Giglio Island: la bella Marsilia, a kernel of truth in this Tuscan legend?

Even today, this Tuscan legend is very popular among Giglio Island people and it almost passes from generation to generation. The protagonist is la bella Marsilia (“the beautiful Marsilia”). Probably hailing from Siena, she was a sixteen year old girl who charmed everyone with her brilliant and fiery red mane.

Later, Marsilia was known as Rossellana sultana. At that time, the pirates frequently plundered Giglio Island. During one of their assaults on the Maremma coast, the pirates saw Marsilia and kidnapped her. Their intention was to bring her to their sultan as a gift.

Resorting all her beauty and all her innate cunning, Marseille managed to become the favorite of Suleiman the Magnificent, a great and rich sultan. She bore him three children, all beautiful and healthy. One of them succeeded his father, taking the name of Selim II. Marsilia lived a long, respected and revered life, first as wife and later as mother of the sultan.

Maybe this story is only a Tuscan legend? It’s very hard to say, as far as the story might be suggestive and symbolic. But there is, at least, a small kernel of truth. Both on Giglio Island and on Giannutri Island, there is a promontory named Capel Rosso (literally, “red hair”). Maybe, they recall the story of la bella Marsilia.


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