The Stagnone Lagoon, the largest in Sicily-over two thousand hectares-is since 1984, a Nature Reserve characterized by very salty shallow waters and four islands.
Isola Grande -our Isola Lunga- is the largest island in the mini-archipelago of the Stagnone Islands. Its rather recent formation gave rise to the lagoon. It was formed by rocky islets, which came together to form the long island, probably due to the enlargement of salt deposits that had been much exploited since Phoenician times. The island enjoyed a central location with respect to the ship traffic of the time.
ISLAND OF MOTHIA
The island of Mothia -or Mozia- is one of the oldest Phoenician foundations (late 8th century BC). Before long, it became one of the most important trading bases in the ancient world. It was invested by an offensive by Dionysius I of Syracuse, who, in 397 b. C., conquered and destroyed it. Mothia was never rebuilt again, and therefore constitutes a rare evidence of a Phoenician-Punic type settlement, which has come down to us almost intact, without subsequent overlapping. The first excavations are owed to Giuseppe Whitaker, an Englishman, wine industrialist and owner of the island, who in the early 1900s began the exploration of the soil, bringing to light artifacts from the Archaic period. Today the island belongs to the Whitaker Foundation in Palermo, and is archaeologically dependent on the Trapani Superintendency.
SANTA MARIA ISLAND
The island of Santa Maria is a smaller island to the north, shaped like a lace. The name comes from the shrine of St. Mary Valleverde. From Birgi, a Marsala locality, the island is easily reached. On the island there is a villa named Belle Epoque, 460 m² in size, in which there is also a small 16th-century chapel. The island flora consists of palm trees, maritime pines and various plants and flowers as well as a substantial olive grove. The island is an area of archaeological interest, reasoning that it is a beneficiary of protection. The island is surrounded by bathing beaches.
Schola is the smallest of the Stagnone islands. During the Roman period there was a school of rhetoric, from which the place name is derived, where Cicero is said to have taught in the days when he was quaestor of the city of Lilybaetan. Three buildings from the 1930s and a cistern are currently located there.
Important flower species include the Aleppo pine, dwarf palm, bamboo cane, Malta mushroom, maritime marigold, which in Europe grows only here and in Spain, salicornia (with fleshy stems), maritime scilla, with starry white flowers, sea lily, and rushes. The islands are also populated by many species of birds, including pink flamingos, skylarks, goldfinches, magpies, plovers and calanders. The waters of the Stagnone Lagoon, which are very fishy, are populated by a very rich fauna including anemones, sea-flakes, murice, from which the Phoenicians obtained the purple used to dye textiles, and some 40 different fish species including sea bass, sea bream, bream and sole; while the seabed, on the other hand, is characterized by the presence of posidonia oceanica, a marine plant formed by a clump of long green leaves with flowers in the center grouped in spikes.