VILLA MARINA CAPRI HOTEL & SPA
Capri means luxury, sophistication and charm. And these words are exactly right, too, for the lovely Villa Marina. Its abundant elegance comes from its location (slightly set apart from the bustle of the sightseers), its lovely gardens, its size (not too large), its gorgeous sea views, its décor (modern, but not too modern, and very comfortable) and, of course, its staff. The last is headed by the General Manager, Mr Maurizio Vaccarella – a most charming fellow, who can be seen on the group photograph, next to your correspondent.) Mr Vaccarella ensures that the service at the Villa Marina is delivered with efficiency and friendliness.
Do not be put off by the hotel entrance. It has the sense of walking into a garage. Its form is necessitated by the road outside (which can sometimes get rather busy) and by the requirement for a ‘pull-in’ for the hotel’s shuttle ‘bus (which meets guests when they arrive at the nearby Marina Grande). Once through this, however, the atmosphere becomes at once one of quiet calm – in the Reception area – and then of verdant delight – on the pathway through the flowers beds and lawns which leads to the main building.
I was soon settling into my room on the third floor. I would very much advise you, dear Reader, to follow my example and go for a junior suite (650€-1,000€ a night, bed and breakfast for two, according to season). All the rooms are named after figures from Capri’s history in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mine, number 304, was the Norman Douglas Suite. (Mr Douglas was the author of South Wind.) This was very pleasing accommodation, which I had enjoyed on a previous visit. (I was pleased to see that the book I had donated to the room’s library – Ronald Millar’s memoir, A View from the Wings – was still present.)
The style, as throughout the hotel, was modern, cool and welcoming. Light colours and stone floors created the true Caprese atmosphere. From the corridor, I stepped straight into the bed-sitting room, which was about 15 feet square. There was thus sufficient space for a writing desk and a substantial, upholstered armchair. A French window opened onto a small balcony and afforded the loveliest of views over the swimming pool and the ocean, so that I could lie in bed and look out to sea. The ceiling was high – around 12 feet – and coved. At the head of the bed, which had been made wonderfully soft for my demanding back, was the substantial fitted bookcase, the contents of which could be reached from the reverse side. Here, too, was the entrance to the bathroom.
The designer of the washing chamber had decided to demonstrate his artistic flair by providing a black bath tub of cruciform shape. This was wonderful to behold, but sadly – for one as decrepit as myself – impossible to use. Fortunately, however, a good walk-in shower was available as an alternative. I therefore performed my ablutions by means of the vigorous delights of the rain forest rather than with the gentle pleasures of the return to the womb.
The excellence of the food from the kitchen of Chef Manuele Cattaruzza (also seen in the photograph) is remarkable. Perhaps this should not surprise us, as he worked in some famous establishments – including Le Gavroche in London and the Quisisana Hotel in Capri – before arriving at the Villa Marina. He is an engaging fellow and full of enthusiasm for finding the very best ingredients. But that is only part of the explanation for the fine cuisine to be had here. The other element is the skill of the chef himself. His cuisine is not particularly elaborate. But it is highly effective and beautifully presented. It is based upon intelligence, an artistic eye and a refined palate. He takes care over everything.
The Restaurant Ziqù (pronounced ‘zee-coo’) is a curved sweep of white inside and outside is divided between two terraces. I selected a table on the smaller terrace, at the edge of the garden. Before me was a panorama which included the port and the multitude of little boats bobbing about on the sea. Here, ensconced in a wicker armchair and with white napery and good Zafferano glassware at my service, I could gaze out over the darkening scene and think myself blessed to be in so beautiful a spot. And I was blessed, too, to be looked after by Fernando and Vito – the maitre d’ and assistant maitre d’ (also in the picture) – whose attentions were proper and efficient.
Three tasting menus are offered, at 75€, 85€ and 95€. I chose four courses from the carte (for which you should expect to pay around 90€). I began with a fine example of well-balanced and interesting tastes and textures – stracciatella cream cheese tartlets with beef tartare and crisp egg yolk. Then came the essence of pea (and I do love peas) – fusilli pasta with a gorgeous pea sauce, provolone cheese and pistachio nuts. My meat was tasty roasted sirloin of lamb, served with potatoes, cherry tomatoes and origano sauce. Feeling by this time rather replete, I ended with the simple joy of a dish of superb vanilla ice cream.
The wine list has 100 offerings, most of them Italian. Prices are friendly, and run from 28€ for a chardonnay from the Alto Adige to 380€ for the 2004 vintage of Solaia. Other bottles to catch my eye were: 2016 Planeta chardonnay (42€), 2013 Cervaro della Sala (80€), 2007 Sassicaia (350€), 2013 Ornellaia (250€) and 2005 Gaja barbaresco (265€).
Chef Cattaruzza also displayed his talent in the mornings. This time I ate on the other terrace of the restaurant, protected from the sun by its straw roof. The brioche was particularly good. From the buffet I also secured mozzarella, superb tomatoes, strawberries, All Bran, vanilla sponge cake, bacon, sausages and scrambled eggs – all of high quality. These breakfasts added considerably to my feeling of well-being. And speaking of well-being, I should mention the hotel’s spa, called the Stai Wellness Centre. Although I am not one to patronise such facilities, I was told it is very good of its kind.
Yes, the Villa Marina is luxurious, sophisticated and charming – just like Capri itself.
VILLA MARINA CAPRI HOTEL & SPA
Via Provinciale Marina Grande 191, 80073 Capri, Italy.
Telephone +39 081 837 6630
Fax +39 081 837 4079
Open from April to October
Double rooms from 290€ at low season
Check the hotel website for the rates for specific dates and for special offers