The Isole Tremiti are an arcipelago in the Adriatic sea, north of the Gargano Peninsula. They constitute a comune of Italy's province of Foggia and form part of the Gargano National Park. The name of the islands relates to their seismic hazard, with a history of earthquakes in the area:tremiti means "tremors".
The islands were used for the internment of political prisoners during Benito Mussolini's fascist regime. This was nothing new: two millennia earlier Augustus had exiled his granddaughter Julia the Younger to one of these islands (then named Trimerus in Latin, maybe from Greek Trimeros,Τρίμερος, meaning "tree places" or "tree islands").
Inhabited since late Iron Age times (4th-3rd centuries BC), the Tremiti Island have been a confinement place since ancient times. Roman emperor Augustus had his granddaughter Julia the Younger transferred here, where she died after twenty years. In the Middle Ages the archipelago was ruled by the Abbey of Santa Maria a Mare ("Holy Mary on the Sea") at San Nicola island, apparently founded here in the 9th century by Benedictine monks from Montecassino. In the 13th century the abbey had gained its autonomy from the father monastery, and owned lands from the Biferno to Trani in the Apulian mainland. After an alleged period of moral decadence, in 1237 the Benedictines were replaced by the Cistercian order. In 1334 the abbey was sacked by Dalmatian pirates from Omiš.
In 1412 the Lateran Canons took the ownership, and restored the abbey with cisterns and fortification which withstood the assault of Ottoman ships in 1567. The abbey was suppressed in 1783 by King Ferdind IV of Naples, who instituted here a penal colony. During the Napoleonic age the islands were a stronghold of Joachim Murat's supporters, who resisted in the fortress to a British naval fleet in 1809. In 1843, to repopulate the islands, King Ferdinand II of Two Sicilies moved here numerous people from Naples' slums, who mostly became fishermen.
In 1911 about 1,300 Libyans that opposed colonial Italian rule were confined to Tremiti. After one year, around one-third of these people had died, mainly from typhus. During the Fascist era, the archipelago continued to perform its function of confinement, detaining, among others, Amerigo Dumini and future president of the Republic Sandro Pertini
Mussolini had hundreds of homosexuals deported to San Domino. No law prohibited homosexuality at the time, and Mussolini also denied its existence, saying that, "In Italy there are only real men". However, suspected or reported homosexuals were rounded up and deported. The conditions on the island were very difficult, and a few died.
sources: Mancini, Enzo (1979). Isole Tremiti, sassi di Diomede: natura, storia, arte, turismo. Milan: Mursia.