the wild beauty of Capri

DHyhZ37VwAA22qG.jpg-largeCapri is an island known for glamour, and while there is plenty of that in the air and along the charming pedestrian lanes of Capri Town and upper Anacapri in the haute couture shops, Grande Dame hotels, and restaurants… the true Capri is found off the beaten path wandering silent side streets and hiking in wildflower, woodsy meadows until you reach stunning 360 degree views of the cliffs below and the sea. This view above is of the famed Faraglioni Rocks; coastal and oceanic rock formation eroded for many many years by waves. Faraglioni is possibly from the Greek pharos or Latin pharus (“lighthouse”) and is correlated to the Spanish farallón. Some locals have told me it means the wild strawberry, for its similar shape to the tiny, bittersweet berry.img_1944There is a sublime pleasure in wandering around the island on your own and discovering ancient overgrown paths hinting of ancient Roman history of the Neapolitan isle. You can hike the “back way, the 19th century way” from the Villa Lysis to Tiberius’ most visited ruins, the Villa Tiberius. It is a little treacherous at times but completely satisfying to climb where many have tried before you. The clean scent of the sea is carried on the wind as is the perfume of lemon trees and bergamot and roses and freesia warming in the sun all day. capriblueThere are so many different breath taking views on Capri that I recommend staying for a few days if you can. A day trip can be a lovely experience if you retreat from the crowds and do something spontaneous and pleasurable at a slow travel pace, but nothing beats waking up hours before the day-trippers descend and exploring the magical side of this Campania treasure. Each turn is unexpected but you never feel truly lost. Unexpected joys are found in a simple moment of beauty – it transfixes and transforms your heart and even how you decipher beauty, see the world, view love, and even how you look at yourself. Have a glass of wine or tea and look at all the beauty of nature around you, and feel the timelessness of Italia, and the bittersweetness of the shortness but intensity of our own lives. Take a bite of something, share a smile with a stranger, warm your face and body under the gentle sun, and breathe it all in slowly. The days last forever here. 34

There is a wealth of natural beauty on Capri which mingles perfectly with the scattered ruins of Roman Emperor villas and important Greco Roman fragments in museum villas with enviable views in outdoor cafes and winding gardens. Have a lingering lunch of local food on Anacapri (La Rondinella has great vegetable antipasto, salads, seafood, pizzas, pasta, and wine, and is reasonably priced). Stopping at the Villa San Michele museum is wonderful and something I highly recommend. It is one of the places I am happiest in. The Villa was owned by Swedish writer and doctor Axel Munthe and you can see my tour of his gorgeous gardens and Roman marble portico. See the galleries here and here. Don’t leave the garden without looking out to the sea for one of the most beautiful views of the ocean and neighboring islands in muted greens and blues.  Not too far away is the Casa Rossa, with a 1st Century Hera statue and four ancient nymph statues from Tiberius‘ swimming cave, the Blue Grotto, where Caligula and Augustus were also purported to have swam.

Next post I’ll be writing about the Greek Revival Villa Lysis and the hike up to the Roman ruins of the Villa Jovis!

 

La Rondinella restaurant

Via Giuseppe Orlandi 295, 80071 Anacapri, Island of Capri, Italy +39 081 837 1223

Villa San Michele museum

Viale Axel Munthe, 34, 80071 Anacapri NA, Italy

La Casa Rossa museum

– Via Giuseppe Orlandi, 78, 80071 Anacapri NA, Italy

Images shot on Portra 400 analog film and Velvia film slides.

rebecca-starr butler    alovelettertorome.com / romepix.com

 

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Flowers and the rooftop café at the Villa San Michele

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The small piazza or center of Anacapri. Take a left at the Piazza and follow the path and signs to the Villa San Michele. There are little shops along the way selling great lemoncello and meloncello and other gifts.

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A side wall of the Villa San Michele, a charming ivy covered garden wall and rounded top door. When you walk by you can peek through the top of the doors and see into the beautiful gardens.

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The columns, lampposts and trees outside the villa.

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You’ll know it when you see it. And you’ll hear the birds.

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The Villa San Michele was built on the ruins of a church by the same name and before that, on the ruins of one of Emperor Tiberius’ villas.

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When I see a field of beautiful blue flowers I think about that scene in Bright Star where John Keats and Fanny Brawne are sitting in a meadow of blue, so soft and lovely it made me want to return to England just to walk and lie around in one just like it. I dream about endless rows of bluebells and cornflowers and the kind of lush greenery you see in period British films.

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One of the first things that struck me about Capri was all the beautiful flowers (scenting the air) and all the birds.

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Dark verdant green and creamy white buds.

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I wanted to reach out and touch them.

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The leaves were dark and lovely.

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Blue and white flowers in a sea of green in the gardens lining the loggias, adding to the mystery of the place.

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Stairs leading up to the rooftop café. A red carpet experience in terms of views. One can order coffee, mineral water, fresh orange juice, cappuccinos, prosecco and gelato.

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We had the café to ourselves. The day was nearing dusk, the clouds were dramatic after intermittent rain.

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Umbrella pines always make me think of Rome.

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There is a light aroma of espresso and white lilacs in the air, plenty of shade and cool breezes and spots of sun. One can smell a hint of the sea, too.

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Views from the roof top of the garden and the sea. The bluest blues, the darkest greens, the whitest whites.

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The unique architecture of the villa.

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Flowers of every hue can be found throughout the grounds. The bright pink and red are like kisses with paint on your mouth left on a linen handkerchief.

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One of the many birds of Capri at the café.

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One of the dogs through a keyhole in a fence on the way back from the Villa San Michele.

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Redbeard’s fort high up on the hill.

This is the second article in a series of film photographs and writings on the Villa San Michele on Capri in Italy. More to follow!

All photographs copyright Rebecca Price Butler, at alovelettertorome.com

at the enchanting villa san michele’s gardens on anacapri

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A Greco Roman bust outside the chapel in the Italiani Giardini. The white tile stairs lead up to the former bird conservatory.

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The winged Egyptian bust overlooking the Marina Grande with Ischia faintly shimmering in the background through the low clouds.

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The sphinx watching over the sea, an ancient siren calling wanderlust to travelers.

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The bird’s eye view.

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The beautiful sweeping coastline of Capri.

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The tiny chapel in the garden.

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Cypress trees and gorgeous pillars on the terrace overlooking the sea.

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There are a series of stairs leading to sumptuous turns of the garden and pathways further up the hill.

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Although the villa is high up on Anacapri, there are soaring rocky cliffs surrounding the grounds. One rock was the the fort overtaken by the pirate Redbeard, which was later owned by Axel Munthe and donated back to the island (but owned by) his Swedish foundation.

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The veranda, home to the sphinx, is inviting in white tile and stone, with benches to rest on and views everywhere you look.

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The charming path way walks are lined with greenery, flowers and fountains.

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Every turn on the grounds is more and more enchanting. I cannot recommend enough an hour’s visit to the Villa for it’s peacefulness and beauty. On hot days it’s a cool and shady refuge.

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Olive jars, more cypresses and Roman Umbrella pines!

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A side view of the Egyptian winged pegasus-like female sphinx.

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The exterior of Axel Munthe’s chapel.

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Potted urns along the walk.

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Herbal garden, leaves and trees.

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Hedges and shrubbery grown over decades forming fences.

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Another angle of the sphinx’s view.

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A tiny boat leaving the shore.

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The clouds and mist find each other.

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Because of Axel Munthe’s tireless advocation for the exotic array of birds who migrate to the island each year, Capri is now one giant bird sanctuary. Bird hunting is outlawed. The beautiful song of many different birds can be heard from morning to night, when the nightingales come out. It is then when I can feel Keats poem, Ode To A Nightingale, alive in the air.FH060023

I worry some of the pictures are a bit repetitious but they were all beautiful reminders of being there. Even a subtle angle change is reminiscent of walking through the grounds and seeing the beauty unfold a step at a time. And believe it or not I am actually restraining myself.

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A semi hidden niche at the end of Villa San Michele’s labyrinthine gardens and loggias.

This was part one of the Villa San Michele series shot on portra 35mm film, velvia film slides and vintage kodak. The history of San Michele, more garden rambles, the cafe and interior of the villa, the flora and fauna of the grounds and excerpts from Axel Munthe’s book on his Villa to come in following posts. For visitor information visit: villasanmichele.eu . If you find yourself on Capri, even for a day, you must take a convertible taxi or the bus up to Anacapri (because it’s less crowded, lovely and full of hand painted tile, jewelry and sandal artisans) and it is the home of the Villa San Michele! You won’t regret it!

More to follow! These photographs and travel essays are copyright Rebecca Price Butler, alovelettertorome.com

That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.