Villa Margherita Underground Garden / The Impossible Garden

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

An ancient and traditional activity in Sicily, in particular in Favignana (one of the Egadi Islands), used to be the exploitation of the tuff quarries called “pirrere”; compact calcarenite rocks were thus reduced into blocks of various sizes. The master quarrymen (the “pirriaturi”) used cleavers and other manual tools to dig deep into the ground, leaving vast chasms or a maze of tunnels, passages and niches all around the quarries. In Favignana, the locals initially extracted the stone along the coast, then moved inland, in order not to be detected by pirates.

When there was nothing left, the quarry was abandoned and then often planted with small vegetables “gardens” for the locals: almonds, carobs, lemons and oranges would grow very well protected from the summer heat, winter winds, and saltiness, thus providing nourishment to the occasional farmers. Sometimes, a few pines or palm trees were also planted, to evoke water as per the ancient Arab traditions; vines, pomegranates and some flowering species were selected as well, while those reclaimed areas were also used to breed farmyard animals like rabbits, hens, and pigs. Wells had to be built as well, although slightly brackish, and they were used for cooking, washing and irrigating the plants.
Thanks to those gardens, now acknowledged as underground green areas, Favignana could be self-sufficient. Today, that island is literally full of them, as an integral part of many houses and gardens, even in its historic centre. Residential buildings were, in fact, often erected near those very ancient quarries. By recovering such wealth of underground gardens, the very local history, and traditions can be re-discovered, preserved and promoted.

This is exactly what happened with the Underground Garden of Villa Margherita, also called the “Impossible Garden” and acknowledged as an expression of the cultural heritage of humanity in the “Libro delle Espressioni del R.E.I.L. Isole Egadi” publication.

The extreme popularity of such gardens is the result of a dream and the stubbornness of their very owner, Maria Gabriella Campo: she moved to Favignana as a young bride, forty years ago, and soon decided against all odds to reclaim the large family quarries, and to transform them into fascinating green areas. During the reclamation works, which began in 2001, evocative glimpses and traces of the different mining and rock cutting techniques were eventually brought to life: especially in the tunnels and caves dating back to the XVIII-XIX century, and in the large outdoor section of the quarries, mechanically cut between 1950 and 1960.

After adding earth to raise the bottom of the deepest quarries, in 2005 more than 300 different species and varieties from all over the world were planted there, including Aleppo pines, fruit trees, carob trees, Peruvian pepper (Schinus molle), olive trees, strawberry trees, Polygala myrtifolia, Callistemon, gorse, agave, a lot of Dasylirion, papyri, and water lilies.

Today, the Underground Garden of Villa Margherita (which is also a resort) is a magical place, appearing in all its mesmerizing splendour. While walking around it, visitors can easily conjure images of distant and almost primordial landscapes, ancient pagan times, Arab and Persian worlds.

For further information:

Guided tours by authorized personnel are subject to charges.

Opening: every day (from May to October)
Reservation: required
Duration of the visit: about 2 hours and 30 minutes on foot
Route difficulty: very easy
Minimum number of visitors per group: 2
Public transport is available from the centre of Favignana: “Line 1” bus which stops about 330 yards from Villa Margherita

For information and reservations:

Tel. 389 8048028


Vacation homes and apartments

Strada Comunale Corso n. 10
C.da Bue Marino,
91023 Favignana (TP)

Opening Hours 9: 00-13: 00/16: 00-19: 30

Tel. +39 331 4601817

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)


Piazza Sant'Anna 8/10 - 91023 Favignana(TP)

0923 921542

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