Mr. Valentino has a long and significant history with the island of Capri. On July 31st, 1960, he met Giancarlo Giammetti for the first time at the Café de Paris on the Via Veneto in Rome. The next day, Mr. Giammetti was leaving for Capri on a vacation; it just so happened that Mr. Valentino was due on the island the following week. They met again in Capri, and shortly after that, Mr. Giammetti left university to become Mr. Valentino’s business partner.
For many years, Mr. Valentino kept a house in Capri, an island that rises from the Bay of Naples, off the coast of southern Italy. It wasn’t hard to coax glamorous guests to come visit, given the island’s legendary charm. It was here, purportedly, that Odysseus resisted the song of the Sirens, and it was on Capri that the Roman emperor Tiberius went on his famously debauched holidays, decamping his court to villas like the well-preserved Villa Jovis, which can be visited today. In later years, artists as far-flung as John Singer Sargent, Claude Debussy and Graham Greene all stayed on Capri, and found inspiration here, and as the film Il Postino recounts, the poet Pablo Neruda was exiled on Capri, staying in the splendid Casa di Arturo overlooking the Marina Piccola. He wrote some of his most famous love poems on the island.
Most people come to Capri via water, taking the hydrofoil or ferry from Naples or Sorrento. The main drag is the Via Vittori Emanuele, which runs from the central square, the Piazzetta, to the landmark Quisisana hotel. The streets are traffic-less, which makes window-shopping all the more pleasant; fashion is a major pastime here. Jackie O. picked up the original Capri pants at La Parisienne, a tiny shop that’s still in business; the summer sandals from Canfora were another Jackie favorite. Visitors looking for a history of the island, meanwhile, can nip down Via Camerelle to La Conchiglia Libri & Arte, a bookstore-gallery run by Ausilia Veneruso. Her son travels to Britain to find vintage guides to Capri written in English-a perfect Caprese souvenir.
Since selling his house in Capri, Mr. Valentino’s visits to the island are more fleeting: He comes on his yacht, the T.M. Blue One (named for his parents, Teresa and Mauro.) It goes without saying that an invitation aboard is the best (and most exclusive) you can receive in Capri. But even without Mr. Valentino entertaining you, it’s possible to partake of la dolce vita, tucking into a perfect shrimp linquine at Da Giorgio and taking to the microphone at the tavern Anema e Core, a late-night haunt for celebs. Perhaps the most glamorous activity on Capri, though, is the passeggiata, the nocturnal stroll. As a soft Mediterranean breeze brushes the back of your neck, and waves lap in the distance, you can hear-but barely-the Siren song that tempted Odysseus. They’re still singing.