For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Friday, 16 July 2010

The Isle Of Capri

The Isle of Capri is only a short 40 minute boat hop away from Naples. We spent little more than half a day there. But you really need longer than that. In half a day you can only do what the tourists do. And there are lots of tourists on Capri. Apparently up to 5000 arrive daily. Ideally you need to stay on the island a few days - and walk. So we only got a brief glimpse of beautiful Capri ...

But we did see the Villa San Michele, the house built on an old Roman site by Dr Axel Munthe (1857-1949), the Swedish psychiatrist. Munthe is famous for his popular, autobiographical book The Story Of San Michele, one of the best-selling books of the 20th century. I remember there was a time when every second-hand bookstore in the country used to have shelf-fuls of the thing. I haven't read it myself. If anyone has read it out there, what's you're opinion? Am I missing out?

By all accounts Munthe was a decent guy - he often treated the poor without charge, and was passionate about animal rights (the bird sanctuary at Mt Barbarossa, which he created on the island, is still there). He was also an early advocate of alternative medicine - often exploring hypnosis and music therapy in his treatments, rather than prescribing drugs.

He was giddy about royalty - and became friends with and physician to the Swedish royal family. The Queen of Sweden habitually spent several months of the year at the Villa San Michele. The rumour went round, as rumours do, that they were lovers - but this was never substantiated.

Munthe's villa is very lovely indeed, and we passed a delightful hour or two wandering round. The prospect from the end of the terrace across limestone cliffs to the harbour is pretty stunning, and there's also this back-end view of a granite sphinx, which makes it even more interesting, and rather mysterious ...

4 comments:

George said...

I've been to Capri a couple of times, but not within the last twenty-five years. I missed Munthe's villa, but will certainly visit it if I ever get back there. It sounds as if you and your wife had a great trip from the beginning to the end.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, it was a great, and a necessary trip, George. As much about rediscovering each other as discovering new landscapes ...

George said...

I love this notion of "rediscovering each other." Just think of how our worlds would change if we could do that with all of our relationships - those with our spouses, those with our children, those with our friends. Thanks for planting that idea in my head; perhaps it will bear fruit in my own life.

The Solitary Walker said...

It's a wonderful notion, that notion of rediscovery, isn't it - one that excites me deeply. Marriage, any long-term relationship or friendship, needs to be honoured in this way from time to time, I think. We let go of marriage etc far too easily sometimes, thinking things are stale, beyond repair, whatever (of course, sometimes they may be) - without considering that a slightly different/ equally interesting/differently challenging relationship may be possible.

As Buddhism (and plain common sense) teaches us, flux and change are with us every second of our lives - so why not embrace it and adapt to it, rather than being defeated and diminished by it?