Anonymous review of Capri Palace Hotel & Spa
Pizza is not really meant to be the food of love. It’s a convenience thing, a boy thing, even, roughly put together and lacking in sophistication. That is until you get to southern Italy. We’re sitting in the last rays of the setting autumn sun, on a terrace overlooking the main square of Anacapri, Capri’s northern village. Below, Italian signore and cute little white-frocked schoolchildren are strolling between the café tables up and down the steep paved alleys that lead on to the piazza, shouting to their mammas, dodging the three-wheeler Vespa vans that run madcap around the island.
Our terrace is actually a balcony, and a waiter, jocular, gigoloesque but for his girth, is holding court among the tables. He is nodding approvingly at the length of Mrs Smith’s skirt and giving Mr Smith a knowing wink. The beer is cold, the sun is warm and then the pizza arrives. It is possibly the most seductive hunk of dough, tomato and cheese in the world. You won’t know until you’ve been there.
This particular pizza parlour neighbours the Capri Palace, a luxury Capri hotel and the island's five-star flagship. Our arrival off the hydrofoil from Naples harbour (40 minutes), had augured well when the driver swept us off the boat, gathering our bags and shepherding us into quite the strangest and amusing vehicle – a stretch white Fiat Punto Cabriolet Limousine. Yes, really. This seemed bizarre until you realise that everything on Capri is miniaturised, even the vehicles. So a limo is a Punto, a street is an alley, the locals are all tiny and the buses are all mini.
This Liliputian charm gives the island an other-worldly, dreamlike quality, almost as if you’d stepped into the pages of a picture-book. The island is just a series of jagged cliffs connected by hair-raising paths, secret caves, deep-stepped passages and cute toy townhouses set into the cliffside. You take all this in as you are driven from the port to the north of the island, to Anacapri and the Capri Palace Hotel – 'the most exclusive residence on the island’, according to our highly enthusiastic little limo driver.
The hotel doesn’t disappoint. Entering through a draped muslin paradise of trickling water and yellow stone, you realise you are walking up under the hotel pool, which has windows in its walls like an aquarium. The reception leads into a kitsch Eighties bar, which somehow works (and where you can only order martini, if you’ve got any sense of place). Weird Jeff Koons-type art decorates the place – plastic mermaids and a boat made of TVs are just two of the bar’s installations. Fabulous.
Some of the rooms are much more traditional, which is just as well, because a plastic mermaid might be a bit scary in the middle of the night. Egyptian-cotton counterpanes on four-poster musliny beds, sound systems (take your own music), plasma TVs and marble bathrooms all complete the picture. This Mr and Mrs Smith took some persuading to leave the counterpane – the pizza was a rare excursion.
In the morning, the sun streams through the balcony, but check out the ground-floor rooms too, which come with their own private pool. Breakfast is comprehensively luxurious and you can have as much as you like (I particularly liked the overflowing bowls of clementines, picked from the trees outside the window). Room service is good, too, but you must check out the Michelin-starred restaurant, which serves stunning Italian food at a much more sophisticated level than the surrounding trattorie.
In the evening, all the tables in the restaurant, foyer and bar are lit with tealights, and the hotel spills out into the garden beside the pool. It becomes very clear that this is a honeymoon destination. But you must tear yourself away from the hotel, if nothing but for the food, which, as you are in Italy, is sumptuous. The local speciality is a heavenly tomato and cheese ravioli but the mozzarella is full-fat, the Parma ham is delicately spicy, the fish is über-fresh and the olives fat and juicy. Only the Italians have the right to serve food this good – and pretty much all the restaurants come up to standard. There is little to choose between them.
By day, you should do your best to tear Mrs Smith away from the shops (it's a credit-card danger zone out there, with fabulous Prada and Pucci boutiques, not to mention the handicraft shops that make the famous Capri leather sandals, of which she may want to buy an obscene quantity). Do this by hiring a boat and cruising around the cliffs on a blue, blue sea – the water is usually flat and you can do the island in a day. And there are boats for all budgets. You can get a simple fisherman’s barca for next to nothing, or the hotel will sort you out with a millionaire’s gin palace. (Taking one of these back to Naples might be a seriously impressive move as far as any Mrs Smith is concerned).
By night, once you have eaten as much of the delicious food as you can without failing to fit into your skinny white jeans, you can hit the clubs. If you are visiting in season, it will be hard to avoid them – the Italians love to party. If you are there out of season, as we were, you’ll probably end up being much more chilled. Nice.
There was only one disappointment with Capri Palace: we found out, on our return, that they have the most incredible leg spa – no one had told us! Situated at the back of the hotel, it is made up of a series of interconnecting whirlpools and water walkways. As you stroll through the waist-high water, your legs are treated to alternate bursts of pummeling and lightly massaging bubbles at different temperatures. Curative for folk with serious circulation issues, their 'leg hospital' as they call it, is also beloved by film stars about to shoot a scene where they show off their pins. Sadly, this fan of short skirts and would-be Marilyn missed out on the action. Next time. And I’ll be packing my micromini.