There’s no denying that Capri is expensive. The rich and famous have holidayed here for over a century, and the small island has become very upmarket. But it’s worth it. Capri is one of the favourite destinations of international tourism.
From Jack Lemmon to Sophia Loren, from Clarke Gable to Jackie Onassis, from Tom Cruise to Naomi Campbell, the jet set has always elected it as its favourite resort.
Capri is tiny, 4 square rocky miles spread under the sun, in the middle of the sea, on the southern tip of the Bay of Naples, in the Mediterranean.
Why Capri? Because of its undeniable beauty. It’s a quiet place where lemon trees grow in streets; where cars are as useless as umbrellas, and just as rare; where perspectives and views change every few yards and the sea is the deepest blue; where a still white mist redesigns the horizon every few moments and the air is filled with the scent of jasmine, citrus and pine.
The fact that the island is so small means that wherever you’re staying there is always a beach or a beach club less than half an hour’s walk from you, at the bottom of one of the tens of steep lanes that cross Capri.
It takes 20 minutes to get from Sorrento to the small harbour of Marina Grande in Capri by hydrofoil. Capri town center can be reached from the harbour by taxi, cable car or bus, all of which get to the famous piazzetta, the main square.
When in Capri, you can take the funicular railway for a short trip of the island.
ISLAND OF CAPRI
It’s an island near the southern entrance to the Bay of Naples, Napoli province, Campania region, southern Italy; it lies opposite the Sorrento peninsula, to which it was joined in prehistoric times. The island is a single block of limestone 3.9 mi (6.25 km) long, with a maximum width of 1.8 miles and an area of 4 sq miles (10 sq km), rising to 1,932 ft (589 m) at Monte Solaro in the west.
Two indentations in its precipitous cliff-lined coast serve as landing places: the Marina Grande on the north shore, protected by a breakwater, and the open Marina Piccola on the south, used when the north wind is particularly strong.
The island has a population of less than 10,000 people.
Its name in Italian is Isola di Capri (pronounced with a stress on the first syllable, not the second), its Latin name is Capreae.
CAPRI ATTRACTIONS & PRACTICALITIES
Bay of Naples area map with Capri at its southern tip
Bay of Naples with Capri
The island has two towns: Capri and Anacapri.
The centre of activity and the soul of Capri town is the Piazzetta, meaning „little square“, usually fully packed with people milling around, but whose fascination resists the daily sea-borne invasion. It doesn’t take long to find peace and quiet on the island. Walk out of the town, up steep narrow alleys, shaded by trees and flowering shrubs, and blessedly free from motorized vehicles, to the ruined Villa Iovis which the Roman emperor Tiberius built as his retreat on the edge of a precipitous cliff, from which those who offended him were hurled to their deaths.
Graham Greene, the great novelist, lived in Anacapri in a villa which is still there, and used to make this walk.
The Faraglioni beach, renowned for its beauty, is a 20 minutes‘ walk from Capri town, on the south coast of the island.
Where to shop
In Via Camerelle, Capri’s most exclusive and fashionable shopping street.
It revolves around Piazza Umberto I, which everyone calls La Piazzetta, in the shadow of the Cathedral of Santo Stefano. After the day-trippers‘ boats have all gone and the island is returned to locals and visitors, about 10pm the long Capri night starts. The discos open around midnight.
There are also clubs where they sing traditional Neapolitan music. And remember, pizzas in the whole area of Naples are the best: this is where pizza was created, and Italians still recognize the region as the best for pizzas.
The Roman emperors connection
Inhabited in prehistoric times, the island later became a Greek colony and then a resort (Capreae) of emperors in the early years of the Roman Empire. The relaxing environment and incomparable beauty of Capri have always been the two key factors in the island’s great success as a holiday venue.
It’s not surprising that Capri was the favourite holiday destination of emperor Augustus, who resided there.
For 11 years his successor Tiberius reigned over the vast Roman Empire from his home in Capri, where he built several villas in the most panoramic areas of the island. One of these, Villa Iovis, on the island’s northeastern tip overlooking Naples, has been excavated. Another is in the splendid locality of Damecuta: sea, rocks and lush vegetation; on one side a view of the Bay of Naples, visible as far as the peninsula of Sorrento, and on the other the endless blue of the sea.
During the 10th century the population, fearing pirate raids, moved from seaside settlements to the present towns, Capri (east) and Anacapri (west), high above the shore. Until a carriage road was built in the 19th century between Capri and Anacapri, the latter could only be reached from the sea by a flight of 800 steps called the Scala Fenicia (Phoenician Stairs).
In the Middle Ages Capri belonged to the Abbey of Montecassino and to the republic of Amalfi before passing to the Kingdom of Naples. It changed hands between the French and the British several times during the Napoleonic Wars, before being returned to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1813.
The Blue Grotto
Stone artifacts have been found in one of the caves with which the rocky shores of Capri abound. The most notable of these is the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) which is located on the estreme north-western tip of the island, was rediscovered in 1826 and is accessible only by boat. Sunlight entering through the water that fills most of the entrance gives it an extraordinary blue light, whence its name.
There are ruins of two medieval castles, the Castello di Barbarossa and the Castiglione, and the oldest church (10th-11th centuries) is that of S. Costanzo, the island’s patron saint.
The jet set favourite
The Villa San Michele, built by the Swedish writer Axel Munthe, is on the site of a Tiberian villa. Since the second half of the 19th century, Capri has gradually become one of the most popular resorts in southern Italy, famous for its magnificent scenery and the mild climate in which vegetation flourishes despite a general lack of water. The flora is among the most varied in Italy, and large numbers of migratory birds rest there for days. The name of the island has two possible origins, either capra („goat“) or kapros („wild boar“). There are fine bathing beaches and numerous hotels and villas, and Capri is connected with Naples and Sorrento by frequent steamer and hydrofoil services. Besides tourism, agriculture (vineyards, olives, citrus fruits) and fishing are carried on. An undersea aqueduct bringing fresh water from the mainland to support all these activities was completed in 1978.
CAPRI & ANACAPRI
The island has 2 towns: Capri and Anacapri.
Where is it best to stay?
Each of them has it own advantages and disadvantages.
Capri is the main centre, with most of the hotels and restaurants on the hill above when you arrive at the port of Marina Grande. Anacapri is on a plateau to the west.
Capri town has less space, whereas Anacapri’s hotels are more geared for conventional holidays, making them more suitable to families. The adavntage of being in Capri town is, obviously, that it’s where most action is. True, the two towns are connected by frequent bus services and taxis. Bus rides are cheap, and take about 15 minutes.
Anacapri is the second town of the island. Full of flowers and Mediterranean vegetation, it’s a delightful place, the antique Phoenician and Greek Acropolis of the island. Anacapri rises on a plain at the foot of Mount Solaro, in the western part of the isle of Capri. The town, perhaps owing its name to its high position (the Greek prefix ‚ana‘ means ‚above‘), is of rare beauty and charm: lovely small white houses, surrounded by lush green olive and vine plantations. Nearby are Villa San Michele, the Axel Munthe Museum, the chairlift to the island’s most panoramic vantage point, Monte Solaro, the shopping area for local handicrafts.
Anacapri is closer to the Blue Grotto. Public transport is OK. There’s a bus from Anacapri getting to the Grotta Azzurra or il Faro in 10 minutes, but strolling through the town’s narrow streets it’s easy to get to the Blue Grotto and to the many other beaches of Anacapri, which, since they face west, will let you enjoy the sun until sunset. In a few minutes you can reach the Heliport, to get to Naples airport in 10 minutes.
From Capri you can go for trips to the surroundings: Pompeii, Amalfi, Positano. Or you can rent a boat for a relaxing day on the island’s crystal waters.