Josef Oliv was an author, poet and journalist for “Svenska Dagbladet”, and also a good friend of Axel Munthe. In 1949 he was appointed executor of the estate, and the following year he became the first Director of the San Michele foundation. Oliv saw his primary task as developing the villa to make it a self-supporting institution, and thus fulfil the unwritten condition for the acceptance of the donation.
During Josef Oliv’s period of office (1950-1967) the Villa San Michele became a reflection of his character and cultural inheritance. Oliv was skilled in the art of telling fabulous stories inspired by Villa San Michele. As regards cultural exchanges, Oliv emphasized the traditional celebration of both Swedish and Italiannational festivals in which the local population and Swedes took part.After he retired, Oliv continued to work for the benefit of San Michele and lived in this apartment when he was on Capri. In recognition of his work, he was awarded the exceptional honour of having his bronze portrait bust placed at the head of the stairway that leads down to the museum gift shop and exit. Josef Oliv left Capri for the last time in 1973.
In the 1920’s Munthe rented Villa San Michele and this apartment to the fabled Marchesa Luisa Casati who triumphed as one of the brightest stars in European society. In an eccentric, sensual and very bizarre spirit she succeeded in transforming Villa San Michele into something more like a theatrical stage than the art museum that Munthe had created. Black velvet draperies and curtains of gold lace were hung up, black mats and animal’s heads were laid on the marble floors. Munthe protested, but to no avail. Contemporary artists, photographers, and sculptors stood in line to interpret this woman, who walked around with her tame cheetahs, snakes, and crocodiles, held avant-garde costume balls, and spent her enormous fortune to achieve her goal. Everywhere she went, she set trends, inspired genius and astounded even the most jaded members of the international aristocracy. Without question, the Marchesa Casati was the most scandalous woman of her day.