Hotel La Palma, Capri's most historic hotel
For the lovers, the dreamers and me
There’s something about the Isle of Capri that even the wildest parts seem manicured in comparison to Capri's local counterparts of Ischia and Procida. This is true across the island, from Anacapri’s lush countryside to Astarita Park above the town of Capri, where the coastal pine trees and other Mediterranean plants mark the way to Villa Jovis (one of many villas of Roman Emperor Tiberius). And somehow the man-made beauty of Capri, painted stark white or in pastel shades of lemon, peach and other summer fruits, flows seamlessly into its natural surroundings. This happens everywhere – from the shops and hotels camouflaged by lemon trees, jasmine and bougainvillea to the restaurants like Da Paolino which have literally grown up out of backyard orchards.
The island’s most historic and charming hotel, La Palma, less than 100 meters from the main square of Capri (“La Piazzetta”) is no exception. I was a guest at La Palma for three nights in July (and again the last weekend of August) which was not nearly long enough. Each time I walked into the hotel, I felt as though the warmth, beauty and distinct colors of the island had followed me inside, starting with the welcome sight of the bronzed, friendly faces of Antonio and Domenico who seem to light up the reception desk with their smiles.
The hotel captures the very essence of Caprese style in all its details, from the lobby to the 72 spacious guest rooms, each decorated in traditional Mediterranean colors with dreamy frescoed walls (even in the bathrooms) and matching traditional tiled floors. The grand entrance of La Palma, majestically framed by an explosion of magenta bougainvillea and ivy for days, is slightly set back from Capri’s main street - which would be a pedestrian thoroughfare except for the slim-line porters’ vehicles which alarmingly honk as they pass regularly. The hotel’s corner terrace, dripping with lemons, is the perfect spot to watch the 24/7 passing fashion parade, ideally with a cocktail in hand. I would recommend relaxing into the evening with a 'La Palma Spritz' while enjoying a special selection of savory treats prepared by the award-winning chef.
“There are two ways to see the world: one is by traveling; the other is sitting on the terrace at La Palma and wait for the world to pass in front of you.” - Prince Francesco Caravita di Sirignano
The elegant, open style of La Palma is a contemporary take on the artistic spirit of the original “Locanda Pagano” (the name of the villa in 1822), where artists, writers and musicians from all over the world were hosted by notary Giuseppe Pagano to realize their works while being wrapped in the atmosphere of Capri and its wild nature. In 1826 one of these artists-in-residence – who will forever link La Palma to the history of Capri – was young German poet August Kopisch, the first to swim in to the world’s most famous cave, which he named “La Grotta Azzurra” (the Blue Grotto) after being dazzled by the radiant light which he described as being “like the light of a blue flame.” Pagano invited artists like Kopisch for their eccentric conversations and they often repaid his generosity by singing and playing music, or by sharing their art and poetry on the hotel’s walls. Its fame as an artists' haven grew throughout the 19th century and beyond. La Palma’s open-arms welcome hasn’t changed a bit, carried on today by General Manager Giovanni Monti, and visitors can still see the tribute to the early visiting artists encased in the walls of the hotel.
La Palma's lobby is like a secret indoor garden of oversized floral art masterpieces set underneath the high vaulted ceilings. A mountain of lime, pink and lilac hydrangea dwarfed the lobby throughout my stay, visible from every vantage point from the reception desk to the breakfast room – where more delights awaited. I woke up excited each morning to enjoy the freshly baked local pastries and the sweet, sun-ripened, brightly-colored fruits contrasting the stiff white table cloths. This was the ultimate daily morning ritual to energize me for hiking the length and breadth of Capri! As I wandered out from the breakfast room onto the terrace and under the arches of espaliered lemon trees to join the rest of sleepy Capri, I could only hope that some of La Palma’s atmosphere and that creative inspiration felt by the 19th century artists would rub off!