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Gallinara, the turtle-shaped island 1.5 kilometers off the western coast of Liguria, has been sold to a single owner.
Ukrainian aerospace tycoon Oleksander Boguslayev, a resident of Monaco who holds citizenship in Grenada, purchased the 11-hectare island for just over 10 million euro.
Although the island has been in private hands off-and-on for centuries, the sale has sparked a controversy in Italy, where the island is known chiefly for being a protected nature preserve. Italy designated the Riserva Naturale Regionale Isola Gallinara in 1989.
Commenting on the sale, Cultural Heritage Minister Dario Franceschini explained to the Corriere della Sera: “The competent offices of the ministry are examining the papers, the state of the existing constraints, and our pre-emption rights.” Meanwhile, in an editorial in the same paper, Aldo Cazzullo writes, “Private islands exist all over the planet but are usually difficult to reach atolls. Gallinara is perhaps the most accessible island, by more people, than you can imagine. Will the new owner tolerate us? Or will he have a hole in the dinghy?”
A group of nine wealthy Italian families from Liguria and Piemonte have owned Gallinara since the 1970s. Decades of financial and bureaucratic difficulties led the family consortium to put the island up for sale.
Gallinara, named after the wild hens (galline) that once roamed its rocky terrain, has been known since Roman times. Saint Martin of Tours lived as a hermit here in the 4th century. Gallinara is also the site of an ancient Benedictine monastery, the ruins of which are still visible atop the island. During World War II, the German military occupied Gallinara and forced prisoners of war to build tunnels for storing artillery (now housed at the Arsenale of La Spezia).