Villa Lysis

Top choice historic building in Capri

This beautifully melancholic art-nouveau villa is set on a clifftop on Capri’s northeast tip and was the one-time retreat of French poet Jacques d’Adelsward-Fersen, who came to Capri in 1904 to escape a gay sex scandal in Paris. Unlike other stately homes, the interior has been left almost entirely empty; this is a place to let your imagination flesh out the details. It's a 40-minute walk from Piazza Umberto I and rarely crowded.

One notable curiosity is the ‘Chinese room’ in the basement, which includes a semicircular opium den with a swastika emblazoned on the floor. Fersen became addicted to opium following a visit to Ceylon in the early 1900s; the swastika is the Sanskrit symbol for well being. Equally transfixing is the sun-dappled garden, a triumph of classical grandiosity half given over to nature.

The €2 entry fee includes an explanatory pamphlet available in Italian and English. Afterwards, it is possible to take a steep, winding path, the Sentiero delle Calanche, to Villa Jovis (20 minutes away).

Fersen’s scandal-plagued life ended in 1923 with a lethal cocaine-champagne cocktail.