Capri: until now, this meant to me the mid-calf trousers favoured in warmer climates (stylish, but hard to pull off; best kept for the tall and the gamine). Now my focus is the small island off the Amalfi Coast. Like the pants, it’s chic – very chic. In fact, this romantic idyll in the Tyrrhenian Sea is heavenly. Our journey begins in Naples, the birthplace of pizza. No time for a slice, despite Mr Smith’s pleading – it’s ‘arrivederci’ to the grey façades of the mainland city: we have a hydrofoil to catch across the sparkling bay.
Capri, a noble beauty, sits demurely waiting for us like a sphinx. The first thing we spot is the gleaming white Villa Fersen, teetering on the cliff’s edge. We have arrived. The hydrofoil pulls into the Marina Piccola; the plank is dropped. Weekend bags are grabbed at the dock by seersucker-clad JK Placers, who have a car waiting, and we are whisked away up a steep narrow road and down a discreet driveway. Like Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen’s art nouveau villa, JK Place is set into the cliffs – the only Capri hotel built directly on the coast. Our driver gingerly backs through the gates and a scene reminiscent of Downton Abbey unfolds: a stream of staff members spills out of the 18th-century cream villa to line up. Everyone is immaculately dressed head-to-toe in that striped cotton so beloved of Ivy Leaguers, stretching out their hands, nodding and welcoming us. Have Mr Smith and I been mistaken for Roman emperors by these preppy pagans? Oh no, this intimate 20-room hotel has been expecting us: Mr Smith and I have come home.
After a brief encounter with every staff member, we are led into a cerulean-blue library, stocked with design, fashion and architecture essentials – everything you could ever want to read on those inviting overstuffed white sofas. Apple mojitos and plump olives at our fingertips, we flick through Helmut Newton’s gigantic Sumo biography. ‘This is amazing,’ breathes Mr Smith. A quick gander reveals a DVD hoard that even includes every episode of The Sopranos – not that we’ll be locked up watching box sets. Capri won’t have it: she’ll lure us out with her voluptuous green hills, sexy sidestreets and, of course, beautiful locals.
Books, the beach, that view over the Bay of Naples, vintage photographs – it’s all ravishing, and all so welcoming. A brief hotel tour includes glimpses of the beautiful southeast-facing pool, the separate spa building (deep-tissue massage, Mr Smith?) and the wraparound deck: JK Place feels like a palazzo (‘Another type of trouser’, notes the ever-sharp Mr Smith) with hints of hip Hamptons getaway. Ah, the good life.
Drinks drained, we are led to our handsome bedroom, which is a large white space with two French doors opening over the bay. Mr Smith inspects the wet room and a large marble bath while I flop onto a gorgeous white-linen-shrouded four-poster. It may all sound a tad honeymoonish, but it isn’t: it is unisexy – logical clean luxury, riffing on a nautical note.
It’s time for dinner. Capri is relaxed – but be sure to look good. This is an Italian resort in which to put your best foot forward, and embrace life as a bon vivant – preferably a good-looking one – a place to be chic at all costs. (If you must slum it in a hoodie, you’d better at least drape said item around your shoulders.) Eventually emerging from our suite, we pad up to the lounge.
Tranquil, I note. ‘Cocktail hour,’ proffers Mr Smith. We linger over dry martinis in the library before being steered to the small dining room. Intuitive staff strike a masterful balance of friendly but not too familiar. In the intimate restaurant, all six tables are buzzing with lively conversation. Charmingly walked through the Mediterranean menu by the head waiter, we are quizzed on our plans for the weekend over seafood recommendations. Classic risotto proves to be the best we’ve ever had, and simple starters such as swordfish carpaccio are beyond delicious. As is the wine. And the desserts. It’s a decadent place, Capri.
Another wonderful feature of JK Place is its proximity to everything – and there is lots to do on see-and-be-seen Capri. The incredibly helpful concierge is super-informative and the hotel is more than happy to zip you around the island in its shuttle. Mr Smith and I have a packed itinerary: first off is Villa San Michele in Anacapri, once home to the charismatic Swedish psychiatrist Axel Munthe; crammed to the rafters with artefacts, now a luxury hotel, it is flanked by a glorious Vesuvius-view garden perched above the harbour.
I decline Mr Smith’s suggestion of a vertiginous one-man cable car to the isle’s peak in favour of trawling the shelves of the renowned bookshop La Conchiglia, and I make off with one of their very own delightful tomes. Next is lunch at the old-school Da Gemma, on a warren-like alleyway in the old town; the kind of place where walls are plastered with faded photos of patrons past and the thin-crust pizza is unforgettable.
Fortified, we tackle a walk to Villa Jovis, perched on the brink of a 300ft cliff at the apex of the island; Tiberius ran the Roman Empire from here and the ruins are fairly intact. Vertigo sufferers beware: it’s properly on the edge. Many a gobby slave has no doubt uttered his last from this dramatic spot. Our panorama-enhanced walk back, down winding narrow streets, past enigmatic palazzo gates with wisteria-shrouded pathways, is breathtaking in the fading light.
What a magical place this is, branded forever on our brains. Our lasting impression of JK Place Capri will be its easy, relaxed style, its understated glamour and comfort. But mostly, we’ll remember how hard it was to leave.