Le Sirenuse are islands off the
Amalfi Coastof Italynear Positanoand the Isle of Capri. The name, Sirenuse, is a reference to the mythological sirenssaid to have lived there. The archipelago consists of three main islands, Gallo Lungo, La Castelluccia, and La Rotonda, identified with the name of Li Galli, or "The Roosters". Nearer the shore, there is a small forth island, Isca, and finally, midway between "Li Galli" and "Isca", there is a prominent rocky outcropping that juts above the water, Vetara.
Several sirens were said to have inhabited the islands, the most famous of whom were Parthenope, Leucosia, and Ligeia. One of them played the lyre, another sang, and another played the flute. They are mentioned in the I century B.C by
Strabo, the Greek Geographer and by Straton of Sardisin 120 A.D. In ancient stories, the sirens were depicted as having bodies of a bird and human heads, but the medieval interpretations of the stories depicted them as mermaids. The terms "Sirenai" and "Sirenusai", indicate both the sirens themselves and their residence. The modern name, "Li Galli" or "The Roosters", references the bird-like form of the ancient sirens.
The islands are privately owned and are surrounded by a protected marine national preserve. However, the islands have been inhabited throughout history.
There are some Roman fragments on "Gallo Lungo", but the first modern construction on the island consists of a large villa and secondary building, built in the 1930s by the Russian choreographer and dancer
Leonide Massine. That property later passed to another Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev.
"Isca" has a lovely villa and garden on the side facing the cliff (and, thus, not visible if you sail behind the island, as most do). It was the property at one time of the great Neapolitan playwright,
Eduardo De Filippoand is described in a delightful volume entitled, "In mezzo al mare un'isola c'è..." (There is an island in the sea…) by the playwright’s wife, Isabella.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.