The history of Villa Ceselle
A cosmopolitan literary retreat in the heart of Anacapri.
It was 1922 when Asta Sondergaard Nielsen, little more than 20 years old at the time, came to Capri from Denmark to help the Norwegian wife of the then mayor of Anacapri to run the house which was later to become Villa Ceselle.
When Mazzarella's wife died, Asta stayed on to help the mayor. Not much time passed before the couple fell in love and married. By this time, it was the late 1920s and Mazzarella, a convinced antifascist, was forced to stand down as Mayor. The couple thus decided to transform their house in hotel to accommodate the ever increasing number of travelers arriving on the Island of Capri.
The villa quickly became a haven for intellectuals and artists seeking refuge from the totalitarian regimes which were gaining power in Europe. They all enjoyed conversing with Asta, "the map of the North", as she was called by the locals.
When her husband passed away in 1959, Asta continued to run the hotel, until 1984, when she died at the age of 92. In the early 2000s, the villa was purchased by the Maresca family who have been responsible for its restoration and transformation in today's charming hotel.
- A secure refuge
- During the Second World War Capri became a retreat for artists and scholars prosecuted for their ideas. Many of them found secure refuge at Villa Ceselle.
Famous names associated with Villa Ceselle
The Swedish physician and author was responsible for the construction of Anacapri's famous Villa San Michele. He was a regular guest at Villa Ceselle, where he used to spend hours chatting with Asta. Both were of Scandinavian origin and had much in common...
Of all the writers who helped to spread the word of Capri's charm, Norman Douglas was, perhaps, the most influential. He set his bestselling "South Wind" on the island. In 1946 Douglas moved to Capri where he was awarded honorary citizenship. He too, frequently participated in the cultural events held at Villa Ceselle.
Each year, from 1949 to 1980, Graham Green spent at least one, if not two, months in Anacapri. "Villa Rosario", the author's island home, lies just a few meters away from Villa Ceselle, where he often stopped off to converse with other writers, who came to Anacapri from all four corners of the globe.
Another writer to fall head-over-heels in love with Capri, so much so that he built what is widely considered to be the finest example of Italian rationalist architecture here, was Curzio Malaparte. His "house like me", as the author described his spectacular island home, dominates Punta Masullo, on the east coast of Capri.
The Turin-born writer and director wrote one of his masterpieces during his time on the island in 1954. The following year, Soldati's "Letters from Capri" won the prestigious Strega Prize.
The most poignant moments of the great Italian existentialist's love story with Elsa Morante (whom he married in 1941) took place on the Island of Capri, where the couple lived for a great many years.