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Capri Villa San Michele

The marvelous museum in Axel Munthe's dream home, in Anacapri.

The Villa San Michele is located on the north-eastern side of Anacapri, 327 metres above sea level. Here was an ancient Roman imperial villa, whose ruins were preserved by Axel Munthe and are now to be found in the garden. In the area there were the remains of a medieval chapel later moved to its present position by Munthe himself.

San Michele was Munthe's residence between 1896 and 1910. The fanciful architecture was meant as a perfect environment for the collections of its owner, and at the same time, served to enhance the beauty of the landscape. The buildings and the collections reflect a Romantic, Symbolist taste, typical of that century. As to the origin of the objects, we can find Roman, Etruscan and Egyptian finds.

Some architectural details date back perhaps to the ancient Roman villa. Besides, according to Munthe, most of the finds were bought under unusual circumstances. In the book, for example, is the fantastic account of how the head of Medusa appeared to the physician as if it had been a cameo on the seabed. Besides the head of Medusa, considerable objects are the tavolo cosmatesco (a table built following the style of the Cosmati i.e. Roman marble workers, decorators and architects of the 12th and 13th centuries, translator's note), the marble bust of Emperor Tiberius and the Egyptian sphinx.

Examples of Roman sculptures are mostly funerary monuments and fragments of sarcophagi, that cannot possibly date back to the imperial villa. In the garden you can see a series of typically Mediterranean plants, as well as plants coming from other latitudes. From the colonnade you enjoy an extraordinary view of the Gulf of Naples. Do not miss the whole view of the garden, the architectural structure and the artistic collection.

The construction of San Michele began with the purchase of the plot, in 1895, and the first building works began a year later. The architect was Munthe himself. A striking element of the building is the opening to the sea and the sky, described in the book as a clear objective to be achieved: "My house must be open to the sun, to the wind, and the voice of the sea, just like a Greek temple, and light, light, light everywhere!".

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