Three islands (with a small 4th and an extra rock) make up the grouping off the coast of Positano, Italy known as Li Galli. The Roman tower seen on the middle of the island dates from 12th century, while the other two main houses and chapel date from the early 20th century.
The islands have strong ties with Russian ballet. Here, the Russian dancer and choreographer Leonide Massine who once owned Li Galli, stages a ballet off its terrace.
Off the coast of Positano, are three small islands that collectively are known as Li Galli. The islands have a long romantic history dating back to ancient times when the mythological sirens with their lilting voices and music caused boats to shipwreck on its rocks. The earliest known inhabitants, the Romans, built a fort on the largest island. In more recent times, the Russian ballet star Rudolf Nureyev purchased the islands from Leonide Massine, another famous Russian dancer and choreographer. Massine bought the islands in 1924 and built a home there which the architect Le Corbusier later refurbished. There is an interesting documentary starring Massine where he shows off his island and talks about his life HERE. Nureyev’s emotional ties to the island were strong for historical reasons: Massine had purchased the island from yet another Russian choreographer Diaghilev - making Nureyev the third Russian choreographer to own the islands.
Nureyev had planned to open a ballet school on the island but died of AIDS before his dream was fulfilled.
Massine sold his islands to Nureyev in 1989 for 3 billion Italian liras. The Italian resort was just one in a long line of properties Nureyev owned. During his lifetime, he also owned a farm above Monaco, the Parisian apartment and the NY apartment in the Dakota. There was a house near Richmond Park and a farm in Virginia, and finally a villa on St. Barts. When he bought Li Galli, it had been uninhabited for over a decade and he enthusiastically began to restore it, installing a helicopter pad and buying furniture and building supplies. He purchased a gilded bathtub in Paris that arrived on the island dangerously swinging from a helicopter. Massine had installed a dance studio in the tower, which Nureyev made good use of. He planned to open a ballet school on the island, given its remarkable Russian ballet roots, but it was not to be. He built an underground mausoleum in memory of his mother where he spelled out her name in tiles using Arabic motifs. Although he put his energies into the updates, according to a biographer, the construction on Li Galli was never finished because he was too cheap to pay for all the needed repairs. Much of his last months were spent on Li Galli. Once, he was found, sick, laying on the floor atop one of his beloved kilims. His wish was to be buried on the island, but that idea was squashed as plans to sell Li Galli were started before his death. Eventually the property was sold to an Italian hotelier - Giovanni Russo. Russo has spent the past 15 years remodeling the houses on the islands, completely decorating every bedroom, bathroom, and public area. Recently, he opened Li Galli for rentals.
In this aerial shot, you can plainly see the ancient tower with the terraced side of the island leading down to the sea. In the middle is the large, peach colored Villa Giovanni. At the left, is the smaller White House with the Chapel next door. Scores of boats from the mainland circle the historic islands taking pictures.