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Close to Paradise: The Gardens of Naples, Capri and the Amalfi Coast

by Robert I. C. Fisher

This book showcases 21 of the most celebrated gardens in Italy’s most glamorous seaside getaway. They include La Reggia of Caserta, the ‘Italian Versailles’ laid out for the Bourbon King Charles III in the mid-18th century; the gardens of the Villa San Michele on Capri; and Lord Grimthorpe’s Villa Cimbrone in Ravello, with its breathtaking panoramas. The text also traces the horticultural history of Campania, from Roman emperors to Edwardian millionaires, encompassing a parade of glamorous characters that includes Lord Byron, Wagner, Chanel, Jacqueline Kennedy, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and Graham Greene.

In the Spirit of Capri

by Pamela Fiori

Jutting proudly out of the Mediterranean Sea, like a miracle of nature, Capri has been one of the world’s chicest destinations for decades. It is a place where well-tanned Italians joyfully share the island’s beauty with celebrities and island lovers: from limoncello, the local digestivo, to its eponymous Capri pants, to the bright turquoise jewelry and bejeweled sandals made famous by its glamorous denizens. In a colorful tribute to the isle adored by literary icons and the jet set alike, author Pamela Fiori explains with resonant texts and vibrant images the effortless charm of this fabled island.

Capri and No Longer Capri

by Raffaele La Capria (Elizabeth A. Petroff, translator)

From Library Journal: Originally published in Italy in 1991, this book by famed Italian author La Capria presents a picture of the island of Capri that may shock some and make others hastily switch their travel plans. For many years, Capri ranked as one of the most sybaritic, debauched destinations in Europe an island paradise where English expatriates and other wandering souls could go for a cleansing dose of weird midnight rituals at the Blue Lagoon and where homosexuality was rampant. Capria’s intent is to debunk many of these stories while acknowledging that many are true. The outcome is an intimate and brutally honest look at an island that has earned both a fanciful and a disturbing reputation as a European destination that is far off the beaten path. This book is not intended for the casual tourist who takes a day trip from Naples to Capri and only spends a few hours at the Blue Lagoon.

Greene on Capri: A Memoir

by Shirley Hazzard

Shirley Hazzard’s first encounter with Graham Greene had it all: timing, art, and an unbeatable setting–Capri. One December morning in the late ’60s, he and a friend sat down at a café table next to hers and he began to quote from Browning’s “The Lost Mistress.” Yet try as Greene might, the last line wouldn’t come to him. When she got up to go, Hazzard filled in the blank. As the beginning of a literary friendship goes, this could hardly be bettered. What’s more, within hours she and her husband, Francis Steegmuller, were dining with the English author. Greene on Capri, Hazzard’s evocation of their subsequent years of friendship, is generous, restrained, and complex. Two of those adjectives could, she makes clear, describe her friend, while restraint doesn’t seem to have been part of his being.

Many of the book’s pleasures come, too, in her descriptions of Capri, capturing both the island’s romance and its layers of unreality. But in the end, Hazzard’s considerable generosity cannot preclude disappointment with Greene. How could it when she too often witnessed her friend’s discernment edging into deep disdain? Greene on Capri makes one long for a fuller Hazzard memoir–and even more so for another of her beautiful fictions.

The Bay of Noon

by Shirley Hazzard (Penguin, 1970)

“Passion and Intrigue in the Shadow of Vesuvius!” An Englishwoman working in Naples, young Jenny has no friends; only a letter of introduction to an acquaintance of an acquaintance. It is a letter that will change her life. Through the letter she meets Gioconda, a beautiful and gifted writer, and Gioconda’s lover, Gianni, a famous Roman film director. And at work she encounters Justin, a Scottish marine biologist whose studied distance is strangely attractive to her. As Jenny becomes more and more involved with these people, she finds herself leaving England behind forever.