Capri See And Do
Anacapri , Capri
In the hills to the west of Capri Town, this village sits in idyllic seclusion—though these days, it's also lined with shops aimed at the tourists who are bused in here to buy sandals, coral, and other gewgaws.
One of the best ways to get a sense of the island's dramatic landscape is to spend 12 minutes on the chairlift that whisks you up from the central piazza to just below the peak of Monte Solaro for jaw-dropping views from just over 1,900 feet above sea level (10 Via Caposcuro; 39-081-837-1428). There's a snack bar and several trailheads up top (the prettiest leads to the hermitage of Santa Maria a Cetrella), but the fern and gorse afford little shade, so pack a hat. Those with energy to spare can walk back down via the La Crocetta pass in around 30 minutes. Another good walk starts just to the left of the chairlift station down in Anacapri and leads south on Via Migliera through an increasingly rural landscape to the panoramic viewpoint of Migliera in around 40 minutes. Time the walk for lunch or dinner, and you can eat at the delightful Gelsomina.
A must-see attraction in Anacapri is Villa San Michele. Another worthwhile stopover is the church of San Michele Arcangelo (Piazza San Nicola), which has a delightful majolica (ceramic-tile mosaic) floor from 1761 depicting the Garden of Eden, complete with camels and crocodiles. The more athletically inclined can trek up—or down—the Scala Fenicia (Phoenician Stairs), whose 1,000 steps were once the only way to get from the Anacapri harbor to the Marina Grande.—Updated by Lee Marshall
This huge natural limestone arch is all that is left of a wave- and wind-eroded cave. Steps descend to the Grotta Matromania, a cave believed to have been sacred to the Roman nature goddess Cybele. Follow the path, which passes close by the curious cliff-perched Casa Malaparte, a modernist villa that belonged to Italian writer and adventurer Curzio Malaparte, and featured in Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 movie Le Mépris, starring Brigitte Bardot. Next come the three seagirt rock stacks of I Faraglioni, which can be admired from close quarters if you take a path that heads down to the left and ends up at a couple of beach bars. The main path takes you up to the Belvedere di Tragara panoramic viewpoint, and from there it's an easy stroll back to the Piazzetta. It's an oxygenating up-and-down walk, with hundreds of steps to negotiate, but at least the whole route is paved and can easily be done in sneakers.—Lee Marshall
The rocky coast of Capri is not known for its beaches. Marina Piccola, the best of the bunch (it's one of the few with a real sweep of sand) is usually covered with blankets. Bagni di Tiberio beach—served by boats from Marina Grande—is also popular. Given the crowds, many beach bunnies prefer to work on their tans at the pay-to-enter lidos that provide their basking clients with chaise lounges, umbrellas, snacks, and waiter-service drinks. One of the most famous is La Fontelina, located at the foot of the Faraglioni rocks and accessible by steps from the Tragara Belvedere (panoramic viewpoint) above, or by ferry from Marina Piccola (Località Faraglioni; 39-081-837-0845).
The rocky cove beneath the Faro (lighthouse) at Punta Carena on the western tip of the island, accessible by bus from Anacapri, is another popular spot for sunning and swimming. You can pay for the priviledge of a lounger and umbrella at the Lido del Faro (Località Punta Carena; 39-081-837-1798; www.lidofaro.com) or just stretch your blanket out on a ledge and swim off the rocks.
No trip to Capri is complete without a visit to the island's most famous natural attraction, a partially submerged rock cave where refracted sunlight turns the water and walls a luminous blue. The cave was formed naturally, but Romans carved out a small landing stage and nymphaeum (a temple consecrated to the nymphs) at the back of the cave, with a tunnel that some say once reached all the way to Villa Damecuta, one of Tiberius's 12 villas, far above. In summer, motorboats leave Marina Grande for the Grotto every few minutes (you'll pay around €10 euros/$13 for a round trip). Once you arrive, you'll be decanted in groups of three into tiny rowboats (and must pull your wallet out yet again—the ride costs another €10). The boats are small enough to make it under the low lip of the cave, which is sometimes impossible to enter in rough seas. In theory, you can swim in, but the fearsome rowboat operators don't look kindly on this, and it's only really advisable when they're not around—before 9:30 am or just before sunset.
You can't truly appreciate the sheer drama of Capri's theater of sea, cliffs, and sky until you've circumnavigated it. Boat tours to the Blue Grotto only scratch the surface—it's the far side of the island, between Punta Carena and Villa Jovis, that really takes the breath away. Among the more reputable operators running half- or full-day excursions out of Marina Grande is Gianni's Boat. The size of boat can be tailored to the size of the party, with the non plus ultra being a 33-foot vintage Sorrentine gozzo (fishing boat). Alternatively, guests at the Capri Palace can rent one of the hotel's two 40-foot Baia motorboats for a really high-class island tour.—Lee Marshall
Capri Town , Capri
Situated just below the postcard-pretty clock tower, the famous Piazzetta (officially known as Piazza Umberto I) is both the entrance to the island's main town and its open-air living room. No matter what lane you're in, you'll eventually end up at this picturesque square, with its four people-watching bars. Each has its fans, but Bar Tiberio has the most authentically local crowd, and the Piccolo Bar is the most tucked away.
Various routes lead out of the Piazzetta. If you head down the shopping street of Via Vittorio Emanuele and take a left by the celebrated Quisisana hotel, you're doing Capri's most classic passeggiata, which leads via boutique-lined Via Camerelle and luxury-hotel-lined Via Tragara to a belvedere next to Punta Tragara overlooking the Faraglioni rocks—a series of mammoth limestone formations just offshore that are home to a species of blue lizards found nowhere else. From the belvedere, a long, stepped path leads around to the Arco Naturale, a natural rock arch, in around 30 minutes.
Back in the Piazzetta, the steps by the side of the church lead up to an arched lane that is a typical example of Capri's souklike vernacular architecture. The other reason to come here is to eat at Da Gemma, one of the island's most traditional trattorias. Opposite the church, the narrow lanes of Via Longano and Via Le Botteghe soon meet up at the little chapel of San Michele, hopping-off point for the 30-minute slog up to Villa Jovis. Also worth a visit are the Certosa di San Giacomo, a medieval monastery set behind a lemon grove; the Gardens of Augustus, a charming public park laid out on a series of terraces high above the sea; and Marina Piccola, a tiny seaside resort with rows of colorful bathing huts.—Updated by Lee Marshall
5 Piazzetta Cerio
Capri Town , Capri
Tel: 39 081 837 6681
Capri Town has a ramshackle but fascinating one-man collection in the Centro Caprense, a cultural center dedicated to the doctor, amateur archaeologist, botanist and general polymath Ignazio Cerio. The four main rooms of the museum contain a ragbag selection of fossils, bones, pottery shards, and botanical and marine specimens assembled by the good doctor. Cerio even tracked down a few of Capri's rare blue lizards, found only on the outermost of the three Faraglioni rock stacks; they're displayed in preserving jars in the Biologia room.—Lee Marshall
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 9 am to 2 pm April through September, 9 am to 1 pm October through March.
In the early 1900s, German steel magnate and longtime Capri summer resident Friedrich Alfred Krupp financed the construction of a spectacular footpath connecting Capri Town with the beaches and rocky coves of Marina Piccola on the south side of the island. Over the years, the path fell into disrepair, and in 1976 it was closed following a landslide. But a major restoration—which involved, among other things, clothing the cliffs that tower above the path in wire mesh—allowed Via Krupp to reopen in June 2008. Eight hairpin bends lead down from the Gardens of Augustus past hardy stone pines, prickly pears, thrusting aloes, and rock-clinging capers to a breathtaking promenade perched above the sea and Capri's traditional nudist beach (actually more a series of rocky platforms). The steady gradient means that it's not too strenuous in the other direction, but if your legs or your courage fail you, you can always return to Capri Town by bus from Marina Piccola.
The grandest of Emperor Tiberius's 12 villas on the island, Villa Jovis was the seat of his empire between 27 and 37 A.D. Today, you can tour the ruins of the former palace or catch the view from the ledge over which the depraved leader reputedly disposed of his victims. There's not much still standing—apart from the huge buried cisterns that supplied what was in effect a small township with water—but it's a marvelously atmospheric place, and a good spot for a picnic.
Open daily from 9 a.m. until one hour before sunset.
34 Viale Axel Munthe
Anacapri , Capri
Tel: 39 081 837 1401
Second only to the Blue Grotto among Capri visitor attractions, this Arcadian refuge on the slopes of Monte Solaro, five minutes' walk from Piazza Vittoria in Anacapri, was built in 1895 by Swedish doctor Axel Munthe. In his time, Munthe was a literary superstar—his book The Story of San Michele, written in English and first published in 1929, was the Under the Tuscan Sun of its day. When Munthe bought the place in 1887, all that stood here was a ruined chapel, built on the site of one of Tiberius's 12 caprese villas. The doctor set about turning the romantic ruin into a villa and garden studded with an eclectic mishmash of classical, Egyptian, and Moorish references. Not to everyone's taste, but it's undoubtedly picturesque, and the views are stunning.—Lee Marshall
Open daily 9 am until an hour before sunset.