Villa San Michele is not a residence in the ordinary sense of the word. It is rather the bearer of Axel Munthe’s thoughts and feelings about beauty and the great questions of life, but at the same time it is open for personal interpretation. The architecture is there to emphasise the magnificence of the landscape whilst also creating a romantic-symbolic spirit and a worthy framework for the works of art. In this respect the park also plays an important role. Typical elements include the statues overgrown with ivy and the mossy marble pieces scattered around the garden.
The number of objects in marble, stone, mosaic, and terracotta total about 650. There are about 530 objects in wood, metal, ceramics and textiles. The collections can be divided into several main themes, such as images of nature and animals, as well as death and dying. But they are in no way exhibited pragmatically. Rather, they consist of apparently haphazardly assembled pieces of widely differing quality.
Regardless of an individual object’s artistic quality, what was important to Axel Munthe was the message it conveyed or the personal memories it evoked for him. This observation is strengthened by the fact that the collections do not contain items acquired in groups from other collections.