Capri Palace Hotel & Spa

Interview & Photography by: Mart Engelen


The Capri Palace Hotel is one of Anacapri’s finest, its stunning sea views and throwback Roman Empire elegance chief among its charms. Whitewashed architecture and impeccably manicured gardens lend an aristocratic air. With its eclectic art collection you can sense the passion for art everywhere. A conversation with the owner, Tonino Cacace:

Mart Engelen: When was your first contact with art?
Tonino Cacace: When I was young, I was attracted to humanities studies. When I was at the lyceum in Rome, I had an incredible art teacher from Greece. In Rome, you had the opportunity to go into any church or place to visit art physically. I think that was the beginning. When I was eighteen and travelling with my father I was always visiting museums. I became more and more interested in contemporary art. Then my life changed. I completed my law studies because that was my father’s wish but it was not my target. I started to study again and took another degree in literature and art. But then my father died. I was 23 at the time and I took the hotel over. I could never have imagined at that time that one day it would be possible to put all my passions into the business. The key in my life has always been classical studies. I can advise anybody to have this experience. Instead of coming from a scientific background where two plus two makes four, with a philosophy background two plus two makes seven or three. It is a different approach to working out problems. When you come from this background you always look at a building from a different point of view. So when I got into the hotel business I started to pursue beauty, harmony and all the things that come from an experience of art and literature.
ME: When did you buy your first serious work of art?
TC: Less than twenty years ago. But my history with art goes back almost 40 years. I started to buy more works but always first buying art for the hotel. I visited galleries, met their owners and they presented artists to me. For me it was not only to buy the art but I also wanted to be involved in it. I was building a kind of museum here. That was my attitude.
ME: When did you decide to integrate art into your hotel?
TC: It is a work in progress actually. In the nineties I started to have other needs, not only buying art but also meeting artists and trying to understand why they made their art in a certain way. So I brought some of them here to Capri and the next step was to ask some artists to create permanent works. Velasco designed the mosaic of the pool, Tonelli painted the pools of the rooms, dedicating this work to Magritte and Warhol. Plessi installed monitors in an old wooden boat, Constantini signed the paintings in homage to Calder, Kandinsky, Miro and Dong.
And then the majestic installation of Arnaldo Pomodoro Rive dei Mari, an impressive three-dimensional 40 metre wall that the Master created for the entrance. This is what I still do today. But I also did it to make Anacapri visible in another way. Even today the nouveau riche want to be seen in Capri, but artists always prefer to be in Anacapri because it’s more secluded and quiet. It has a different energy.
ME: As a matter of interest, what do you think of the current trend of all these art hotels that are opening everywhere?
TC: Well, I can only say that my history comes from a real passion. I am very much involved. I love photography – I used to have a darkroom in the hotel. I like to draw, my sister is an artist. If the feeling is real you can spread out your passion. Great artists love to visit and stay in the Capri Palace. Two weeks ago, Anish Kapoor was a guest here.