The Sirenusas also known as the Gallos (Li Galli), are an archipelago of little islands off the Amalfi Coast
Amalfi Coast
-In popular culture:The Amalfi Coast is a popular destination among tourists. It was featured in "Positano," a short story written by American author John Steinbeck in 1953...

 of Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 near Positano
Positano is a village and comune on the Amalfi Coast , in Campania, Italy. The main part of the city sits in an enclave in the hills leading down to the coast.-History:...

 and the Isle of Capri
Capri is an Italian island in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Sorrentine Peninsula, on the south side of the Gulf of Naples, in the Campania region of Southern Italy...

. The name, Sirenuse, is a reference to the mythological siren
In Greek mythology, the Sirens were three dangerous mermaid like creatures, portrayed as seductresses who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Roman poets placed them on an island called Sirenum scopuli...

s said 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 fourth 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 1st century B.C by Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

, the Greek Geographer and by Straton of Sardis
Straton of Sardis
Straton of Sardis was a Greek poet and anthologist from the Lydian city of Sardis. He is thought to have lived during the time of Hadrian, based on Straton authorship of a poem about the doctor Artemidorus Capito, a contemporary of Hadrian...

 in 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
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 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. Shirley Hazzard
Shirley Hazzard
Shirley Hazzard is an Australian author of fiction and nonfiction. She was born in Australia, but holds citizenship in Great Britain and the United States...

 in her book Greene on Capri recounts a visit to Massine. That property later passed to another Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev
Rudolf Nureyev
Rudolf Khametovich Nureyev was a Russian dancer, considered one of the most celebrated ballet dancers of the 20th century. Nureyev's artistic skills explored expressive areas of the dance, providing a new role to the male ballet dancer who once served only as support to the women.In 1961 he...


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 Filippo
Eduardo De Filippo
Eduardo De Filippo was an Italian actor, playwright, screenwriter, author and poet, best known for his Neapolitan works Filumena Marturano and Napoli Milionaria.-Biography:...

and 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.

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