Gaiola Island is one of the minor islands of Naples, Italy; it is offshore of Posillipo and gives its name to the Underwater Park of Gaiola (Parco Sommerso di Gaiola), a protected marine area.
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The island takes its name from the cavities that dot the coast of Posillipo (from the Latin cavea, "little cave", and then through the dialect "Caviola"). Originally, the small island was known as Euplea, protector of safe navigation, and was the site of a small temple.
The island is very close to the coast, reachable with a few strokes of swimming. It is assumed that originally it was nothing more than an extension of the promontory opposite and was artificially separated only at a later time at the behest of Lucullus.
In the 17th century the island was virtually littered with Roman factories, while, two centuries later, the island served as a battery in defense of the Gulf of Naples.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the island was inhabited by a hermit, nicknamed "The Wizard", who lived thanks to the almsgiving of fishermen. Soon after, the island saw the construction of the villa that occupies it today and which was at one time owned by Norman Douglas, author of Land of the Siren. In the 1920s there was a cable car that connected the island to the mainland.
Naples's population has considered Gaiola a "cursed island", which with its beauty hides a "restless fate". The reputation came about because of the frequent premature death of its owners. For example, in the 1920s, it belonged to the Swiss Hans Braun, who was found dead and wrapped in a rug; a little later, his wife drowned in the sea. The next owner was the German Otto Grunback, who died of a heart attack while staying in the villa. A similar fate befell the pharmaceutical industrialist Maurice-Yves Sandoz, who committed suicide in a mental hospital in Switzerland; its subsequent owner, a German steel industrialist, Baron Karl Paul Langheim, was dragged to economic ruin by wild living. The island has also belonged to Gianni Agnelli, who suffered the deaths of many relatives, and to Paul Getty, who endured the kidnapping of a grandson. The last private owner of the island was Gianpasquale Grappone, who was jailed. Newspapers talked again about the "Gaiola Malediction" in 2009, after the murder of Franco Ambrosio and his wife Giovanna Sacco, who owned a villa opposite the island.
The island is now property of the Campania region.
Sergio Zazzera Le isole di Napoli, Roma 1997 ISBN 88-8183-764-1