No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you and this isn’t the work of Photoshop—this island has the distinct shape of a dolphin. This Italian island, which is situated halfway between Capri and Positano, is a member of a group of islands known as the Sirenusas or the Gallos, another marvel of nature. This specific, dolphin-shaped mass of land is the biggest island of the group and known as Gallo Lungo.
Besides the unusual shape, this island has a fascinating history to make it even more intriguing. First of all, Sirenusas derives from the siren-related Italian term sirene. According to legend, the islands were home to mythical sirens. They were described as having human heads and avian bodies by the ancient Greeks. This bird-like quality gave birth to the second name of the islands, the Gallos, which comes from the Italian word galli (roosters).
Gallo Lungo once housed a monastery and then a prison before a watchtower was built there in the 13th century. Over time, ownership of the island was transferred from one warden of the tower to another. Ownership, however, was transferred to the municipality of Positano when Italy was united in the 19th century.
But the story doesn’t end there. The town eventually sold the island to a private owner who, in turn, sold it to Russian choreographer Leonide Massine in 1919. Even the old watchtower, which Massine converted into a dancing studio, was used as a private house. He followed the advise of his friend and renowned architect Le Corbusier and constructed his own villa on the site of Roman ruins.
Once Massine died, the island was purchased by another Russian dancer, Rudolf Nureyev. The acclaimed ballet dancer is considered by some to be the best of his generation. He was the first well-known artist to defect to the West in 1961 by eluding the KGB. After creating a global sensation with this, he went on to dance for the London Royal Ballet and direct the Paris Opera Ballet.
Starting from 1988 until his death in 1993, Nureyev lived on the island. He updated the villa’s decor to suit his tastes and made a considerable effort to improve the water supply and cultivate the gardens. Gallo Lungo returned to Italian ownership a few years after his passing in 1996 when hotel entrepreneur Giovanni Russo bought it. He now leases out the estate to lucky guests who are looked after by a crew of seven in addition to enjoying the island as his own private abode.
If you are looking to explore this dolphin-shaped island rich in history, you’ll need to rent time at the residence. While anyone is allowed to swim in the waters surrounding the island, only guests are permitted to dock and take a look around. Luckily, its incredible shape is best viewed from above anyway.
This island in Italy, located off the Amalfi Coast, is actually shaped like a dolphin.
Named the Gallo Lungo, it’s part of a cluster of islands known as the Sirenusas or Gallos.