CAPRI, ITALY: The Grand Hotel Quisisana straddles the heart of central Capri like a towering edifice holding the modern history of this ancient island to its breast. This exquisite 5 star luxury hotel, a stellar member of Leading Hotels of the World, stands like a colossus with stunning views of the coast and the heights of Mount Solera.
Originally built in 1861, with 147 rooms on 4 acres of land, it is the landmark luxury resort on the Island. It towers 5 stories above the center of the island. The most prominent landmark seen from any point on the island, the Quisisana is the beating heart and soul of Capri.
The Grand Hotel Quisisana: The jewel in the crown
Owned by the Morgano family since 1980, it has a prominence and stature and location on Capri that is unparalleled. The street outside the hotel glitters with designer shops like Capri’s version of Rodeo Drive, New Bond Street, and Avenue Montaigne put together.
The Quisisana stands like a sentinel in the middle of town, golden yellow stucco shining in the sun. To one side of the island the sheer granite cliffs of Mount Solera towers over the island.
On the other side, at the very top of the island, is the former villa of Emperor Tiberius of Rome, who ruled the Roman Empire from Capri for 10 years almost 2000 years ago.
The history of Capri as the center of Italian power and culture has grown and gone international for many decades now. When Mario Morgano took over the hotel in 1980 he made a point of remaking it the grand luxury property it was always meant to be.
The Morgano family legacy on Capri
Modern Capri owes a giant debt to the Morgano family for how they have developed and nurtured the island as a destination resort for the international jet set. Capri has been a retreat for the wealthy classes to spend a portion of their summer season for many decades since the end of WWII.
Indeed, Dwight Eisenhower and Winston Churchill held a summit here after the allied invasion of Italy in 1943. During the post war reconstruction of Italy Capri resumed its position as a summer destination, with growing numbers of tony visitors from Hollywood and the titans of American and Italian industry.
Today Capri is a seasonal powerhouse, filled with millions of visitors from around the world from April through October. Many regular visitors come for lengthy visits every year. It has the air of a colony of colorful well-heeled ex-patriots from around the world united by their love for the mystical beauty of this magical and historical place. The Grand Hotel Quinsisana is the centerpiece of that international gathering.
The Grand Hotel Quisisana: an epic location
The Quisisana sits at the center of the main town of Capri. The front terrace is filled with café tables for the Quisi Bar, and is an excellent place to gather and people watch as they stroll down the shopping street.
A series of banners hang above the front entrance. A ceramic plaque from the island of Capri celebrates its origins in 1861, and the contributions of the Morgano family to tourism in Capri.
The lobby is impressive and expansive, a row of crystal chandeliers hanging from 25 foot ceilings. The Reception and Concierge desks are staffed with well dressed, impeccable colleagues who see to each arriving guests every need.
Indeed, the service begins from the moment a guest arrives at the ferry landing on Capri. A porter collects luggage on site at the dock and delivers them to your room before you have a chance to actually check in. The precision of the arrangements is exceptional.
The Grand Hotel Quisisana: The Hotel
A large sitting area fills the center of the hotel just off the front lobby, filled with posh couches, crystal chandeliers, and precious artifacts. It is truly a Grand Hotel in the European tradition.
A large terrace stretches the length of the center of the hotel overlooking the swimming pool, back lawn, and spa area. The compound of the hotel is enormous. It sprawls across nearly 4 acres under a stand of ancient pine trees.
A large swimming pool fills the back of the property. The hotel is expansively grand, with 350 rooms, and wraps around the grounds on three sides. It is reminiscent in style and grandeur to The Beverly Hills Hotel in that manner.
The Grand Hotel Quisisana: The Room
Our 3rd floor room is gorgeously appointed, with stunning white tiled floors with black flower patterns on each tile. 16 foot vaulted ceilings are adorned with a large crystal chandelier. A sumptuous king size bed with a stunning golden mahogany carved headboard fills the Center of the room.
A large private balcony has exceptional views overlooking the grounds, the Mediterranean Sea, and the sheer granite cliffs of Mount Solara. It is an opulent bucolic wonderland, gazing off at the golden azure sea as the sun sets.
The main hotel bar is just off the lobby, filled with comfortable sitting areas, an inlaid ceiling, and a posh bar. A pianist plays jazz and soft standards throughout the evening as dinner is served in the neighboring fine dining restaurant.
Dinner at Rendezvous
Dinner at the fine dining restaurant Rendezvous is an exceptional affair of refined cuisine in a beautiful setting. Rendezvous is located just off the bar in a gorgeously elegant room. It also has an entrance on Via Camerale, the main shopping street.
The room is filled with white leather divans and floor to ceiling windows. It is relatively small, with a dozen tables. A gifted staff, led by the head waiter Frederico steers the evening though a series of sumptuous courses of exquisite cuisine.
A glass of Louis Roederer Brut champagne is always a welcome and tasty aperitif. It is the opening salvo of a precious evening at one of Capris finest restaurants.
Dinner at Rendezvous begins
A lobster salad with smoked eggplant mayonnaise is an elegantly wonderful starter course. The lobster is beautifully poached, served slightly chilled. Tender and succulent, it arouses the senses for the feats to come.
A pasta course of Spaghetti al fruiti di Mare is a Neopolitan classic, generous servings of mussels, clams, and scampi blended with a rich sauce. It is a welcoming sign that we are truly in Capri.
A risotto of seafood is equally beautiful, but slightly more petite. A rich mound of perfectly cooked risotto is covered with sliced lobster, shrimp and delicate mussels and clams.
A light sauce beautifully complements the dish, never overpowering the risotto while allowing the flavor of the seafood to come through.
Seabream, Turbot and wine
Blackspot Seabream in tomato broth with shellfish continues the ocean going culinary extravaganza. Rich and moist, firm and tender, it is a pescatarians delight.
Breaded and grilled turbot is fabulous. Sautéed in “Friggitelli “ pepper and aioli sauce, its firm crust is accented by a luscious interior and a delicate sauce.
The evening is accompanied by a beautiful bottle of Amarone Valpolicella 2011. Like all great Amarones, this complex fruit forward wine is a blend of grape varietals, some of which are left on the vine to increase concentration and flavor. It is a beautiful wine that flowers and opens up over the course of several hours.
A5 Waygu beef fillet
The meal reaches its climax a “Napoli-Kageshima 1960” A5 Waygu beef fillet with an oyster Bearnaise sauce and sautéed turnip talks. As delicately lovely as a flower, this incredible tour de force of culinary wonder melts in the mouth with each delicate forkful.
Perfectly cooked, its medium rare center is gorgeously tender, a lusciously fabulous taste treat. The Bearnaise sauce is an exclamation point that complements each bite, while the Amarone Valpolicella is a perfect accompaniment to this symphony of culinary wonder.
The piano sings in the background, a gentle jazz arpeggio dancing in the mind. Rendezvous is a dining treasure in Capri, and the showcase restaurant for the Grand Hotel Quisisana. A seamless culinary experience blending in with all the other aspects of this fabulous luxury resort.
The Grand Hotel Quisisana: the grounds
It is one of several restaurants on the property of the hotel. A lunch time dining spot, La Colombaia, is located next to the swimming pool, serving a range of dishes across the afternoon and into the evening.
A gorgeous low slung pavilion with curving glass walls and white interiors, it is the perfect place to while away the afternoon after a dip in the pool.
In addition to the Quisi Bar on the front terrace of the hotel, there is also Casa Morgano, a light food, pizza, and gelato bar on the side of the hotel where a pathway leads down to the Gardens of Augustus.
The Swimming pool is a world unto itself, set in the midst of the sprawling grounds of the hotel. It is now October, but one can only imagine the scene across the peak season months as guests absorb the summer sun in stunning surroundings under the deep blue skies of Capri.
The magic of Capri
Breakfast is served in a ground floor pavilion that is as gorgeous as any other part of the hotel. An expansive terrace spreads out adjacent to the back lawn, while the buffet is located in an adjacent elegant chamber with 16 foot ceilings. Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but at Grand Hotel Quisisana it is also the most elegant.
Capri is an island, of course, and the only way to get her is by boat or ferry. There are few cars on the island, and large portions of it are pedestrian only. The Quisasana greets guests at the dock to pick up their bags.
Taxis and buses are the only way around the island, and while taxis are routinely 20 Euro, take a taxi from the docks to the town square. Then walk through the central square and through the shopping area to the grand Hotel Quisisana.
Casa Morgano and La Scalinatella
The Morgana family owns two other boutique hotels on the island, Casa Morgana and La Scanlinatella. They can be found just outside of the main part of Capri down the gorgeous Via Tragara footpath.
Casa Morgano is the smaller of the two, named for the Morgana Family. La Scalinatella is just next door, slightly larger, with a gorgeous blue tiled lobby, and a breakfast terrace with views of the whole of the center of the island.
Both properties have sweeping views of the center of the island, where the Quisisana dominates the lowslung skyline, and also of the gorgeous aquamarine waters of the Piccolo Marina at the foot of the far side of the island.
La Scalinatella and Casa Morgano offer a more subdued, quiet hotel experience, slightly removed from the bustle of central Capri. Grand Hotel Quisisana is at the center of the action. It is a grand structure that is the focal point of all activity in the middle of Capri.
Both La Scalinatella and Casa Morgana are a mere five minute walk from the center of town along the Via Tragara. Both offer amazing views and the quietude some visitors may seek in their Capri holiday.
Via Tragara and the I Faraglioni islands
Follow the Via Tragara to the very end of the street for stunning views of the I Faraglioni islands just offshore. From this vantage point the Islands, the Piccolo Marina coast and all of central Capri are a glorious view.
The Luxury hotel Punta Tragara that is located there was the site of the Eisenhower/Churchill meeting in late 1943 that charted the course of the rest of the war. A plaque marks the occasion.
The Allies frequently made the finest villas of occupied territory their temporary headquarters, and Eisenhower was no different. It was turned into a luxury hotel in the early 1970s.
Ristorante Terrazza Brunella
Just near there, between La Scalinatella and Punta Tragara, lies the gorgeous Ristorante Terrazza Brunella. It has perhaps the most glorious views of any restaurant on the island.
A sweeping vista expands from Central Capri and the Grand Hotel Quisisana to the top of Mount Solara, to the emerald bay of Picollo Marina. Moreover, the cuisine is one of the finest on the island. Lunch there is a transcendent experience where the food is as impressive as the views.
Homemade pasta with Mussels and three different types of sumptuously meaty clams is otherworldly, as are the portions. A vegetarian menu is revelatory. The atmosphere is elegant, and sublime.
The restaurant is part of the boutique hotel Villa Brunella, with just 20 rooms. On any visit to Capri, wherever you stay, be sure to have at least one meal at Terrazza Brunella. It is a revelatory fine dining experience. Reservations are recommended. Prices are reasonable. Memories are eternal.
The joy of Capri
Two days pass all to quickly on the island of Capri. As compact as the island is, as many tourists throng its shores. Nonetheless, as developed as it is, the magic that has made Capri alluring is unmistakable.
The real Capri is still there. Gorgeous views, stolen moments, and fine dining in special restaurants. The season starts just after Easter and continues to the end of October.
Summer is high season, and it is highly recommended to come in April and May or September and October to avoid the biggest crowds. However, any time spent on Capri, even high season, is golden and magical.
The glory of the Quisisana: A member of Leading Hotels of the World
The Grand Hotel Quisisana and the Morgano family of boutique hotels provide the perfect base from which to explore. Seek out the special qualities that have made Capri the center of the Roman Empire since Emperor Tiberius 2000 years ago. What Tiberius saw then remains through the centuries.
The sense of wonder as one the most unique destinations on the planet makes it even more enticing. The magic of Capri, the allure of its stunning vistas and azure waters is as eternal as love itself. At the Grand Hotel Quisisana the Morgano family have created a stellar palace of luxury from which to explore this special corner of the world.
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles. @JoelBerliner
All photos by Alison Reynolds. @BigAlPeoplesPal