Last May, a great group of travelers joined us on a trip to the Amalfi Coast & Isle of Capri. One traveler, after returning home from the trip and reflecting on some of the wonderful experiences she enjoyed, decided to write a story about her experience. We thoroughly enjoyed the story and asked permission to share it with our whole community, to which she graciously consented. Without further ado…
Sometimes it takes a while to realize that a wish has been granted. Last May, while on a small group tour of the Amalfi coast, I visited the Villa San Michele in Anacapri on the island of Capri. This small, exquisite villa was a product of the lifelong dream of a Swedish physician named Axel Munthe. Axel fell in love with Capri on his first visit as a young man and vowed to build a house at the top of the island — a vow he fulfilled 20 years later at the turn of the 20th century.
The Majestic View From San Michele
From the villa, you can see not only the town of Capri and its harbor, but also the Sorrentine Peninsula and Mount Vesuvius. Perched high on the island but still in the shadow of Mount Solero, the highest point on the island, the villa seemed both ethereal and well-grounded, almost like a tiny world of its own.
Inside the Entrancing Villa
Modest by most villa standards, the house and gardens were nonetheless enchanting. It was furnished the same as it was when Dr. Munthe was in residence, in an eclectic mix of styles ranging from country rustic to grand and ostentatious. Now a museum, the villa has somehow retained the cozy feel of Dr. Munthe’s home.
The Mysticism of the Sphinx
Dr. Munthe was an enthusiastic collector of antiquities – many of them he purchased from Italy, Greece, and Egypt. At the end of his colonnaded loggia, he had placed a splendid pink marble Egyptian sphinx, crouched and facing out to sea so that her face was not visible. As our little group clustered around the sphinx, our rather dashing Italian guide, Bartolo, told us the sphinx’s secret. If a visitor rubs the left haunch of the sphinx with his or her left hand (left being the heart side of the body) and makes a wish, it is believed to come true.
Never one to pass up a new opportunity, and ever the romantic optimist, I thought, “Why not?”
So, I waited my turn, walked up to the sphinx, and whispered my wish. Disregarding logic, and the fact that my wish would likely not come true, the sphinx (and the house she lived at) became my favorite experience from this rich and beautiful trip.
How the Sphinx Worked Her Magic
Upon my return home, I jumped back into the routine of my daily life – now and again thinking about the all-seeing, all-knowing sphinx perched at the edge of her beautiful villa. Several months later, I received an unexpected email from the person who was the source of my wish to the sphinx.
I didn’t think about the Sphinx of San Michele at the time, but later it hit me that the sphinx had indeed worked her magic! My wish had been granted. The magical Villa of San Michele will be engrained in my memory forever, and my only hope is that others will get to travel to this unique destination and discover the mysteries of the sphinx just as I did.