VILLA MARINA CAPRI HOTEL & SPA
The right word for the Villa Marina on Capri is soigné. Its air of sophisticated 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 luxuriously comfortable) and, of course, its staff. The last is headed by the General Manager, Mr Enrico Costa – a most charming fellow, who was born in Canada and brought up in Rome. (He can be seen on the left of the group photograph.) Mr Costa 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.
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 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 a substantial fitted bookcase, the contents of which could be reached from the reverse side. These now include A View From The Wings, the interesting memoir of Ronald Millar, a friend and adviser of Margaret Thatcher. Having carried it to Capri as my holiday reading, I thought I should donate it to the collection, as a tiny ‘thank you’ for such a pleasant stay.
The pleasantness of the stay did not, alas! include my customary long bathes, as the designer of the bathroom had decided to demonstrate his artistic flair by providing a black bath tub of cruciform shape. This proved quite impossible for me to use. Fortunately, a 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 (seen in the group photograph next to your correspondent) 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. Even the amuse-bouches before dinner were startlingly good (particularly the little taste of Parmesan cream).
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. Here, ensconced in a wicker armchair, with a glass-topped table before me (on which glistened good Zafferano glassware), I could gaze out over the darkening sea and think myself blessed to be in so beautiful a spot. And I was blessed, too, to be looked after by Giovanni Cacace, the maitre d’ and sommelier (on the right of our photograph) – a gentleman of kindly disposition I had last encountered at the Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento.
He brought to me four splendid dishes. I began with the best, a plate of roasted duck foie gras as pretty as it was delicious, with the liver balanced precisely by the raspberry dressing on the accompanying salad of smoked duck carpaccio. Then came two plates of caciotta cheese ravioli, one with lemon sauce and the other deep fried with tomato and oregano sauce. The meat was tasty saddle of lamb, oven-baked, served with artichoke cous-cous and mint sauce. Feeling by this time rather replete, I ended with the simple joy of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. (These four courses from the carte were 106€. Set meals of three, five and seven courses are available for 75€, 85€ and 95€.)
The wine list has 118 offerings, most of them Italian. Prices are friendly, and run from 30€ for a white from Abruzzo to 380€ for the 2004 vintage of Solaia. Two of my favourite sparkling wines are available: the Krug Grande Cuvée is 250€ and the 2004 vintage of that superb Italian bubbly, Franciacorta Annamaria Clementi, Cà del Bosco, is 140€. Other bottles to catch my eye were: 2014 Planeta chardonnay (40€), 2007 Tignanello (120€), 2007 Sassicaia (250€) and 2012 Ornellaia (250€). I drank a soft and quaffable cabernet sauvignon from Tuscany, which surprised me with its red (rather than black) fruit (Belvento, 2014 – 35€).
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 soigné. If, like me, you like your hotels sophisticated and elegant, this is the place for you.
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