I hadn’t been planning to visit Capri. I had only ever thought of the island as a vast rock rising up from the Bay of Naples, a place for yachts and sunbathers. However, when I saw a boat preparing to leave from Naples, I thought, why not try a day trip to Capri? After all, I reasoned, there must be something of interest to have attracted so many rich and famous people, from the Roman Emperor Tiberius to current day celebrities and politicians.
What I found was somewhere that was undoubtedly popular with tourists, but at the same time a place where it was easy to get off the beaten track. An island with walks, history and magnificent views.
Like most visitors to the island, I headed to the funicular railway as soon as I left the boat at Marina Grande. This took me up the cliff to Capri Town, the main settlement. Here I found the usual bustle of an Italian tourist town: piazzas, churches, cafés and souvenir shops.
However, once I had walked through the narrow streets and alleyways to the back of the town, I found a number of peaceful and pleasant paths. Roads lead out of Capri Town in different directions: there is more to explore on the island than you could manage in a single day.
I chose to walk to the top of the island, where Tiberius built a retreat in the 1st century CE. The Villa Jovis was the grandest of twelve villas that the emperor commissioned on Capri (the others include the Villa Damecuta and the Palazzo a Mare). Apparently he chose the location for the Villa Jovis because it was set on top of a vast cliff, enabling him to throw his enemies into the sea far below!
Today the road to the villa is lined with large villas with luxuriant gardens overlooking the Bay of Naples. As I toiled up the hill in the midday sun I reflected that Tiberius must have had horses (or slaves) to carry him to his residence. My efforts were rewarded with spectacular views across the Bay of Naples towards Sorrento and Mount Vesuvius.
The villa itself is ruined, and doesn’t really hint at the splendid building that stood here at one time. Although the site has been comparatively neglected from an archaeological point of view, we do know that Tiberius ruled from here for many years, and that it seems to have been the scene of particular debauchery… For the visitor it is an interesting ruin, but mostly remarkable for its setting. Beside the villa is the Parco Astarita, a typical Mediterranean park with the scent of pine trees and geckoes scuttling along walls: Capri may be a rock, but it is by no means barren.
The Blue Grotto
Although I didn’t visit it myself, one of the most popular sights on Capri is the Blue Grotto. This is one of the natural sea caves around the edge of the island. The water of the grotto is a dazzling blue, and you can go right inside it in a rowing boat. I am told that visitors can hear traditional Neapolitan songs echoing from the sides of the cavern…
There are various options for visiting the Blue Grotto (see How To Visit Capri below). Note that boats don’t go into the cavern during high winds.
How To Take A Day Trip To Capri
- It is easy to take a day trip to Capri from Sorrento or Naples by boat. Regular ferries run to Marina Grande: from here you can take the funicular to Capri Town. Note that both the ferries and the funicular can get very crowded during peak times (even in late September, when I visited, there were lots of people about).
- Alternatively, you could book an all-inclusive day tour from Sorrento with LivItaly. This includes ferry, sightseeing, the Blue Grotto, and more. (Don’t forget to use booking code BEWITCHEDBYITALY for your 10% discount.)
- To get to the Blue Grotto you can either catch the bus to the small town of Anacapri, or take a round-island boat trip from Marina Grande. Either way, you will then have to buy a ticket for a rowing boat if you want to go inside the cavern.
- There is a wide choice of places to eat and drink, both in Capri Town and elsewhere on the island. I had an excellent (and peaceful) lunch at Lo Sfizio, a roadside restaurant on the way up to Villa Jovis.
- If you decide to stay overnight to explore Capri more fully, there are lots of hotels to choose from.
- Finally, if you can’t wait to see Capri for yourself, why not try a virtual exploration. LivItaly’s video on demand “Capri, the World’s Most Beloved Island” is a tour around the island, its history, and its most famous visitors. It is bound to whet your appetite!