The Perfect Backdrop for an Aperitivo? This Restored Stone Villa on Capri

See how one architect reimagined a midcentury retreat for the owner of a legendary local restaurant.

giuliano andrea dell’uva  elle decor
Nathalie Krag

Even in the dead of winter, summer blooms eternal on the island of Capri. As the year winds down, dense rosemary bushes carpet the precipitous hillsides, and orange trees groaning under the weight of ripe fruit perfume now tourist-barren streets. For an outsider, it may seem strange to spend other seasons in the spiritual home of Italian high summer, but for those lucky few locals who know the island’s secrets, Capri is paradise anytime of year.

living room with white walls
In the living room, dell’Uva sketched the curved shape of the sofa on the floor and had it made in concrete by a local artisan, Costanzo Porta. The 1950s chairs are by MIM, the cocktail table and sconces are custom, the jute rug is by Sika Design, and the floors are hand-poured terrazzo.
Nathalie Krag

The island’s abundant natural offerings are what have kept the D’Alessio family on this idyllic rock in the Bay of Naples for three generations. As proprietors of Aurora, the local restaurant beloved by residents and jet-setters alike for over a century, the clan is an indispensable part of Capri’s cultural ecosystem—and fierce champions of its culinary traditions. This is why, when it came time to build their dream home, Raffaele D’Alessio, his wife, Caterina D’Ambrosio, and their young son, Gennarino, wanted a refuge that stayed true to Capri’s history while catering to their lifestyle as preeminent hosts. “We always dreamed of having a home in the classic Capri style,” Caterina says.

giuliano andrea dell’uva  elle decor
The kitchen has commercial-grade appliances and cabinetry by DeManincor. The custom majolica wall tiles—inspired by decorations at the nearby Villa Torricella—were made by Galleria Elena.
Nathalie Krag

The couple tapped Naples-based architect Giuliano Andrea dell’Uva to reimagine a villa built in the 1950s, just a stone’s throw from the bustling central piazzetta, as a contemporary family home. Known for his subtle but sophisticated interventions throughout Italy in everything from Baroque apartments to noble homes, dell’Uva was a perfect fit to renovate a midcentury house that itself straddles modern and classic styles. “This was not a historic building, but I wanted to respect the primary design,” dell’Uva says of the original structure, largely defined by its undulating concrete roof—a modernist riff on a traditional Capriote vaulted stone dwelling. Leaving that signature feature intact, he proceeded to open up the home’s thick, hand-hewn stone walls to create a series of expansive arched windows, revealing breathtaking views onto the shimmering waters of the Marina Piccola below.

exterior view of pebbled house
The house retains its original local-stone facade and vaulted roof. On the ground-floor veranda, the vintage daybed is by Bonacina, and the side table is by Ettore Sottsass.
Nathalie Krag

For the interior, dell’Uva incorporated a whirlwind of contrasting references. “They wanted a house that recalled the simplicity of Casa Malaparte and its furnishings, which are one sofa and one table and nothing else,” explains the architect, referencing the minimalist 1930s hideout perched nearby on the island’s eastern cliffs. “And the Capri house of Axel Munthe,” the late-19th-century Villa San Michele, which, he says, influenced the colorful terrazzo floor and rich details rendered by a coterie of local artisans. Among them were the blacksmith and artist Mario Zora, who created the hand-forged ironwork that provides a structured foil to the home’s soft curves and Mediterranean whites, and Costanzo Porta, who sculpted the concrete fireplaces, sofa, and main bed in the traditional Capriote fashion.

The carefully chosen furniture—a mix of mainly 1950s to ’70s pieces, including Luigi Caccia Dominioni Catilina dining chairs, a round table by Mario Ceroli, wooden armchairs from MIM, and a vintage Stilnovo pendant lamp—were all sourced from galleries around Naples and farther afield.

mountain view from deck
With its view of Mount Solaro, the garden terrace has a custom table designed with an opening so as not to damage an orange tree on the property. The Gae Aulenti chairs are from Exteta.
Nathalie Krag

But for a third-generation restaurateur, no room was more important than the kitchen, where an industrial-style setup rivaling Aurora’s was installed. “My husband grew up in a restaurant among all the scents and flavors,” Caterina says. “For us, to eat and host is the most important thing.”

Forged in heavy iron and steel, the room’s imposing elements were softened by a backsplash of decorative majolica tiles reproduced from some found at Capri’s Villa Torricella, the stately former home of the American expats Kate and Saidee Wolcott-Perry in the early 1900s.

The hallway’s stairs are made of different types of marble and were inspired by Gio Ponti’s design for Villa Planchart in Venezuela.
Nathalie Krag

The tiles were carried through to the sprawling terrace, where they decorate a long wooden table that hugs one of the property’s many orange trees. “The garden is where the family spends most of their time,” says dell’Uva, who commissioned Rome-based landscape architect Antonella Sartogo Daroda to envision an oasis of bougainvillea, Mediterranean herbs, and citrus, in addition to the plot of organic vegetables the couple tends year-round. “We decided to have a garden instead of a swimming pool,” adds Caterina. “It’s important to us to eat and serve things we grow ourselves.”

pedestal sink in bathroom with yellow tiles
The vintage sink in the powder room is by Antonia Campi for Richard Ginori Laveno, and the mirror and lozenge-shaped terra-cotta tiles are custom.
Nathalie Krag

One would think that during a pandemic winter in which gathering around a table with loved ones was explicitly forbidden, a family that has conviviality written into their DNA would suffer. But the island, instead, provided solace.

“In winter, the attraction of Capri is no longer the piazza with its fashion boutiques,” Caterina says. This year, she and her husband spent the season tending to their garden, exploring the interior’s rugged trails, and basking mid-January on empty beaches. And while they look forward to a time when the island returns to its vivacious self, “the beauty of Capri is in all the possibilities it offers.” 

Originally published in ELLE Decor Italy.

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This story appeared in the May 2021 issue of ELLE Decor. SUBSCRIBE

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