A driver meets you at the ferry, which is a good thing, because the drive to Anacapri is the least relaxing experience you’ll have here — 4 kilometers of steep switchbacks on a road barely wide enough for one Vespa to pass another. But then arrival is instantly calming.
The stately hotel sits 300 meters above the Gulf of Naples and feels like the private residence of royalty because it was: A Russian prince bought the property from a German businessman in 1900 and erected the Caesar Augustus statue that gives the place its name. It’s been a hotel since 1940, owned and operated by the same Italian family.
There’s a good chance you’ll run into owner Paolo Signorini and his son strolling the property—affable gentlemen who offer an object lesson in how to dress on an Italian island. And there’s a sense of history here, of things carefully accumulated over time: elegant inlaid antiques, plush couches in bold prints, coffee table books, contemporary art.
The luxurious yard-sale effect is pleasantly disorienting—like a good dream in an uncertain time period. Put another way, the Caesar Augustus is perfect place to get lost on a cliff top for a while, to drift. It’s possible and advisable to spend a full day in noting but a bathing suit and one of the hotel’s luxurious robes, shuffling between the sauna carved into the cliff and the double-decker infinity pool.
The restaurant, with it’s exposed beams and panoramic ocean views, gives off a coastal California vibe even before you learn that most of the produce is grown in a garden on the property. The seafood risotto gives new meaning to the Italian phrase frutti di mare; the mussels, cockles, and shrimp—impeccably sourced, expertly cooked—have the freshness and intensity of flavor of just-picked fruit. After dinner, some guests wander Anacapri’s quiet streets in search of a limoncello nightcap, but the smart ones go only as far as the hotel bar. No reason to hit the island roads until you absolutely have to.