Friday, September 15, 2017


A few years ago while staying at the wonderful Hotel Buca di Bacco in Positano I looked over the railing of our terrace as workers were setting up a performance stage on the beach.

That night I watched the dancers rehearse on the stage. There was a warm wind blowing off the ocean. The sounds of the waves below and the lilting music made for an enchanting evening. The performance was for POSITANO PREMIA LA DANZA LEONIDE MASSINE. Massine worked with Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes as principal dancer and as a choreographer in the early 20th century.  I researched  Leonide Massine and found he once owned an island right offshore from Portofino. The story and the island fascinated me.

From Positano, you can see Li Galli (also known as Le Sirenuse) off to the upper left.

I took this photo of the island on my first trip to Capri from Positano. The stone tower on the hill was part of an early Amalfi Coast defensive system to spot Saracen raiders. 

From the air, the island looks like a dolphin.

Leonide Massine first fell in love with Li Galli while staying with a friend in Positano. He visited the island and was enchanted by the rough-hewn paradise. "I knew that here I could find the solitude I had been seeking, a refuge from the exhausting pressure of my chosen career." He bought the island in 1922. Massine spent many years renovating the island even working with famed architect Le Corbusier. He wanted to establish an arts center on the island but his busy work schedule prevented it. He died in 1979.
The image above shows him working with his dancers on the island.

Rudolf Nureyev, one of the world's greatest dancers, visited IL Galli and fell in love with it immediately. Greta Garbo, Princess Margaret, Sophia Loren, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and many other cultural icons were enchanted by this magical place.
The Nureyev purchase of Li Galli from the Massine estate for $2.4 million was finalized in 1988. He was totally engaged in putting his creative signature on the interiors. In Julie Kavanagh's biography, Nureyev: The Life, she talks about Nureyev's obsession with tiles, the search for furniture and textiles. The image above was in one of the rooms he had decorated at IL Galli. His battle with AIDS limited how much he could accomplish on the island.

Nureyev loved excess as you can see in this bedroom. He died in Paris in 1993.  IL Galli and its contents were donated to a foundation Nureyev had created in his name. A year later the foundation sold the islands for about $3 million to Italian hotelier, Giovanni Russo.

Russo allows paying guests an opportunity to rent the island for up to 12 guests at certain times of the year. Prices for a week run from 55,000 to 150,000 Euros! 

One of the living rooms.

The dramatic kitchen has a yellow La Cornue stove.

The chapel has been used for weddings.

I love the Burmese offering containers in this bedroom.

The bathroom windows look out to the amazing azure sea.

Black and white tiled music room.

Fabulous accessories!

Nureyev had his mother's name painted on the tiles above the door in Arabic.

"Yes,...I would LOVE to join you for dinner!"

The salt water pool.

The steps lead up to the chapel.

Images: Dick Gentry, Departures, Fiorucci Art Trust, Discover Positano, Vladi Private Island, Wimp News, New Yorker, Luxury Italian Island

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