Capri was the place that Fathom founder Pavia Rosati always loved to loathe. Then she found the right hotel, and she changed her tune.
CAPRI, Italy – I used to have the loveliest hate-hate relationship with Capri.
It made me so happy. Every time I had to go to Capri ("had to"), my boat guy would pick me up at the end of the dock at Lo Scoglio and sail me over. I'd poke into the grottoes (never the Blue Grotto), check out the stalactites, and dive off the boat for a swim. If I had to go onto Capri itself ("had to"), I'd dock in protest, eat a good pizza at Capris, bemoan all the tourists and Prada shops, and flee after a few hours.
Then I checked into the J.K. Place Capri, and I was ruined.
I'm now one of the zillions of idiots who love Capri.
It began with a welcome drink and it all went downhill from there. A welcome drink! The nonsense hotels give you to make you think you're getting a perk at a moment when all you really want is a hot shower to wash off the travel grime. But this fruity concoction was so good I asked for seconds, and then I asked for the recipe. (Orange juice, bitter San Pellegrino, a few drops of grenadine.) No, I'm sure I wasn't biased by fact that I was curled up in a sofa on a terrace with a view down to a rocky family beach, and out onto the Bay of Naples, crisp blue skies and Vesuvius in the distance.
I had been skeptical about the location before we got here. The hotel is on the main road to Capri town, a few minutes uphill from Marina Grande, the island's main — and thus most highly trafficked — point of entry for ferries and boats. Everyone ends up here, piling into buses and funiculars and convertible taxis, making it a place you want to flee as quickly as possible. It's just there, yet the moment you pull into the J.K. driveway, the madness of Capri disappears.
The main level of the hotel is occupied by public spaces – lobby, library, dining room, bar, and living room — that face onto the sea, which plunges below. There are doors everywhere, so you feel like you're outside as much as you're inside. The color palette reinforces this: The blues on the walls, curtains, pillows, and accents echo those of the sky and the sea. Florentine designer Michele Böna, who designed the original J.K. Place in Florence, has infused a slightly nautical feel throughout — details in the furniture, windows shaped like portholes, framed black and white photos of sailboats, blues and whites and lots of stripes — but it's subtle. (More shiny superyacht than cruise liner.) And although one room is the library, with sections labeled "Moda," "Arte," "Architettura," piles of beautiful art books are everywhere, casually but thoughtfully arranged near inviting chairs and couches.
The overall effect is at once drop-dead chic and sink-into-me comfy. Not an easy balance to strike. Not an easy place to leave.
The staff doesn't help, by the way. General manager Simone Giorgi is charming, funny, and cool — the ultimate Italian "simpatico" — and you'll want to talk to him for hours. Lorenza and Carolina at reception will help score hard-to-get reservations and make great suggestions for things to do around the island. And of course maitre d' Lorenzo Margherita obliged me with the cocktail recipe. This is the J.K. Place ethos, which I first discovered when I visited their J.K. Place Florence in 2003 and met then GM and now owner Ori Kafri, a hotelier who knows how to build magical spaces and make his guests feel they're part of the magic.
Eventually we pulled ourselves away to explore our surroundings. (Because I hate Capri so much, I had only given ourselves two days and one night.) The hotel shuttle took us uphill to Capri town, and from there we walked down to Marina Piccola for lunch at Fontelina Beach Club. Then up to Anacapri to visit Villa San Michele and ride the single-chair lift to the top of the island, an experience so low-fi that it's thrilling and petrifying. Dinner was at Mammà, the new restaurant from Gennaro Esposito, the renowned chef of the Michelin-starred restaurant La Torre Del Saracino across the bay in Vico Equense. (Esposito is the latest superstar Italian chef to open an outpost on Capri. The last time I had seen him was when I bumped into him at midnight at a 24-hour BBQ restaurant in Seoul, a very small world moment.) The meal was tasty, with bonus points for the inventive pizzas made in the oven across the street. But I wanted to get back to J.K.
Our corner room, one of 22, was as inviting as the main floor. Balcony onto the sea, canopy over the bed, fruit tray on the table, a big tiled bathroom with a deep tub, incredible water pressure in the shower, full-size bottles of heavenly-smelling products. (I know: I'm gushing. I can't help it.)
Coffee in bed, sun streaming in through the French doors, is the best way to start the day. Until, that is, you see the breakfast spread downstairs. Fresh cheeses, a zillion kinds of tomatoes (some preserved in salt water from the year before), fruits and fresh juices, just-baked breads and pastries. Help yourself, and grab a seat outside by a potted palm. Don't ignore that pesky sea gull who's pretending to ignore you: He's about to swoop in and steal that brioche off the table.
The expansive dining room leads onto the pool deck and the well equipped gym and spa. While I was floating on my back in the pool, I wondered who was lucky enough to live in the beautiful villa next door, and if they'd invite me over for coffee. I could get used to living like this.