The island of Lampedusa is Italy’s southernmost piece of land—it’s so far south of mainland Europe that it’s geologically a part of Africa. Just off its shore, there is a small islet called Isola dei Conigli (Rabbit Islet) with a rather misleading name.
Rabbit Islet is actually not always an island, and sometimes a small isthmus of sand connects it to Lampedusa. Because of this peculiar feature, the island was called Rabit Islet in an 1824 nautical map, referring to the Arabic term rabit, meaning “link” or “connection.” In later maps, this name was thought to be a spelling mistake and “rabit” became “rabbit.”
Another theory about the origin of the island’s name says that the small land connection allowed some rabbits to reach the islet from Lampedusa. But when the tide swallowed the land bridge, the rabbits got stuck on the island and, doing what rabbits do, rapidly reproduced and overpopulated the place. According to this theory, the rabbit colony later died off, but the island’s name survived.
Today, the islet is part of a natural reserve and its beach is one of the few places where the loggerhead sea turtle lays eggs. It is also populated by many gulls and lizards, but no rabbits.
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