I am looking at the Tuscan hillside at a view that would make one think they had found out what a vision of paradise might be. This has no relation to what I want to say but should act as a way to orient people to the kind of trip I have been on for the past two weeks.
I like to travel, but I don't consider myself a seasoned traveler but someone who appreciates good times and the charm of gracious hospitality. Most hotels are friendly enough and the people who run hotels in Italy have been among the most friendly and accommodating I have ever encountered.
But just when you think you have seen the best, or something approaching that, someone comes along and shows you that there may be another level in a welcoming world. That was the case at the Hotel Bussola in the village of Anacapri on the isle of Capri.
From the minute we met co-owner Rita Cataldo we knew that she was someone special. We found out that was the case once we heard her story. Rita and her husband Ciro met about 16 years ago. Rita had finished law school but did not have the passion to practice law. She did have the intelligence and drive to take on a life-long project.
So Chiro and Rita bought a farmhouse that had been abandoned for 33 years in Anacapri and decided to convert it into a hotel. They knew that it would take many years to complete and that it would always be a work in progress, much the same way that cathedrals of the 1400s and 1500s were built.
They also realized they needed an income while they built their dream so they figured out a way to make three hotel rooms available for income while they continued their labor of love. There was also another kind of labor that came into the picture when their daughter Elsa was born only a few years after the hotel project was started.
Rita told me that it took about four years before they were able to complete an 18-room hotel and make it elegant enough for occupancy on the isle of Capri. It is clear that Ciro and Rita put a lot of thought into every detail. The place is adorned with marble and ceramic and it feels like a mini-palace. On top of that, there is an expansive deck overlooking a Italian panorama that one never tires of. And it just happens to face the west, so that watching the sun set becomes a glorious nightly event.
The name Bussola means compass in Italian and there is an antique compass embedded into a landing on one of the hotel's staircases. The Cataldos took the name Bussola because Rita's father had a special place in his heart for a famous Italian nightclub of the same name.
Yet, as nice as the physical building is, that is not what makes the Hotel Bussola so special. The hotel is all about Rita and Ciro and their brand of hospitality. Rita made us feel as though she instantly accepted us into her family. We asked her a million questions about Anacapri, about food, about shopping and about getting around.
We had a glitch about the next place we were booked into and Rita got on the phone and helped us sort things out. It made a big difference for our peace of mind. When we were ready for dinner on the first night of our two-night stay she called a local restaurant and made reservations for us.
We were prepared to ask for directions to the restaurant when Rita told us she had arranged for a driver to pick us up and bring us home from the restaurant. I have never experienced that level of service anywhere else
If you ever go to the isle of Capri you must stay at the Hotel Bussola. You will inherit a new family and experience a level of foreign hospitality that is hard to find anywhere else in the world.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.