The San Michele Foundation has had excellent relations with the Swedish Royal Family, because of Axel Munthe’s close contacts there. It was Munthe’s wish that the Swedish state should entrust the running of the Villa to the Swedish Institute in Rome, which the then-Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf had helped to create. And it was the Crown Prince and the institute’s first director Axel Boëthius who succeeded in persuading the government to accept the donation of Villa San Michele on the condition that the Villa be put in order as a self-supporting institution. The Crown Prince was present at a constituting meeting on May 26, 1950, but after taking the throne he declined to take an active role on the board. As the honourary chairman, however, he made frequent tours of inspection to Villa San Michele. In Josef Oliv’s memoirs he describes a royal visit. King Gustaf VI Adolf and Queen Louise made an inspection tour of San Michele in 1951. The queen was horrified over the humble home the director had fixed up for himself.
Gusti, come here! See how primitively Josef has furnished his home! Just a camping stove behind a curtain! It’s very dangerous! You have to say something about adding a kitchen!” The king turned to me, smiling: ”You hear what the Government says! By next autumn there has to be a kitchen.”
Oliv also writes how, as the king’s adjutant on the island, he took the royal couple to a textile shop where they sold lana di Capri – a white woolen cloth that both Queen Victoria and King Gustaf V had been very fond of. The shopowner’s young son, who didn’t understand that celebrities were visiting, snapped at the king when he wondered why Oliv received a discount for the cloth, but not him: “Because you aren’t one of our customers!”
During the centenary celebrations for San Michele on Capri October 2-3, 1997 King Carl XIV Gustaf and Queen Silvia were the guests of honour. Anna Brodow Art critic