Every year tuna migrate from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea. They cross the Strait of Gibraltar and arrive in the Mediterranean Sea in order to breed.  Here, off the coasts of the Egadi islands, there is an ancient fishing tradition. Expert fishermen build a narrow path of nets, called camere (chambers), which direct tuna towards coasts until being forced into a funnel-shaped net, called corpu. Here at dawn la mattanza (slaughter) takes place. At the end of mattanza, the sea turns red and the ritual is completed. Then tuna are transferred to the factory on the island for processing stages.

The Rais is the main protagonist of the ritual. The Rais directs the construction of the path of nets that catch tuna and he identifies the final place for mattanza. The Rais manages the fishing operations and each phase of the process which follows specific ritual patterns. He is helped by two fishermen, one of whom acts as deputy, and by about one hundred fishermen who settle on the boats that surround the corpu. There are thirteen boats, with different names and functions. Fishermen are equipped with hooked harpoons and catch tuna following the rhythms of a ritual song: the cialoma.

Tuna fishing in Favignana is one of the oldest attestations of practices of communities in the area. Its origins are in the Paleolithic. First evidence of this practice are the hieroglyphs in the cave of Genovese, on the island of Levanzo. In these hieroglyphs there is a fishing scene with a tuna. Tuna represent an important source for populations that have lived in the Egadi islands and various references highlight the great importance that this animal played in their life cycle. De Piscatione by Oppiano di Cilicia describes how the tight link between the island and the sea is renewed every year between March and July. There are many recent multimedial documents about the fishing ritual that underline its importance for the community. The last mattanza took place in 2007. Nowaday Favignana fishery houses the Regional Museum.


Buttitta A., Le forme del lavoro. Mestieri tradizionali in Sicilia, Flaccovio, Palermo, 1988
Consolo V., La pesca del tonno in Sicilia, Sellerio, Palermo, 1986
Giacomarra, M.G., La pesca del tonno in Sicilia in Nobili A., Palmisano M.E. (a cura di), Ippocampo : tecniche, strutture e ritualità della cultura del mare: progetto scuola museo Regione siciliana, Assessorato dei beni culturali, ambientali e della pubblica istruzione, Dipartimento dei beni culturali, ambientali e dell’educazione permanente, Officine Grafiche Riunite SpA, Palermo, 2008
Giacomarra, M.G., I beni demoetnoantropologici in Sicilia. Itinerari di documentazione e fruizione delle testimonianze di cultura popolare, Fondazione Ignazio Buttitta, Palermo, 2016
Guggino E., Pagano G., La mattanza, Fondazione Ignazio Buttitta, Palermo, 2007
REIS - Libro dei Saperi - Pesca del tonno a Favignana https://reis.cricd.it/reisicilia/details/2/151 (last visited 03/01/2022)
REIS -Libro dei tesori umani viventi - Gioacchino Cataldo: Rais della Tonnara https://reis.cricd.it/reisicilia/details/2/176 (last visited 03/01/2022)
La Sicilia in Rete - Pesca del Tonno a favignanahttps://www.lasiciliainrete.it/directory-tangibili/listing/pesca-del-tonno-a-favignana/ (last visited 03/01/2022)
La tonnara di Favignana, puntata di Linea Blu - RAI andata in onda il 4 maggio 2019 e disponibile al sito Linea Blu 2019 - La tonnara di Favignana - 04/05/2019 - Video - RaiPlay (last visited 23/06/2023)