Josef Oliv (1895-1974), author, poet and journalist for ”Svenska Dagbladet”, was, as a good friend of Axel Munthe, appointed in 1949 as executor of his estate and the following year as the first Director of the foundation. Oliv was skilled in the art of telling fabulous stories, which was of great use for Villa San Michele.
It was he who invented the legend of The Egyptian Sphinx. If you pat the granite animal’s left lower back and make a wish, your wish will come true.
It was also Oliv who gave the romantic name Friendship Allée for Munthe’s cypress avenue. The great birch tree in the garden is also from Oliv’s tenure. During this period the then Assistant Professor Arvid Andrén studied the classical antiquities. Other objects were appraised by experts, with some found to be genuine, and some not. All of the objects, however, were in great need of care and conservation.
It was Oliv who took the initiative for the ”Olivlunden” (“the Olive Grove”, a play on his name), a crescent-shaped terrace surrounded by olive trees, which was to be a gathering place where people.
He also created an artificial brook, which probably fit Munthe’s desire for running water on the property. The events schedule often included music.
Today we can see him in the form of a bronze bust by Willy Gordon in the stairway that leads down to the museum giftshop and exit.
(From Levente Erdeös, Boken om Axel Munthes San Michele, hundra år ur Capris historia, 1998, Carlsson Bokförlag)