The isle of the sirens
Another of the great yet small destinations we can tick the checkbox for finally being able to visit. However this is not our first attempt if I am to be honest. A year ago, precisely it was also May, we planned our trip to Naples with the intention of getting to the Magna Graecian cities of Paestum and Velia, and the following day to visit Capri. Unfortunately, from a day to the next, the weather situation changed so dramatically that it was raining horribly, with strong winds and so dark it would not make any sense at all making the trip. This is the main reason why another trip here to Naples this year, well, one in between many other reasons since returning to this city is always so great and pleasurable that we will keep with the tradition of returning at least once a year wherever we can.
Capri is one of the top island and not just in Italy nor the Mediterranean, competing with Ibiza, Santorini, Mikonos or the likes; but also worldwide where royalties, celebrities and famous make it their holiday destination or even own a top villa there. This fact is not new and it has always been the case since the Roman times when the island was chosen as the preferred holiday resort of the rich, and specially Emperor Tiberius who built one of the most luxurious villas ever, which remains you can visit today.
This is not a cheap place as you can imagine, and expect sky-high prices for everything, even a bottle of water! Sounds a bit stupid but would be worth it if you bring the water with you from Naples, believe me, it is either paying less than 1 Euro or triple for the same! It is the major downside in the island of course, however it is not that bad as people kept telling us. Just be cautious in making a choice, it will take you a while longer comparing a little bit here and there trying to avoid such horrific sky-high prices and tourists traps, or end up with just some snack keeping yourself for a much well deserved great dinner when you’re back in Naples.
Another negative fact, the overcrowding of tourists and visitors. It was insane! Boats are absolutely packed to the maximum load and are constantly shipping people to/from the island. In the other hand, the great majority of them stay around Marina Grande and Capri Town. All you need is walking a bit away from these places and you can have the peace all alone to enjoy yourself. It is the fact that people do not even know the huge Roman Villa Jovis exist! And many other sights around truly worth the walk, even if you end up exhausted.
The island is famous for day trippers, specially during summer months. During the low season it is more secluded and quiet. After all, it is quite small and you can visit everything at ease in just a day, even counting that you will move everywhere walking. There is plenty of time to do all on foot, however I strongly recommend you to take the funicular from the Marina Grande to Capri Town and return. It is a lengthily walk uphill, exhausting and consuming you valuable time, and to be honest even the prices have just recently increased, it is still a fair cost.
For more information about Capri check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Italy’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Capri
In a sense order from east to west, since you will be arriving at Capri’s Marina Grande that lies towards the east of the island, the following are some of the must visit in Capri:
- Capri Town The main resort in the island, and one of only 2 villages, with the other being Anacapri. The amount of luxurious villas all over is overwhelming. From the Marina Grande take the funicular up to Capri Town, 1.80 Euros per way.
-La Piazzetta Or Piazza Umberto I is the main square in Capri Town, also ever since the Roman times the centre.
-Grand Hotel Quisisana The largest and one of the most luxurious in Capri Town. Opened in 1861 and ever since symbol of wealth.
-Via Krup This switchback path was built in 1900 by German industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp, owner of the Hotel Quisisana and connecting the hotel’s Gardens of Augustus with the Marina Piccola, 100 meters below.
-Certosa di San Giacomo Carthusian Monastery founded in 1363 by Giacomo Arcucci. Nowadays is a museum and exhibition space.
- Villa Lysis Built in 1905 in Art Nouveau style for industrialist and poet Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen. It is few meters west of Villa Jovis.
- Villa Jovis This was the luxurious villa built for Roman Emperor Tiberius. Perched on the second highest hill in the island at over 330 meters overlooking the Mediterranean, it had no equal back in the days. It is fortunately one of the most complete Roman villas in Italy, and attraction number one in Capri. It is only possible to reach on foot from Capri Town, walking uphill.
- Phoenician Steps Although believed to be built by ancient Greek colonist rather than Phoenician, link both cities of Capri and Anacapri and was the only link until the construction of the road. It is very scenic to walk them as you will get some of the best views of the island with the Marina Grande below and landscapes beyond.
- Villa San Michelle Lies almost by the top end of the Phoenician Steps by Anacapri. It was built in the 20th century for Swedish physician and author Axel Munthe. From its garden there are unparalleled views of Capri’s harbour, the Sorrentine Peninsula and Mount Vesuvius.
- Anacapri The second village in the island of Capri, accessible either by bus or by the Phoenician Steps from Capri Town.
- Blue Grotto To the northwest of Capri. Do it only if you really “fancy” that over touristy thing. It is a small cave accessible only by small rowing boats, that once inside, it is actually spectacularly beautiful for the deep blue colour. But this will not come cheap. First a boat from the Marina Grande for 9 Euros, then a rowing boat for another 12.50 Euros, unless you walk from Anacapri, but you still must get on a rowing boat.
Arriving to Capri is only possible by ferry, with several options depending on where you are in the southern region of Italy and how convenient comes one or other port. The most frequent route, with boats every 20 to 30 minutes is from Naples’ Molo Beverello, next to Castel Nuovo. The prices from Naples are very similar from either of the companies doing this route. Simply step into the ticket office and get your desired time tickets. The return was 39 Euros. From Amalfi, Sorrento or Positano you also have frequent daily departures, and so from/to nearby island of Ischia.
All ferries arrive in Capri at the Marina Grande, from where you have two options. Either walk the rather steep path uphill to the town, or take the funicular to the top. If I may recommend, take the funicular both ways, 1.80 Euros per way. You could also get a bus from the Marina to Capri Town for 1.30 Euros, but the funicular is by far more scenic and faster. Buses and taxis serve the island. Of course the later will make only sense if you are a group of 4, otherwise get on buses instead. They cover the Marina, Capri Town, Anacapri and the Blue Grotto.
Once in Capri Town, you can walk everywhere. Most people do as it’s also the nicest way to explore the island and the beautiful spots that otherwise you would never know they exist. Furthermore, reaching the Roman Villa Jovis is only possible on foot, same with Villa Lysis, both of which are the most picturesque places in the island. It’s a long walk, heading uphill, but not hard, the most difficult side could be the heat of course. But other than this is 30 minutes to the Roman villa, and 45 minutes to Anacapri, as you see, not long at all.
As we did not stay over in Capri, first of all, our base for the past 2 nights was Naples, and today after Capri we flew away back to London, then I cannot suggest nor commend anything about where to stay in the island. In any case, this is one of the top destinations among the famous and rich, not only Italian celebrities, but worldwide personalities therefore expect absolutely everything at gold prices. Accommodation is way over the clouds, with beautiful villas and small luxury top hotels, leaving not much room for the middle to lower classes. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
In the other hand, Naples offers a huge choice that will save you lots of money and will be somehow, more comfortable if what you are looking is a weekend break and not a beach break. After all you do not need more than a day to visit Capri! This was our fourth time in Naples, and yet again we ended up in a modest but nice hotel. Although it is nothing beyond special, is very well located near both train stations and the city centre, and a short walk to the port where ferries to Capri depart. Their fares were also great at the time we booked, and gladly I did book it some weeks ahead as it was booked out days after when I checked once more in a “just in case”.
For further information on hotels and the city of Naples itself, you can find the relevant travel guide here.