Villa Lysis, Capri, Italy | CruiseBe
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Villa Lysis

History and museums
landmark, sightseeing

Villa Lysis (initially, La Gloriette; today, Villa Fersen) is a villa on Capri built by industrialist and poet Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen in 1905. "Dedicated to the youth of love" (dédiée à la jeunesse d'amour), it was Fersen's self-chosen exile from France after a sex scandal involving Parisian schoolboys and nude (or nearly nude) tableaux vivants.



Fersen purchased the 12,000 square metres (130,000 sq ft) land in 1904 for 15,000 lire. The real designer of the Villa is unknown. A recent analysis of letters of Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen to his friend the artist Edouard Chimot, shows that Chimot, who, since 1907, due to a trial following an accident in the building site, was said to be the designer, is not. The house was described in detail by Roger Peyrefitte in his novel L'Exilé de Capri (1959), a fictionalized account of Adelswärd-Fersen's years on Capri together with his lover Nino Cesarini.

Fersen became addicted to opium on a trip to Ceylon during construction of the house (Peyrefitte relates that a worker was killed during construction, and Fersen therefore decided to travel until the anger of the locals at him had subsided), and after World War I he started using cocaine. He eventually committed suicide in 1923 by ingesting an overdose of cocaine. After Fersen's death, the villa was left first to his sister, Germaine but with the usufruct to Nino Cesarini. Cesarini sold the rights for 200 000 lire to Germaine and went to live in Rome. Germaine later gave the villa to her daughter, the Countess of Castelbianco.

With the last of the maintenance work done in 1934, the house was essentially in ruins by the 1980s. In 1985, Villa Lysis passed into possession of the Italian state. The building was restored in the 1990s by the Lysis Funds Association (founded in 1986) and the Municipality of Capri. The Tuscan architect, Marcello Quiriconi, supervised the work. Since the restoration, Villa Lysis has been open to tourists. It is also available to rent for parties and dinners and cultural events have taken place there, such as an exhibition of photographs by Wilhelm von Gloeden in 2009. In March 2010, the villa was put up for sale, listed as being 450 square metres (4,800 sq ft) with a 12,000 square metres (130,000 sq ft) garden.

Architecture and fittings

Architecturally, the house is mainly Art Nouveau with Neoclassical elements; the style might be called "Neoclassical decadent." The well-known Latin inscription above the front steps (AMORI ET DOLORI SACRVM, "a shrine to love and sorrow") highlights Fersen's Romantic view of himself. "Lysis" is a reference to the Socratic dialogue Lysis discussing friendship, and by our modern notion, homosexual love.

In the atrium a marble stairway, with wrought iron balustrade, leads to the first floor where there are bedrooms with panoramic terraces, and a dining room. Fersen's large room was on the upper floor, facing East, with three windows overlooking the Gulf of Naples and three towards Mount Tiberio. Nino also had a room on the upper floor. On the ground floor there is a lounge decorated with blue majolica and white ceramic, facing out over the Gulf of Naples. In the basement, there is a room for smoking opium, also known as the Chinese room.


The large garden is connected to the villa by a flight of steps which leads to a portico with ionic columns. The ruins of Villa Jovis, one of Tiberius' twelve villas on Capri, are a few hundred meters to the east-southeast of Villa Lysis.

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