Levanzo is the smallest of the three Egadi Islands (Isole Egadi in Italian), off the western coast of Sicily. The island’s little port is hugely picturesque; a small cluster of pale square buildings huddled around a little harbour of an amazing blue. Levanzo’s population is approximately 200, and the little village around the port is the only settlement, though there are a few scattered buildings and farms further afield. The island used to be agricultural – grain was produced here, and you can still see lines of dry stone walls dividing overgrown fields, terraced hillsides and small stone shelters. Now not much cultivation goes on, though there is still some agriculture including sheep-farming. Levanzo doesn’t have a road network, just a couple of dirt tracks; both jeeps and mules are used for transport. It’s a humble place, with only one or two larger houses among the simpler dwellings. Fishing and boating are big activities here: there must be almost as many boats as there are residents. Small fishing and excursion boats bob in the harbour, are drawn up on slipways, and parked along a small lane near the port.
There’s one major tourist sight on the island: the Grotta del Genovese, a cave containing prehistoric art. Other than that, Levanzo isn’t an action-packed destination, but it is very pleasant. Visitors can, swim, sunbathe and enjoy the island atmosphere. If you’re visiting the cave, you’ll find an excursion to Levanzo can comfortably fill three or four hours, and it would be quite easy to spend a whole day exploring and relaxing. Note that during the peak summer season of July-August the islands fill up with holiday-makers and you’ll find a different atmosphere.
Grotta del Genovese
The Grotta del Genovese can only be visited by booking in advance. You can book online (link below). There are three options for visiting the cave. You can walk there yourself, and meet the custodian at the cave – book ahead and check this option is possible – you can travel overland by jeep (fuoristrada) then descend to the cave on foot, or – when the sea is calm enough to land – you can take a boat trip. The walk downhill from the jeep to the cave takes up to twenty minutes down a footpath which zig-zags down the slope. The walk up is more tiring and visiting the cave on foot isn’t really to be recommended for anyone infirm. Wear tough shoes, and take water to drink. The custodian’s little office on Levanzo is on the lane just above the port (take a right, then a left, or ask a local).
The Grotta del Genovese is not far above sea level, and consists of a rocky cave-shelter with a narrow entrance leading into a larger, dark internal cave. The wall-art in the inner cave, some of which could be as much as 13,000 years old, includes images of bison and deer, and later pictures of tuna fish and a dolphin. Other recognisable depictions include a donkey and implements, probably weapons. There are primitive representations of men and fertility symbols for women. Apparently it is most likely the site was used for cult purposes rather than as living space. A female figure, high and alone on the far wall, painted with ochre and animal fat, is thought to represent a goddess.
On the walk down you can see Marettimo on the horizon; Marettimo was already an island when Levanzo was still joined to mainland Sicily and the hunters were depicting deer and bison on the cave walls.
It is really worth visiting the cave. It’s a rare opportunity to see ancient rock art up close like this; the setting is memorable and the whole expedition has an air of adventure about it.
Other things to do
If you decide to visit the Grotta del Genovese by boat, you can opt to extend the trip into a tour around the island. As well as boat tours, you can also try diving and snorkelling in the waters around Levanzo – diving and fishing excursions can be arranged locally.
Energetic walkers can hike not only to the cave, but also around the rest of the island. Footpaths cross Levanzo’s high plateau and hills as far as the lighthouse on the island’s northern tip. As the island is small, none of the walks are particularly long or demanding. The easiest strolls are along the coast from Levanzo village. Heading east takes takes you along a pleasant coastal path past overgrown agricultural terraces, little patches of woodland and picturesque rocky shoreline to Cala Minnola, a little cove popular with swimmers and sunbathers. There are a couple of shady picnic spots en route, equipped with benches. Walking in the other direction from Levanzo village brings you to the island’s Faraglione, a rock stack in the sea.
Although the village is very small, you can easily spend half an hour or more walking along the little lanes around the curving harbour, taking photographs, looking at boats and admiring the view.
Shops and services
Levanzo is a tiny place and there’s not much in the way of shops and amenities. The few businesses in the village keep quite restricted hours, and when there aren’t enough tourists ashore to stimulate demand, you may find it hard to find service. There’s a bakery and an alimentari food store on the main street, both behind rather anonymous doorways. Opening hours are limited – morning is the best chance of finding them open. There are two small bars on the street, both with seaview terraces (and toilets), and up the slope above the ferry jetty there are two hotel-restaurants. Around lunchtime, when we made up some of the eleven tourists we estimated to be on the island, we found the alimentari closed, and that the bakery had shut at 1pm. One bar had closed since our visit in the morning; the other served drinks and sweet snacks, but nothing savoury. As we sat on the terrace nibbling our pastries, the manageress closed the bar.
Travel to Levanzo
When there aren’t tourists around, Levanzo can feel amazingly remote. But it’s actually only about twenty minutes by hydrofoil from Trapani and there are several hydrofoil and slower ferry connections a day both with the Sicilian city and with the larger island of Favignana.When you’re visiting the Egadi Islands, you should check ferry times in advance online or using the timetables provided at ferry booking offices. There are kiosks by the dock selling ferry tickets, which should (though don’t always) open before each departure. If you can’t buy a ticket, explain to the boat’s crew. Hydrofoils (aliscafi) typically call in at Levanzo between Trapani and Favignana.
Staying on Levanzo would not be to everyone’s taste. The settlement is tiny, and visitors will be extremely limited for eating and entertainment options. However, if you want to relax for a few days – especially when the island is quiet outside the peak summer months – it is an atmospheric spot for a few days of tranquility, or perhaps wandering the island’s footpaths. There are a couple of semi-independent accommodation options where you can start to feel as though you’re living a simple island life: La Plaza Residence has apartments to let close to the harbour, and Dolcevita Egadi Eco Resort is a rather special countryside option with a swimming pool.
On this site
Useful external links
Grotta del Genovese – visiting information