Discover Axel Munthe's historic villa in Anacapri
Capri island is a lush, lux playground for the rich and famous. Stars like Sophia Loren to designers Dolce and Gabbana have dropped mega millions to own a piece of this coveted paradise. Tourists aching for a glimpse of these magazine-worthy estates hop into rental boats and cruise the azure sea to catch a sneak a peak of such villas. However, one of the most beautiful houses encompassed by lush landscapes jaw-dropping views doesn’t belong to a hotshot star, but to an unsuspecting Swedish doctor: Villa San Michele.
History of Villa San Michele
Built in the around the turn of the 20th century, the physician Axel Munthe constructed this awesome abode atop an ancient imperial Roman villa and a medieval chapel (dedicated to Saint Michel). The house was destined to be his vacation retreat, but Capri’s beauty converted Munthe into a permanent islander for over 56 years. During this time, the physician began to record the construction and life of the house in an internationally renowned book, "The Story of San Michele" (1929). Today the villa is open as a museum where visitors admire his art collection, relax in the gardens and relish the post-card perfect panorama of the sapphire Bay of Naples.
An Art Oasis
During construction, Munthe uncovered Roman remnants buried just beneath a dusting of soil, sparking his newfound passion for art collecting. At that time, the island was sprinkled with ancient vestiges from Roman villas – pieces of marble columns and statuary were easy to come by- and locals starting giving their finds to Munthe to furnish his collection. The most prominent works today are Roman frescos and statues, a head of medusa, a marble bust of emperor Tiberius, sacred medieval art, eighteenth century Tuscan furnishings and an Egyptian sphinx. The ancient sphinx has become the symbol of the villa and is positioned in the most panoramic spot of the house, looking out towards Sorrento. Legend says if you make a wish with your left hand on its bottom, it will come true!
A Lush Garden Paradise
If you are stressed from constant traveling or caught up in the village frenzy, take a step back and relax in the lush Mediterranean foliage of this large garden sanctuary. Many of the artworks are speckled throughout the winding paths and colonnaded walkways of this green Eden. Hydrangeas, rose bushes, camellias and pine and cypruses cover the estate. The garden not only gained international fame with the publication of "The History of San Michele", but also through the admiration of numerous visitors. Author Henry James claims it’s, "the most fantastic beauty, poetry, and inutility that one had ever seen clustered together." In memory of Munthe’s passion for music, a concert series called Concerti al Tramonto is staged every summer in the gardens. The combination of nature, art, history and music harmonized together deliver the most amazing experiences for all senses.
Practical Information for Villa San Michele
From Capri, hop on the bus to Anacapri. Get off at main stop, Piazza Vittoria. Cross the street and continue along the steps to the lane of the left. On the right you’ll find the chairlift to the top of Mount Solaro. There are many signs.
Opening times: the museum is open everyday
Location: Viale Axel Munthe 34, Anacapri