The villa is situated on an acre of protected mountainside in one of the country’s most dramatic national parks, overlooking the Mediterranean at San Felice Circeo. The sea, and the Pontine Islands (including Ponza), dominate the view from every room. It has the contemplative serenity of two generations of writers. Around the villa is a garden of principally native species such as myrtle, olive, and palm, with the distinctive plantings of Busiri Vici of cypress (also native), carob, and apricot, interspersed with aloe, cacti, and succulents from around the world, together in a sustainable environment. Beyond is a forest, for the villa has two large plots of land.
Much of the villa’s personality comes from the dramatic outer staircases and curvaceous walls. The villa is wrapped in fluid terraces, and the views from every window and from the roof are stunning—out across the entire sea, and back to the sweep of mountains and coast. On clear days you can see Naples in the distance, Mt. Vesuvius, Capri and Ischia.
Being a national park, all construction ended in the 1970s, and there are only about thirty villas on the mountainside. Around the headland stretch the sands of Sabaudia, twelve miles of beach and dunes to rival the Hamptons. In the ’60s, writers Alberto Moravia and Elsa Morante, the director Pasolini, and Anita Ekberg were neighbors. Signora Fendi is still tweaking her villa.
San Felice Circeo is named for the witch Circe, who seduced Ulysses and put a spell on his men, as related in Homer’s Odyssey. Local wisdom relates that this mountainous headland was the goddess’ island. Going back 30,000 years, caves of ancient man stud the craggy coast.
Circeo has, since the 1950s, been a resort known to Italians but kept secret from most foreigners; unlike Tuscany, there are virtually no Americans. In summer well-to-do Romans and Neapolitans occupy the villas or take over the beach hotels. (Actress Anna Magnani kept a hidden coastal villa in Circeo and is buried in the hillside cemetery.) A kilometer from Villa Agave is one of Italy’s luxury hotels, the Punta Rossa, with a seaside pool and spa.
Though there are frequent trains to Rome (one and a half hours away) or Naples (two and a half), this is a home for people who—sheltered by bird calls—want to relax, read, write, and best of all explore the wonders of nature. Most people cannot imagine what it means to live within a national park of dunes, beaches, cliffs, forests, and mountain trails within an extremely rich and varied eco-system. You can easily hike, sail, swim, cycle, walk, tan, windsurf, snorkel, fish, canoe. There is a rich array of archaeology and prehistory. The marvelous islands of Ponza and Zannone (an uninhabited nature preserve) are accessible by daily ferry from Circeo.