At the end of the 1800s an eccentric Swedish physician with aristocratic connections, Axel Munthe, began work on his “dream house” on the island of Capri in Italy. The location was a ledge about 1,000 feet above the town of Capri, and adjacent to the small village of Anacapri.
As time went by, Dr. Munthe’s Villa of San Michele attracted artistic and titled guests. In 1929, Dr Munthe wrote The Story of San Michele, and published his book in English. The Story of San Michele became, somewhat improbably, an international bestseller and helped to put Capri on the map. The general style is anecdotal regarding the people who lived on Capri Island, and also fabulist with a touch of magical realism.
Reading The Story of San Michele as a child gave me a sense of the magic of Capri that I continue to feel during my visit to this magical island despite the obvious impact of the hordes that visit during the season (fortunately, we are here off season!).
When Axel Munthe died in 1949, he left the Villa of San Michele to the Swedish government, with the hope that it would be used to foster good relations between Sweden and Italy, and also that the people living and working on his estate would be allowed to remain. Today, the Villa and the surrounding gardens are a museum—and, as you can see, the gardens are incredibly beautiful.