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Villa of San Michele: Isle of Capri, Italy

Axel Munthe first visited Capri as a tubercular teenager and it was then that he fell in love with the island. After climbing the Phoenician Steps to the village of Anacapri, he came upon a peasant's house and the adjacent ruin of a chapel dedicated to San Michele, and was immediately captivated by the idea of rebuilding the ruin and turning it into a home. It became his life's work.


He moved from Paris to Rome, where he quickly established himself as a doctor among the expatriate community. His summers were spent on Capri, where he built the famous villa, and became a hero to the local community, because he treated the islanders for free. His patients in Rome were mainly wealthy English and American clients, and Munthe moved easily in the highest social circles. After Princess Victoria became his patient, Munthe quit his practice to devote himself more or less exclusively to his royal patient, which he did from 1892 until her death in 1930.

The result was a building articulated on various levels: the study is on the first floor, the loggia crosses pergolas and columns to reach a circular viewpoint which looks out across the Bay of Naples. In Villa San Michele a number of ancient artifacts are displayed - objects found on the beaches by Munthe in Capri, Anacapri and elsewhere, some of which were donated by friends. There are fragments of sarcophaguses, busts, Roman paving, marble and columns can be seen. In the garden there is a Greek tomb and a granite Sphinx which gazes out over the whole Island of Capri.

Munthe was a mass of contradictions: he gladly treated the poor for free, but actively cultivated the rich and titled; he claimed to be a misanthrope (preferring animals to humans), but put his life in danger to help the victims of the cholera epidemic in Naples (1884) and the Messina earthquake (1908). He preferred simple food and clothes, yet the Villa San Michele was filled with expensive antiques.

With the exception of a few sporadic absences, Munthe lived on Capri for more than 56 years. His love of the island coincided with the growing popularity of Capri and the arrival of rich and famous travelers from all over the world. Today his villa is the most visited place on the whole of Capri.


Axel Munthe's love and his concern for the birds on the island, which were shot in disastrous numbers, led him to acquire the rights to the Barbarossa Mountain in order to create a sanctuary for migrating birds.


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