Gaiola Island in Italy: a cursed little paradise from the days of Virgil to John Paul Getty

“He stands his ground like a rock in the sea,” Virgil said.

It is said that the little and lovely Gaiola Island (Isola della Gaiola) is cursed. Knowing that practically all of its previous owners tragically died, suddenly disappeared, or had poor luck with their money and personal lives after purchasing it, it is easy to believe that this assumption is not merely a local superstition, a fabulous narrative, or a marketing ploy to attract tourists. Many bizarre occurrences support the widely held notion that the island is cursed.

The island is now deserted, and many residents avoid going near it for fear of questioning the “Gaiola Malediction,” although it was once a bustling community. The island is located in the Gulf of Naples, roughly 90 feet off the shore of the Italian city of Naples. Actually, it is made up of two small rocky islets joined by a single thin stone bridge built like an arch and just a few feet long, which is today a popular attraction for tourists. Some experts believe it was built as a bridge, while others say it is a surviving portion of the ceiling of a tunnel or artificial cave carved into the rock.

The island is currently abandoned, and many inhabitants avoid coming near it for fear of challenging the “Gaiola Malediction,” even thoughthe fact that it was once a lively hamlet. The island is located in the Gulf of Naples, about 90 feet off the coast of Naples, Italy. It is made up of two small rocky islets connected by a single narrow stone bridge fashioned like an arch and just a few feet long, which is now a major tourist attraction. Some scholars believe it was constructed as a bridge, while others believe it is a surviving section of a tunnel or artificial cave carved into the rock.

Gaiola protected area, sea and beach, Posillipo, Naples, Italy

According to mythology, the Roman poet Virgil enlightened his students with captivating rhymes while teaching them about poetry on the two islands. It’s conceivable he educated them in the temple, one of the few island caves, or on the Roman harbor, which is now crushed into pieces under the ocean. Perhaps the heavenly inspiration for Virgil’s famous words came to him while roaming about Gaiola Island and the surrounding mainland.

The island’s golden days were restricted to ancient times because, according to a belief prevalent since the early nineteenth century, an air of misfortune began to surround the location. Initially, a local eccentric hermit known as “The Wizard” (“Il Mago”) came to reside. He lived alone and only saw fishermen on rare occasions. He abruptly vanished one day, leaving no trace. Luigi de Negri became the next resident after that. On one of the islets, he erected a magnificent home mansion, which is still nearly entirely intact. However, he quickly ran into major financial difficulties, and his fish farm business empire imploded.

Gaiola protected area and abandoned island at Posillipo, Naples, Italy

Captain Gaspare Albenga was maneuvering his ship around the island in 1911, clearly on a tour since he was interested in purchasing it. Unfortunately, while investigating, he collided with some rocks and drowned. According to other accounts, his body and ship were never discovered.

It was purchased by Hans Braun, a Swiss industrialist, in the 1920s. He was discovered dead and wrapped in a carpet at the villa one day. His wife was discovered drowning in the water not long after he died. The next owner died of a heart attack while visiting the island, while another committed suicide in a Swiss mental facility. Gianni Agnelli, the owner of FIAT, also owned the island.

He was able to grow the firm into a lucrative and well-known vehicle brand, but he suffered greatly in his personal life: his son reportedly committed suicide, and his nephew died at the age of 33 from a rare kind of cancer.

Gaiola protected area, sea and beach, Posillipo, Naples, Italy

The next well-known individual affiliated with the island was millionaire John Paul Getty. His grandson was abducted by the Calabrian Mafia (‘Ndrangheta) in 1973. They compelled him to pay the ransom of $3 million by chopping the boy’s ear and mailing it to him.

The island is easily accessible by swimming or boat. It offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area. The abandoned home and the few small lanes are strangely silent and speak of the island’s tragic past in a fascinating way.

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