Capri is full of the grand houses and spectacular villas of the rich and the famous, and that is nothing new. Some 2000 years ago, the earliest protagonists of the Julio-Claudian dynasty of Roman emperors were setting up resplendent palaces on the paradise Isle, from Emperor Augustus, who took frequent holidays in his Capri villa, to Emperor Tiberius who loved the place so much that he spent the last 13 years of his rule on the island, effectively moving the centre of the Roman Empire to this small but stunning Mediterranean island.
It can be said that Tiberius made as much of an impression on Capri as the island did on him. He spread himself far and wide across its rocky scenery, and the remains of many Tiberian palazzi have been found across Capri, including the ruins which were integral to the construction of Axel Munthe’s Villa San Michele. However, it is widely assumed that of all those palaces constructed for Tiberius’ pleasure on Capri, his main residence was the Villa Jovis, perched on one of the island’s highest peaks with a spectacular view over the Bay of Naples.
The Villa Jovis
The ruins of the Villa Jovis (aka Jupiter’s Villa) can still be seen today, albeit in such a poor state of repair that they resemble the kind of idyllic pastiche of antiquity which came to romanticise the ancient world in the paintings of the Renaissance and later Roccoco periods. Yet the remains are in such a spectacular location that we found our hot and sweaty up hill struggle worth all the effort, not least because next to the palace, you can wander for free around the Parco Astarita which, built into terraces on a largely steep cliff, enjoys the most incredible views of Capri’s famous coastal scenery, not to mention Vesuvius and the Sorrento peninsula beyond.
Views from the Parco Astarita
Most notable of all the sights comprising the Parco Astarita views is the Casa Malaparte. Audaciously built onto the rocky outcrop of the Punta Massullo, the Casa Malaparte is without a doubt the most famous house on Capri, not least because it featured prominently in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 film, Contempt (Le Mépris) starring one sultry Brigitte Bardot.
Globally renowned as a masterpiece of Italian modern and contemporary architecture, it was conceived in 1937 by Italian architect Adalberto Libera. The construction is audacious because it dominates the local scenery, with its reverse pyramidal staircase and freestanding curving terrace wall visible from far and wide. Yet despite this, its striking Pompeian red masonry, together with the pine trees which surround it, tend also to ingratiate the house with the local environment. The overall effect is beautiful to look at, even though the best view of this privately owned masterpiece is still, necessarily, from afar.
The Casa Malaparte
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