Villa San Michele was born from the dream of a Swedish doctor and writer, searching for his corner in the world. A place where his home “was opened to the sun, the wind and the voices of the sea – like a Greek temple – and light, light, light everywhere!”.
He was looking for a place with an identity, that would cure his soul, because “soul needs more space than the body“. We will discover together the history of this fantastic place, of this wonderful work and the uniqueness of its architecture.
The history of villa San Michele: how it was designed
He was only 19 years old when Alex Munthe, Swedish doctor and writer, arrived for the first time in Capri. A journey that would completely change, transform and improve his life. In the best seller “The Story of San Michele”, he tells how, climbing the 777 steps of the Scala Fenice, arriving in Capodimonte, he immediately made his decision: to build his own house there. He found the light he desired, the space for his soul, the place for his identity.
At the time, the land was owned by the well-known carpenter Maestro Vincenzo, who used the place as a home for his humble workshop, surrounded by spaces for vines and fruit trees. Last but not least, the historic medieval chapel, now in ruins.
Axel Munthe lived on Capri for more than 56 years: from the day he visited it for the first time, he was never able to leave the island: that’s how deep the bond between him and the island was.
Munthe was not an architect but, nevertheless, he gave life to one of the most famous villas in Europe: let’s discover its architecture together.
Villa San Michele’s architecture: main features
As we have already mentioned, Munth was not an architect by profession but, at the same time, he managed to create one of the most famous tourist attractions on the international scene. It was 1985 when he bought the land to build his dream house.
Many supported him with his designs, among them: the well-known painter Aristide Sartorio and many local manufacturers and builders.
How not to notice the typical features of Capri architecture that blend with the perfection of the domus of the Roman era: a combination of art, history and culture for a unique architecture!
“Inside the house reigns the contrast between black and white. In the loggia, the colors of the garden take over, along with the changing shades of the blue Mediterranean.”
It’s defined as the genesis of a masterpiece: from the original chapel in ruins (dedicated to St. Michael, hence the name of the villa), to a building hanging between the sea and the sky.
The element that dominates the scene? The colonnade, with the sphinx looking towards the endless sea.
The Garden of Villa San Michele
Purity, nature and elegance: three characteristics that make the garden of Villa San Michele the most beautiful in Italy. A path, a journey, an experience that begins with the wisteria of the pergola and continues towards the boulevard of cypresses. Each season has its own perfumes, its colors and its essences.
The garden was born as a space open to the wind, the light and the sea. Nature lovers will find in the garden of Villa San Michele many types of trees and plants: to discover them all, an updated and detailed list is available on the official website of the structure.
When you visit the garden you’ll feel in a heavenly universe, hung between the sea and the earth, between the sky and the infinite, between essence and nature, in its purest form.
But who takes care of such a wonder? Who dedicates body and soul to this magical place? Raffaele Scarpato, the gardener of Villa San Michele. Since 1988 Raffaele dedicates his art, his passion and his competence to the most famous garden in Italy. And it’s thanks to his contribution, and that of his assistants, that Villa San Michele obtained, in 2014, the prestigious “Most Beautiful Private Park in Italy” award.
The Castello Barbarossa
Axel Munthe shared his passion, his love, his interest for music, for nature and for animals with Queen Victoria of Sweden, who spent long periods in Capri. In order to protect Capri’s migratory birds, which risked being exterminated by wild hunting, the well-known Swedish doctor and writer decided to buy the land formed by the Monte Barbarossa (Mount Barbarossa) in order to offer, donate and reserve a protected area for them.
Besides this area, Axel Munthe also decided to buy the mountain which shadows Villa San Michele. On top of the mountain, there is the much loved and millenary Castello Barbarossa (Barbarossa Castle), used during spring as an ornithological station, managed by the Ornithological Center of Bologna.
Museum and collection of Villa San Michele
Art is dominant inside this precious villa: from Roman to Etruscan works, arriving to Egyptian ones, Villa San Michele has been hosting an important art collection for years!
Munthe chose these forms of art for their beauty, symbolic meaning and uniqueness: how not to mention the fabulous sphinx over 3200 years old.
What can we find in this collection? Sculptures, bas-relief engravings, sarcophagi, architectural fragments and inscriptions, most from Rome and Naples.
What catches the eye, strikes the soul and conquers the mind is the perfect harmony that each work of art establishes with the architecture of the villa and the precious garden.
To discover all the works of the collection, click here!
All you have to know to visit Villa San Michele
If you are a lover of art, nature and architecture, you absolutely must visit Villa San Michele. Here is all the main information about opening hours, tickets and details to contact the Villa.
January and February – from 09.00 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.
March – from 9.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
April – from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
May, June, July, August and September – from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.
October – from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
November and December – from 9.00 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.
Full price ticket: 10 Euros
Children up to 10 years: Free
School groups: 4 Euros
If you want to visit Villa San Michele with a group, please contact the following numbers:
There are some wonderful organized guided tours: thanks to experts, you’ll experience a sensational journey through one of Capri’s historical, architectural and artistic wonders.
How can you book them? Through the following addresses: