Between Capri and Positano lies an archipelago of three islands known as Li Galli, but also Le Sirenuse, as legend has it that it was inhabited by mermaids in the past.
Gallo Lungo is the largest of the three islands and the only one to have been inhabited since Roman times: it has an elongated shape extending for around 400 meters, with a variable width that towards the center is around 100 meters and towards the “head” is around 200 meters.
To the west of the Gallo Lungo islet lies the islet La Rotonda and, further north, the islet Dei Briganti, although the island is more commonly known as Le Castelluccio.
Until the early 20th century, the islands of this archipelago remained mostly uninhabited and wild, frequented only by coastal hunters hunting quail.
The Li Galli archipelago has been in exclusive private ownership since the 1920s. Many prestigious owners have succeeded one another over the years, and all have contributed in one way or another to giving the islands the allure of charm and mystery that surrounds them to this day.
In 1924, the owner of Li Galli became Leonid Fedorovič Mjasin, a Russian dancer and choreographer who bought the entire archipelago to create an artistic center of music, dance and culture, where he could give free rein to his creativity. Unfortunately, this ambitious project never materialized, and a majestic villa was built in its place: the Villa Grande, also known as the Villa Massine, set in unspoilt greenery above pre-existing Roman ruins. In 1937, the famous French architect Le Corbusier was asked to collaborate on the construction of this villa.
In 1989, the archipelago passed into the hands of Rudolf Nureyev, another famous Russian ballet dancer, who modified the villa’s design by adding a marvellous Saracen tower, which houses a dance hall. After 1993, the year of Nureyev’s death, Li Galli was bought by a Sorrento hotelier who was deeply in love with the islands.
Visit to the Li Galli islands
Unfortunately, the islands are privately owned and cannot be accessed without an invitation.
But you can also see them from the sea, passing by on a boat tour of the Amalfi Coast.
A magical experience, savoring an excellent lunch on board, or sipping a delicious drink at sunset, on the sea overlooking one of the most fascinating and romantic places in the world.
The Li Galli archipelago owes its name and fame to a legend already known in the ancient world, according to which the mythical mermaids, disruptive monster-women who enchanted sailors with their song to shipwreck, were hidden among the three islands.
It’s not for nothing that the place has been christened Le Sirenuse, and it even appears in the Odyssey when Ulysses, on his long and epic journey back to his native Ithaca, decides to stop here: thanks to a clever stratagem, he will be the only man to listen unharmed to the deceptive notes of the sirens, initially presented as half-bird and half-virgin.
It’s precisely their appearance that gave rise to the name Li Galli, which has stuck even if, in modern times, the most popular representations have replaced the “feather” part with a fish tail.
The island of Gallo Lungo, with its characteristic dolphin shape, is the most popular, while La Rotonda represents a small, unspoilt paradise of Mediterranean maquis. Castelluccia is also known as the island of brigands, as centuries ago it served as a hideout for the many bands of marauders who plied this sea in search of booty.