“The house in Cayman is as if we transferred a typical villa which one would see on the Amalfi Coast, and planted it in the Caribbean setting,” says Antonio. This Italian influence is prevalent throughout the villa, from the fittings to the furnishings. “Most of the items were sourced in Italy because it is where we both come from and it is really the pre-eminent country of design and style,” Antonio adds.
The interior design was undertaken by Clementina, who was born into an Italian family that has for generations produced and sold fine textiles.“Call [her talent] innate, and learned through a life of experience,” says Antonio. As in most Italian houses, the kitchen is the heart of the home, the couple being proud of their native culinary traditions. The house has an indoor kitchen and an outdoor kitchen with a barbeque, smoker and a pizza oven. There is also a kitchen garden, growing fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary and sage to ensure authenticity of flavour in their dishes.
“My wife is a specialist of Italian cuisine, particularly from Naples and the Amalfi Coast,” says Antonio. The couple enjoys entertaining, serving dishes that characterise their native region, such as spaghetti a vongole, which is spaghetti with clams; a classic recipe of the Amalfi Coast, which requires great balance and fresh ingredients. Other delights include lasagna with tiny meatballs, and fresh pasta ranging from tagliatelle and gnocchi to ravioli and fusilli.
“As to the pizza oven, it is a wood-fired one, which of course is the original one,” Antonio explains. “That imparts a smoky taste to the pizza which otherwise one wouldn’t have in electric and gas ovens. Besides that, the oven needs to reach a temperature of almost 900 degrees Fahrenheit, thus, cooking a pizza in about two minutes.”
The influence of Italian design is just as apparent throughout the rest of the house, from the high-end Trani marble floors downstairs to the Italian wood floors upstairs and the Sicis mosaic tiles in the bathrooms and by the pool.Many of the light fixtures are Italian, the most eye-catching of which is the stunning, blue Barovier & Toso Murano glass chandelier above the entranceway.
Despite the distance, furniture and furnishings were designed and produced in Italy to the couple’s specifications and then shipped to the Cayman Islands. “I often had to get up at 4 a.m. to call Italy about the orders,” says Clementina. This, she explains with amusement, is not only because of the time difference but because Italians are known for their reluctance to answer the phone after lunch.
Mixed with the Italian furniture are pieces by United States designer Bassam Fellows as well as Hans Wagner from the United Kingdom. Alongside contemporary pieces, there are also heirlooms dating back to the 1600s, and many of the items in the bedrooms were hand-painted in Italy, in keeping with Amalfi Coast tradition.
Sentimental family accessories have also been placed throughout the house, such as vintage Venini vases from Murano, which help give the villa a sense of history although it was completed only in 2016. The main four-bedroom villa and two adjoining guest suites are also brought to life by the bright hues chosen for tiles, textiles and artwork.
“The vibrancy is to reflect our Mediterranean heritage,” says Antonio. “We do come from the Amalfi Coast where colours are normally very vibrant.” The couple also pays homage to Caribbean culture, with artwork by prominent Cayman Islands artist Gordon Solomon on display in many rooms. Traditional basketwork woven from the silver thatch palm is featured in the house in a further nod to local life.
The vision of an Italian-style home in a West Indian setting came after the owners had been visiting Grand Cayman for more than a decade. In fact, the villa was built in a waterways community called Salt Creek, which has a set of design covenants that say homes must be designed with materials and styles politely called Caribbean Colonial.
All roofs are to be metal, all walls in shiplap or stone, whilst windows are to emulate the scale and architectural design of the colonial age. These guidelines were married with the owners’ wishes to accentuate their Italian heritage, through a collaboration of cultures skillfully brought to life by Cayman Islands architect John Doak and general contractor Robert Nicholas.
Having grown up in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, where there was a big Italian population, Doak felt an immediate passion for the project. “From an early age, my father would take my
brother and me to Fazzi Brothers, which was a traditional Italian food supply store in Glasgow,” he recalls. “The shop window was filled with hanging meats and sausages, cheese of every imaginable taste, smell and shape. Italian food excites all of the senses. To top it off were the wines, which varied from region to region. “Spaghetti and pasta became part of every
Glaswegian’s appreciation, along with the colourful, dramatic and almost operatic way the Italian language is spoken.”
His father, also an architect, had studied in Rome and fallen in love with Italy. “In my teens we spent summers at San Gimignano in the heart of Tuscany,” says Doak. “I wondered at the time if I may have been Italian in a former life. I became so immersed in the arts and the culture of
that country, so sumptuously rich and yet also so respectful of the soil.”
This fondness for Italian life and architecture helped Doak to instinctively interpret the owners’ vision for their Salt Creek home. “It speaks to an appreciation I have for the Italian people and their family lifestyle and perhaps why the development and production of this house came together so effortlessly,” he says. Clementina, who is enthralled by the villa’s combination of Caribbean architecture and Italian design, agrees. It has turned out just as they wanted it.
“Cayman is so far from our home country that it was very important for us to have a little bit of Italy here in this house,” she says. “We are very happy.”