Mozia, The Phoenician city


The province of Trapani, in the southern Italian island of Sicily, encompasses several smaller islands. One of them is San Pantaleo, now owned by a private foundation that only allows access via official ferries. The very small island is also known by its ancient name of Mozia, from the Greek ‘Motye’: its rich history is however better connected to the Phoenicians, who settled there in the Twelfth century b.C.  Mozia is in fact the best preserved among the tree Phoenicians settlements in Italy (the other being Palermo and Solunto), and this is what makes it especially interesting.

Today the island is mostly barren due to the many attacks and pillages it sustained through the ages. Part of the land also went submerged by the sea by about half a meter, which actually protected some harbor structures by hiding them from looters. This tormented history notwithstanding, Mozia became an archeologists’ paradise at the end of the 1700s, even attracting the field’s superstar Heinrich Schliemann.

The island was formally studied only since 1906 however, when it was bought by an actual archeological British foundation. The effort uncovered the remains of many buildings and structures, some of them still bearing the clear signs of artworks, or containing ancient urns and other objects. All of these structures can be easily visited, although booking a guided tour is the only way to actually appreciate some of their inner areas – not to mention finance the continuation of the digs. Little known even by Italians themselves, Mozia stands as a rare legacy of an era that got later dwarfed by the planetary greatness of the Roman empire, but which still appears majestic to this day nonetheless.