Anouska Hempel’s perfect weekend in Capri and Amalfi Coast

The hotelier and interior designer’s current projects include private residences in New York and Istanbul and hotels in Knightsbridge and Singapore, due to open later this year

Anouska Hempel on her yacht Beluga, moored in Ischia 
Anouska Hempel on her yacht Beluga, moored in Ischia  | Image: Gaia Cambiaggi

“I’m a romantic gypsy and love the sea, so being on a boat feels like pure freedom. I have a 28m gulet called Beluga that I adore for her great British shape – her big glorious bottom and tiny waist. She’s currently based in Italy and I try and get there whenever I can.

We could spend the day in Capri. If we have friends on board we’ll go to the Blue Grotto early, before the crowds arrive. I love to swim in deep water, diving down until my lungs feel fit to burst; Capri has beautiful sheer cliffs so we’ll go as close as we can and I’ll hop in. Or my husband Mark and I will take our tender and head for a cove, with me at the helm, a picnic basket and mask and snorkel.

Arriving in Capri’s main square on a busy sunny day is wonderful. I’ve been coming here since 1972 and it hasn’t lost any of its bonhomie. It’s terribly romantic and reminds me of being young. My ideal lunch restaurant is Da Paolino; I call it The Lemon Tree, as you sit shaded from the sun under the lemons and have the most wonderful fish, pasta and home made limoncello. It’s lovely and rustic and full of Italian families rather than the sunbathing beauties and burrata bellies you find elsewhere in Capri.

After lunch we’ll head up to Anacapri and pop into Villa San Michele, which has a fabulous garden, a museum of classical antiquities and great views. Or we might do some shopping. Anacapri is unspoilt and unselfconscious: in the backstreets you’ll find lovely local stores with espadrilles in every colour and bags to match, or you can visit the famous bespoke sandal-makers at Capritouch.

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We’ll wind down the hill for an aperitivo at Quisisana, a true grande dame hotel a short walk from the main square. It’s a hilarious, tarty old place with cane chairs, black and white floors and white tablecloths, but much like Claridge’s, it is the place for a drink. I’ll have a glass of prosecco with a little carpaccio and gossip with the locals.

On Sunday we might sail down the Amalfi coast to have lunch with my friend Giovanni Russo, who owns the stunning Li Galli, a small group of islets available for private hire. This is a quiet, lovely part of Amalfi: you arrive into a little port and climb a steep, narrow path, snaking through rugged landscape scented with rosemary, cypress and pine. A long swim around the island is to die for and there’s a hypnotic garden alive with the call of cicadas. Russo bought the Li Galli, along with its villa and ancient tower, from Rudolf Nureyev – who used to live there – and you feel him in the movement of the air and the grace of the place.

Then we could head on to Le Sirenuse in Positano. Mark Birley used to take me there in our heyday and the owners have become friends. It’s been done up quite beautifully and is very Italian, very rococo, with long tables of people who look straight out of a Dolce & Gabbana ad. We’ll stop for coffee and take in the great views and fabulous music.

In the evening we might take guests to Ravello. The open-air concerts on the clifftop stage are wonderful. It is very atmospheric and I still remember hearing Pavarotti sing there. Or, if the water is calm, we’ll have a sunset cocktail and dinner on the back of the boat. I love concocting things: a passion-fruit jelly martini, or a Queen scallop shot with vodka and a dab of pesto. The chef will make yellow-truffle risotto or sushi. Meals on the boat – like everything else onboard – are casual but very elegant.

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Remo Ruffini keeps his boat nearby and one night we joined him for supper. He showed me his tiny galley and I asked how anyone got in. He said, “Anouska, they roll over the counter.” So for fun I rolled in. And what did I find? My Blakes hotel coffee cups, which you can’t buy anywhere. I asked if he was copying my style, but I wanted to ask if he’d nicked them! We got on terribly well after that.”

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