Capri: The epitome of la dolce vita

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The Capri Palace offers a magnificent getaway in one of the most exclusive and unspoiled parts of the island. (Supplied)
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The most visited attraction in Capri is the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto). (Wikimedia Commons)
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Updated 23 July 2020

Capri: The epitome of la dolce vita

  • All manner of VIPs and celebrities, from Sophia Loren to George Clooney, have holidayed in Capri, drawn by its tiny streets full of luxury shops and its natural beauty
  • The Piazzetta, the iconic square in the center overlooking the port, which is normally packed with enormous luxury boats, is where everyone wants to be seen

ROME: Capri was Roman emperors’ favorite destination for a spiritual holiday retreat. Since the 1950s, this dream island with turquoise waters only 10 km away from Naples, in southern Italy, has been the epitome of la dolce vita (a life of pleasure and luxury). From aristocrats and intellectuals to artists such as Pablo Picasso and actors such as Audrey Hepburn, all manner of VIPs and celebrities have holidayed in Capri, with its tiny streets full of luxury shops, and its natural beauty.

Capri was the favorite getaway of former US First Lady Jackie Kennedy and actors Grace Kelly and Sophia Loren, as it is now for Tom Cruise, Leo Di Caprio, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Rod Stewart, Bono and George Clooney. The Piazzetta, the iconic tiny square in the center overlooking the port, which is normally packed with enormous luxury boats, is where everyone wants to be seen.

But if one wants to enjoy a luxury holiday with family or friends here and escape the paparazzi, one needs to go uphill to Anacapri. In this cozy city on the highest part of the island, you will find the Capri Palace Jumeirah.

The only Jumeirah hotel in Italy, the Capri Palace offers a magnificent getaway in one of the most exclusive and unspoiled parts of the island. The hotel, overlooking the Gulf of Naples with breath-taking views and sunsets, fully embodies la dolce vita in authentic Capri style, featuring a precious contemporary art collection and classic Mediterranean design.

The 68 guestrooms offer a unique blend of understated luxury and contemporary style. Walking between Giorgio De Chirico paintings and Arnaldo Pomodoro sculptures displayed all around the neoclassical white palazzo is like being in a contemporary art museum.

The suites and rooms feature exquisite materials, from midnight black marble to bright handcrafted ceramic tiles made by artisans from the Amalfi Coast. The Capritouch rooms evoke the spirit of the Mediterranean, with interiors in sparkling white and bright blue colors, grand columns and superfine fabrics and linens.

Some rooms have private swimming pools; the bottom of one of them is decorated with a replica of a famous Andy Warhol painting. The Paltrow, the hotel’s presidential suite, is the pinnacle of luxury. Taste and luxury are the signature of this hotel, which this year will be open to guests until the end of September.

The main swimming pool is an artwork too, with exquisite stylish figures melting with the blue of the water and of the sky. VIP guests enjoy being pampered by an attentive staff led by General Manager Ermanno Zanini.

Barman Antonio Chirico, who like most of the hotel staff is a local, told Arab News: “In the 32 years I’ve been working here, the guest I was proudest to serve a drink to was Dr. Albert Sabin, the American medical researcher who developed the oral polio vaccine. That man really did something for the world.”

When Chirico is off work, he cultivates his own vineyard and makes his wine in a little property he owns not far from the hotel, on the slopes of the Solaro Mountain, which one can easily ascend on a chairlift. The view of the gulfs of Naples and Salerno is spectacular and unique. The ride is fun, it takes only 13 minutes, and the chairlift terminal is literally in front of the Capri Palace entrance.

In Italy, food matters a lot. The signature in-house two-Michelin-star restaurant L’Olivo serves Mediterranean classics in style and taste. The design is alluring: L’Olivo was conceived as a cozy but elegant living room with sofas, armchairs and a selection of fine fabrics, from cashmere to linen.

At sunset, its terrace is colored by the fiery hues of the Mediterranean. L’Olivo Undiscovered has just been launched: An intimate space in a lovely ancient cellar transformed into a unique private club atmosphere.

Il Riccio Restaurant & Beach Club, one of the most beautiful terraces in Capri — immersed in the beauty of the island’s white rocks and overlooking the sea — is the only one-Michelin-star beach club in the world. It serves exquisite seafood and dessert just a few meters away from the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto), one of the most iconic places on the island. Here you cannot miss the spaghetti alla chitarra with sea urchins.

For the 2020 season, an exclusive Dior pop-up store has opened. Overlooking the blue waters of the Mediterranean, this magnificent terrace on a cliff is one of the few locations chosen by Dior to present its exclusive Riviera capsule. The Toile de Jouy motifs and Dior bayadere stripes cover cushions, umbrellas and personalized beach huts at the lounge area.

Hottest tourist destination in the Kingdom described as the Saudi Maldives

Updated 07 August 2020

Hottest tourist destination in the Kingdom described as the Saudi Maldives

  • Variety of coral reefs and serene white sands make Umluj a must-see Red Sea coast destination for divers

JEDDAH: With serene white sands, deep blue waters and hidden coral reefs, one Saudi Arabian governorate on the Red Sea coast has become this summer’s hottest destination.

The hidden gem of Umluj gained wide recognition as a tourist destination when domestic travel became highly recommended due to the continued suspension of international flights. Visitors never imagined the Kingdom was home to such a unique destination, boasting both beaches and mountains.

Khalid Khayat, owner of the Royal Tours camp at Umluj, said that the area had actually been known for a long time as one of the best beaches in Saudi Arabia, but it was only when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited and announced the Red Sea Project that it gained global recognition.

“There are 99 islands with beautiful sandy beaches. People call it the Saudi Maldives,” Khayat told Arab News.

Captivating sunset at Umluj. (Social media photo)

“When the crown prince announced the initiation of the Red Sea Project in 2017 and developed the construction plan in Umluj, the world discovered the name and the site,” he said.

What distinguishes Umluj from other beaches in the Kingdom is its variety of coral reefs, which make it a must-see for divers.

“You rarely find reefs in such a variety of colors, shapes and sizes like those at Umluj. Honestly, it’s like diving into paradise,” said Khayat.

Umluj is also an ideal destination for hikers and mountain climbers.

“Less than an hour’s drive outside of the city, you have mountains, where you can go hiking or sightseeing. With volcanos to the east and beaches to the west, Umluj boasts a combination of natural features that is rarely found elsewhere,” Khayat added.

Umluj is like a mesmerizing painting. Its over 100, picturesque islands, with their palm trees, soft white sand, crystal clear waters, and abundant, diverse marine life, are a photographer’s dream — and it’s right in our backyard. The islands have kindled my enthusiasm as a photographer and a nature lover and moved me to pack my bags and head to the heart of this enchanting place to discover its beauty for myself. I also want to have a hand in promoting local tourism through beautiful images.

Huda Bashatah, Arab News photographer

Aalia Fathima, 29, who is currently visiting Umluj with her husband, said: “We have been looking for different places in Saudi Arabia to visit on the Eid holiday, and we came across Umluj. I could hardly hide how excited I was to see the location! The sand is as soft as cotton, and the water is crystal clear.”

She added: “There are so many species of crab and beautiful shells that dot the beaches. We enjoyed it greatly.”

In addition to being enchanted by the site’s natural beauty, Fathima was impressed by the kindness of the local people.

“Being here, away from the sounds of the big city, was lovely,” she said.

Khayat said that ever since the announcement of the Red Sea Project, the number of visitors to Ulmuj has increased from hundreds to a thousand per week. Royal Tours receive 40 to 45 guests a day. 

Umluj boasts of a variety of coral reefs, which make it a must-see for divers. (Social media photo)

He said the number of international visitors sometimes exceeds the number of Saudi visitors, with some traveling from the other end of the world only to visit the volcano sites at Umluj.

“I received people about nine months ago who had come all the way from New York to Jeddah airport. They waited a few hours and took a flight to Yanbu, then drove all the way to Umluj just to see the volcanos. One was a lady from the US who had never been to Saudi Arabia before. She got a tourist visa just to come to Umluj,” Khayat said.

Paris Verra, 25 and from the US, has been a resident in Saudi Arabia for almost two years and has been to Umluj twice.

“I kept seeing photos of Umluj and hearing people say it looked like the Maldives. I was so curious to see what it looked like in person. I knew a few friends who were going there, so at the last minute I decided to go, and I couldn’t believe that this water was in Saudi Arabia,” she said.

“I am surprised at how untouched this place is. I have traveled the world, and it is very difficult to find somewhere that is so pristine and that has not been damaged. Umluj had the most beautiful reefs I had ever seen,” she added, joking that if she could live in Umluj, she would.