Fixer upper: Expansive Italian villa with breathtaking, panoramic views, 1.7 acres, its own cistern and outdoor baths and plenty of wild goats to keep you company.
As one who sets out to see every Roman archaeological site possible, I climb where ancient Romans tread…I climb…and climb…and climb some more, to the top of Capri’s Mount Tiberio. It’s the promontory for Villa Jovis (V. Tibero, Capri), the 1st century A.D. home of Emperor Tiberius, which sits some 334 meters (just about 1,096 feet) above sea level. It’s the largest of a dozen Tiberian villas on Capri. The paranoid ruler escaped here for fear he would be assassinated in Rome and Villa Jovis is probably the best archaeological site on Capri.
Tiberius ruled at Villa Jovis from 27 A.D. until his death a decade later. Its lofty perch made it a fortress against Roman enemies and a magnificent spectacle covered in Italian marble and limestone. Its remains, as so many under Italy’s care, are a crumbling testament to the sprawling estate it must have been.
After paying the small €4 admission and being greeted by wild goats, you climb further into the complex and the first area you come upon is the servants’ quarters, as far as possible from the Emperor himself who was said to host orgies in a luxurious lifestyle of Roman debauchery. Good thing they had a large bath complex to wash away the grime!
Villa Jovis is a monument of the vast reach of Roman architects and engineers at a time when hauling marble and limestone to the top of a mountain was no easy task, never mind the inlaid mosaic floors which are still evident as you step carefully from level to level. The red brick corners are square long before power tools existed and today’s so-called craftsmen don’t understand square and plumb. Bring back Roman artisans to build skyscrapers. Oh, if these walls could only talk.
Visiting Villa Jovis is not for the faint of heart or those who don’t share the stamina of a Roman god. It’s an arduous, all uphill climb for nearly 1.5 miles from Capri’s main piazza. And don’t bother asking at the Capri info booth about the steep walk…in typical Italian fashion he’ll tell you “It’s a mountain with a paved road. You’re not hiking.” The views are spectacular but be in shape to visit this Roman archaeological site.
TOURIST TIP : Guide books suggest you stop at Astarita Park which is just outside the Villa’s main entrance. Its views are so-so and there isn’t much of a park. It’s more like a wood and garbage strewn area that offers a bit of shade on a hot day. Admission is free but the nice elderly gent inviting you to enter is also looking for a tip.