THE MAG­I­CAL SUG­GES­TIONS OF A NAT­U­RAL PAR­ADISE

All About Italy (USA) - - Editorial - Oreste Sacco

A voy­age among the mar­vels of Li Galli

The par­adise of Li Galli im­merges from the crys­talline wa­ters of the pro­tected ma­rine area of Punta Cam­panella be­tween Capri and Posi­tano; it is an ar­chi­pel­ago com­posed of three is­lands: Gallo Lungo, La Ro­tonda and La Castel­luc­cia.

The largest of the three, Gallo Lungo, has a shape that seen from on high evokes a dol­phin, and is the only one of the three to have been in­hab­ited since Ro­man times.

The an­cient Greeks, in fact, iden­ti­fied this mag­i­cal place as the home of the sirens, who be­witched pass­ing sailors with their sing­ing, caus­ing them to ship­wreck on the rocks. Greek mythol­ogy tells us that only two ships suc­ceeded in es­cap­ing this tragic end. In the Odyssey, Homer re­counts how Ulysses, not want­ing to re­nounce hear­ing the sirens’ song, fol­lowed the ad­vice of Circe and had him­self tied to the ship’s mast, but only af­ter hav­ing had his sailors’ ears care­fully plugged with wax: in this way, he could en­joy the rap­ture of their song while his ship con­tin­ued undis­turbed on its voy­age. In The Arg­onauts, Or­pheus saved his crew thanks to his vir­tu­os­ity on the lyre: tak­ing it up and start­ing to play, he out­classed the se­duc­tresses, who in hu­mil­i­a­tion threw them­selves into the sea and were trans­formed into rocks. For this rea­son, the is­lands are also some­times known as the “Sirenusas.” The ap­pel­la­tion Gallo, or rooster, refers to their bird-like shape.

In de­cid­edly more re­cent times, Gallo Lungo has be­witched a num­ber of well­known per­son­al­i­ties who have cho­sen it for their sum­mer va­ca­tion res­i­dence. Yes, be­cause this par­adise is pri­vate! In 1924, the Rus­sian dancer and chore­og­ra­pher Léonide Mas­sine bought the ar­chi­pel­ago, build­ing a mag­nif­i­cent villa that Le Cor­bus­ier helped to de­sign, as well as a sug­ges­tive open-air the­ater mod­eled af­ter the an­cient Greek one in Syra­cuse. Soon what he con­sid­ered as sim­ply a refuge from the stresses of his ca­reer be­came an in­dis­pens­able source of in­spi­ra­tion. His dream was to trans­form Gallo Lungo into an arts cen­ter that brought to­gether var­i­ous dis­ci­plines, from dance to mu­si­cal com­po­si­tion and paint­ing: a place where young artists from all over

Li Galli Is­lands, the most fas­ci­nat­ing pri­vate par­adise in the Mediter­ranean, have a ro­man­tic and some­what nos­tal­gic story

the world could come and get away from the suf­fo­cat­ing ma­te­ri­al­ism of mod­ern life and take in­spi­ra­tion from the beauty and sim­plic­ity of the place. Un­for­tu­nately, this dream never ma­te­ri­al­ized, and af­ter Mas­sine’s death, the is­land passed to an­other dancer, Ru­dolf Nureyev. The new owner led a less clois­tered life than Mas­sine, and fre­quented Posi­tano much more, ac­tively par­tic­i­pat­ing in the lively world­li­ness proper to Capri and the Amalfi coast. He car­ried out fur­ther mod­i­fi­ca­tions, per­son­al­iz­ing the villa in the Moor­ish style and en­larg­ing the dance room that rises at the height of the 14th-cen­tury stone watch­tower built to warn against pi­rate in­cur­sions. Leg­end has it that in the sum­mer of 1992, Nureyev, fa­tally sick with AIDS, said good­bye to the is­land by kiss­ing those rocks that had so sweetly wel­comed him all those years. He died a few months later, and with him, the dream of mak­ing the is­land an Eden ded­i­cated to the art of dance. Later, a busi­ness­man from Sor­rento bought the is­land; but with the ar­rival of the new mil­len­nium, ru­mors be­gan to cir­cu­late that the ar­chi­pel­ago was once again for rent. The new owner at first de­nied the ru­mors, but ac­cord­ing to some in­ter­na­tional web­sites spe­cial­ized in lux­ury travel on pri­vate is­lands, it seems that the ru­mors are in fact cor­rect. So, for the mod­est sum of 220,000 eu­ros a week, one can be­come king of the is­land, at least for a short while. The price, valid for up to 12 guests, in­cludes every­thing, from meals to trans­porta­tion. One can so­journ in the sub­lime rooms de­signed by Nureyev, left in­tact by the new own­ers, with their arabesque and Turk­ish tiles, en­joy­ing the si­lence bro­ken only by the mur­mur of the sea or the oc­ca­sional cry of a seag­ull. Carv­ing out a mo­ment of eva­sion means find­ing refuge where the masses don’t ar­rive, and one doesn’t al­ways have to pass end­less hours in flight to reach iso­lated is­lands and atolls. Li Galli demon­strate this well, thanks to the unique com­bi­na­tion of lux­ury and pri­vacy, the watch­words for the new mega-rich. Those less for­tu­nate, of course, can still ad­mire this pro­hib­ited dream from afar by book­ing one of the many boat tours or­ga­nized in the ports of Posi­tano and Sor­rento.

It’s also called “the ar­chi­pel­ago of the sirens;” here Ulysses was able to re­sist their song by hav­ing him­self tied to the mast of his ship

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