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Sicily: Committee formed to save Tonnara of Santa Panagia

Sicily: Committee formed to save Tonnara of Santa Panagia

Rome - It is one of the oldest tuna fisheries in Italy, located on the homonymous headland in the municipality of Siracusa, in the ancient area of the city district of Tiche, one of the five cities that made up the Greek pentapolis. The future of Tonnara Santa Panagia, which has been abandoned for decades, is at stake, along with part of Italy's culture. The spontaneous, non-partisan committee "Tonnara di Santa Panagia: Bene comune" has been recently formed in order to bring together the Public Administration and institutions and create a useful organizational model, capable of generating income and running the site.

The aim of the initiative, launched by the heirs of the Gargallo di Castel Lentini family, one of the oldest in the area, is to turn the tuna fishery into a museum, yet the project has remained only on paper for over 20 years.The tuna fishery dates back to 1100 and, after a long period of inactivity, it came under the legal authority of the Regional Chamber of Syracuse, during the Spanish period. In 1655, it was sold for the first time to various private owners, mostly Sicilian aristocratic families. The ruins of the existing structure most likely date back to the 18th century, probably rebuilt over a previous plant following the 1693 earthquake. In the 1950s, it was taken over by Piero Gargallo di Castel Lentini who wanted to renovate it to continue the tuna fishing tradition, until it was expropriated in the 1980s. Tuna fishery activities had been affected by the construction of a jetty for the docking of oil tankers, which had polluted the sea and disturbed the tuna that no longer returned in large numbers.

Archaeological research has highlighted the importance of this tuna fishery with findings in the area proving the existence of an ancient marble trade route. In 1778, French historian Vivant Denon made reference to the tuna fishery calling it Santa Buonacia when passing by to see the remains of the Dionysus walls. Locals recall that the Tonnara of Santa Panagia was used for the last time in 1970 and was then expropriated to build a sea museum, which, however, never came into existence.