as well as the Falconara promontory.
The effusive nature of the rock of Ustica has led to the formation of several caves and cavities which‚ over time‚ gave shelter during the first human settlements and which today are interesting to visit both above and below the sea.
Ustica is a tiny island‚ but able to seduce travellersscuba diving and non‚ with its dazzling diversity of landscapes and cultural treasures.

The town of Ustica

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The island of Ustica counts about 1300 inhabitants. Most of the Usticesi live in the town of Ustica that lies on the slope of one of the islands hills and is situated at the fishermen’s harbour of Cala Santa Maria. The towns houses are of characteristic Mediterranean style with pastel coloured walls and flat roofs. Most of the houses are beautifully decorated by fresco’s‚ while other houses are decorated with multi-coloured tiles. Throughout the town visitors can find a variety of charming small craft shops where typical souvenirs can be bought. Wandering the small streets baskets with sweet smelling fruits and fresh vegetables are sold for friendly prices by the locals. On the highest part of the town lies the square Piazza Umberto I‚ which is dominated by the S.Ferdinando Re church. At the base of the town‚ one can watch fishermen at work in a postcard-pretty harbour. Though small‚ the town of Ustica is rich in restaurants and bars‚ where one can really lose himself in the typical Sicilian cuisine‚ world-famous and top-ranking in Italy.

The culmination of the Usticese summer in town is the feast of its patron‚ San Bartolomeo‚ celebrated the 24th of August; a unique opportunity to discover this traditional Usticese festivity and to enjoy the thousands of lights colouring the streets and the fireworks spectacle illuminating the sea at night.

History of Ustica

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The island of Ustica is full of history. The first settlements date back to prehistoric times. Later on‚ the island of Ustica has been conquered by many‚ like the Phoenicians‚ the Greeks and Benedictines. In the Middle Ages‚ the Saracens used the island as their outpost‚ preventing Normans and Spaniards from colonizing it. It wasn’t until the 18th century‚ under Bourbon rule‚ that the islands repopulation was finally encouraged by a law offering free agricultural land and tax exemption to families who moved to Ustica. The island got colonized by a large group of farmers‚ who one year later had to suffer from attacks of the Turks plundering the island. More solid defences were built‚ of which the fort of Falconara can still be admired. In the early 20th century‚ because of its remote location‚ the island started to become used to ban criminals and political prisoners. During the fascist period in Italy‚ opponents from Mussolini were exiled to the island‚ of which the communist MP Antonio Gramsci is the most well-known.
The history of the island left many remains that can still be admired in the archaeological museum‚ the prehistorical village and even underwater on archaeological dive routes.


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