Visiting Positano: Sirens, Lemons, and Fashion

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It is a sunny Saturday in the spring and we have decided to drive to Positano. Since I am not driving, I can enjoy the beautiful landscape and I soon notice three little islands on the right-hand side.

Sirenuse Archipelago

They are the Sirenuse Islands, also known as “Li Galli” Islands: Gallo Lungo, La Rotonda, and De Briganti. The first island is the biggest and it looks like a dolphin, an animal that you can easily spot offshore. Other underwater species that can be seen while diving are corals, starfish, and sea urchins.

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The name of the islands comes from sirens who, according to legend, haunted the islands and killed sailors who were attracted by their singing.

In ancient mythology, sirens were half-bird monsters. That’s why the islands are called “Li Galli”; in Italian galli are birds.

The three islands used to belong to the Russian dancer Leonid Fedorovic Mjasin, but then they were bought by Rudolf Nureyev.

Nowadays, they belong to Giovanni Russo, a hotel director. The islands are for sale and their value is about € 200.000. In the meantime, you can rent a yacht, a boat, or the entire island for a private party!

The Beauty of Positano

While I fantasize about a possible occasion to have my private party on the biggest island, we finally reach the center of Positano and decide to park the car and walk instead of driving.

We walk along steep lanes leading to the sea. The newly painted houses seem to be made of sugar; every balcony is embellished with flowers and the residents of Positano politely give directions to tourists.

The presence of so many scented lemon trees impresses me. Everywhere you look, there are white carts decorated with garlands of citrus selling the coast’s signature granita. The Costa d’Amalfi IGP lemons are rather large and are particularly suited for cooking, especially as a condiment on main dishes, grilled fish, and for desserts like delizia al limone. The latter was invented in 1978 by pastry chef Carmine Marzuillo. Initially, it was a cake, and later it became a single-portion dessert. Costa d’Amalfi lemons can also be used to make limoncello, whose invention is contended by Capri, Sorrento, and Amalfi.


The word “lemon” comes from the Arabic lymun. The Arabs, indeed, exported this kind of citrus to Spain and Sicily. From Sicily, lemons reached Campania and then spread to the Republic of Amalfi. Lemons are rich in vitamin C, so it was a natural remedy for scurvy, and ships used to stock up on them.

The shade of lemon yellow can be found everywhere especially on clothing in the little shops throughout town. And printed lemons adorn pillows, purses, and even straw hats.

How Positano Fashion Came to Be

Another popular color is white, especially for crocheted clothes. Depending on the fashion trend of the moment, you can find items in shades of sea blue or cherry red. These eccentric dresses were initially created to satisfy the requests of foreign tourists, mostly Americans. Beginning in the 1950s, with its fantastic climate, Positano became the choice destination for many tourists. Visitors requested lightweight, personalized clothing that they could wear on the beach. Shopkeepers started embellishing clothing with crochet and that’s how Moda Mare Positano was born.

“Moda Mare Positano” was also the name of a fashion event that was shown on TV from 1996 to 1999 and one that I watched faithfully when I was a teenager. I dreamt of wearing a haute couture dress like every girl my age. Recently, a new fashion project has been created: Positano Fashion Day.


Positano’s Ceramics

Walking among the shops, an object catches my attention: it is a porcelain lemon tree! Ceramic tableware, knick–knacks, and majolica made on the Amalfi Coast are world-renowned, even if the capital of majolica is Vietri sul Mare.

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One of the Most Beautiful Places in Italy

Finally, we reach the beach, which will be crowded with tourists in the following weeks. Walking on the little pebbles, I realize that I prefer sandy beaches, but I also know that the sea is more beautiful and clear when there are stones instead of sand.

When foreign tourists make a list of the most beautiful Italian places, Positano is always in the top five. Even on my personal list of the Amalfi Coast towns, Positano is number one. Maybe it is due to the sugar-like houses built on the rocky cliff; the ones I can’t stop taking pictures of.

Our trip to Positano has come to an end and as we drive back home, I savor my single portion delizia al limone! I gaze at the Li Galli Islands and I imagine seeing sirens, the winged monsters who, according to mythological tradition, were defeated only twice; first by Ulysses and then by Orpheus. They didn’t survive the shame of defeat and died. Only Pathenope survived and reached a place that would have been called Naples, the “Siren’s Town”.

But that is a story for another article . . .

About the Author

Anna Visconti

Anna Visconti was born in Caserta.

From an early age, she showed a strong interest in English literature and books on etiology. During her high school years, she dreamed of becoming a writer.

She studied Foreign Languages ​​and Literature at the Federico II University of Naples and later, following the example of Ulysses, one of her favorite literary characters, she worked as a tour leader and as a receptionist, so she could travel and see the world.

Anna loves animals very much and has already adopted four dogs (a number that is destined to grow!)

For them, she put away her suitcase and chose to devote herself to teaching foreign languages. Anna currently teaches English in Rome and in Pozzuoli.

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