History or PR?

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The crumbling, probably 14th century, coastal warning tower at Isola delle Femmine reminds us of the legends of how this island got its name. There are three theories that I learned from the locals of the mainland town by the same name: in the 16th century, it was a women’s prison, in the 19th century, women and children were brought there to protect them from an infectious disease that was ravaging the town, and more likely, it was an Italianization and mangling of language over the centuries. For generations, the name for the islet was “insula fimi,” which is Latin for “muck island.” Not such a good image. My guess is, the little island was uninhabitable because of the bird population that still occupies the brutal landscape. Additionally, the locals say, during Byzantine rule, the island and town were apparently named for General Eufemia, who at one point was the governor of Sicily. All this illustrates that history is not black and white! i. e., History is public relations too… “Island of Women” sounds much nicer than the centuries old, “Muck Island” or named-for-an-ancient-ruler era “Isola Eufemia” name, hence legends were created to justify the re-branding, if you will. Today, the island and its clear waters are a beautiful nature reserve.

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