Isola La Gaiola Island, or simply Gaiola Island, is one of Naples’ minor islands in the Campania region in Italy. A look at this island and you will see a cool place where you would possibly like to spend your vacation. It features a magnificent villa and is bounded on all sides by crystal clear waters, giving stunning views almost everywhere you look. But the Isola La Gaiola Island may be a perfect example of the statement that looks can be quite deceptive. It is steeped in tales of misfortunes and deaths that many people now consider it a cursed island.
The island of Isola La Gaiola is situated only a few meters away from the coast of Posilopo in the Gulf of Naples. It is so close to the shore that people can easily swim to it from the mainland. La Isola Gaiola Island is actually made of two peaceful islets, which are connected together by an arch-like bridge. It is on one of these islets that you will find the imposing villa while the other islet is virtually uninhabited.
Originally known by the name Euplea, protector of safe navigation, Isola La Gaiola Island used to be the site of a small temple erected in honor of the goddess Venus. Its present name was derived from the Latin word “Cavea,” which means “little cave,” and then through the dialect “Caviola.” The name was influenced by the many cavities around the coast of Posilopo. It is alleged that Lucullus gave the order for the island to be separated from the promontory to which it was earlier a part.
Gaiola Island was location of some Roman factories in the 17th Century. Roman ruins can be found in the vicinity of the island, where the poet and supposed magician Virgil is believed to have given lessons. Underneath the islets are Roman ruins which are now inhabited by marine animals.
A hermit, whom people referred to as “The Wizard,” used to live on the island, relying on handouts from fishermen for his sustenance. The villa was later erected on the island, which was linked to the mainland by a cable car in the 1920s.
A Cursed Island
Given the fact that Isola La Gaiola Island is within swimmable distance from the shore, people without knowledge of its dark past may find it baffling to understand why such a beautiful location is uninhabited. The reason is that many people consider it a cursed place. This conclusion is given force to by the unfortunate events that befell those who lived there at one time or the other.
The chain of misfortunes started with its first owner, a man named Luigi de Negri, who went bankrupt after his fish farming business packed up. The body of a 1920s owner of the island, Hans Braun, was found wrapped in a rug and his wife drowned in the sea shortly after. The ownership passed to a German, Otto Grunback, who died on the island after suffering a heart attack. Another owner, pharmaceutical industrialist Maurice-Yves Sandoz, committed suicide in a Swiss mental hospital.
The tale of misfortunes did not end there. German industrialist Baron Karl Paul Langheim suffered business failure. Fiat head Gianni Agnelli was the next unfortunate owner of the villa and he lost his son to suicide. Agnelli also lost his nephew Umberto, who he was preparing to take over the running of Fiat, to a rare cancer. Oil magnate Paul Getty, who also bought the island, had his grandson kidnapped. Gianpasquale Grappone, Isola La Gaiola Island’s last private owner, saw his insurance company fail and was jailed for his debt. And in a somewhat related twist, Franco Ambrosio and wife Giovanna Sacco, owners of the villa across from the island, were found murdered in 2009.
It is obvious why the beautiful Isola La Gaiola Island has become uninhabited and desolate. The island now belongs to the Campania Region. The authorities have designated the area as marine protected and call it Parco Sommerso di Gaiola (Underwater Park of Gaiola).