Open the Map and look for a dot in the Tyrrhenian Sea west of Naples and you will find Capri. Just the name of this small saddle shaped island conjures images of glamour, wealth and beauty. All of this is true but Capri holds enchantment for everyone lucky enough to travel there. I have visited Capri twice with my family in the summers of 2016 and 2017. It is one of my favorite places to combine sunshine and relaxation with history and activity. We are not “beach people” but since Capri has no beaches it suits our desire to see and do with an ocean setting.
Capri has a long history going back thousands of years. It is only the size of Central Park in New York City but has played an important role in history. Caesar Augustus loved vacationing on Capri and the Emperor Tiberius ruled the entire Roman Empire from Capri for ten years from 27-37 A.D. The ruins of Tiberius’ palace, Villa Jovis, are still visible on the island and a draw for tourists. Capri served as a strategic outpost in the Napoleonic Wars and both World Wars. Lookout towers still dot the landscape high up in the cliffs.
Capri is a limestone rock jutting from the ocean. It wicks water from the sea to provide moisture for the lush vegetation that otherwise receives little rainfall in the hot summers. Prior to 1978, fresh water had to be brought in by boat, but now city water from Italy’s mainland is brought in by an aqueduct.
Getting to Capri can be tricky. There is no easy way there. Unless you want to pay a small fortune and fly in by helicopter, you will have to board a hydrofoil at the Bay of Naples. These transport boats crisscross the bay every hour so you can buy a timed ticket that suits your schedule. Some people arrive in Capri as a stop on their cruise itinerary, but I feel sorry for these day trippers because a day in Capri is not enough to soak up the magic of the place. The port is crowded and touristy with t-shirt shops and ice cream vendors. You must spend a few nights up high on the peaks to truly experience Capri. But, I suppose a day trip is better than no trip.
Capri is saddle shaped. The port is in the center facing east towards Naples at the low part. The southern rise is Capri Town and the northern rise is Anacapri. After exiting the hydrofoil and walking up the jetty, we were whisked up winding roads in a special open air taxi to Anacapri to our stunning hotel, The Caesar Augustus. I have stayed at some pretty amazing hotels but Caesar Augustus is in a class of its own. Its grounds, views, service, food and rooms are sheer perfection. One could never leave this lovely hotel and feel completely satisfied. Book early- this place stays sold out all summer. But The Quisisana in Capri Town would be my second choice.
After a fabulous breakfast where the namesake dish, Caprese Salad, is offered, we ventured out daily for excursions on the islands. The concierge at the hotel was happy to arrange all of our requests and make suggestions. Here are some of the activities we enjoyed that I recommend:
1) Ride the chair lift in Anacapri up to the islands highest point for spectacular views.
2) Rent lounge chairs and umbrellas at Lido del Faro, a private beach club with a pool, restrooms and a restaurant overlooking a cove perfect for swimming. There are no sandy beaches so you enter the water from ladders attached to low rock shelfs. There is usually a daredevil or two who will entertain you as they scale the high rocks and jump into the water below.
3) Hire a private boat to take you all the way around the island, timing it to end at the famous Blue Grotto where you can hire one of the little rowboats and captains to take you inside. For a few extra euros, he will look the other way if you want to take a dip in the glowing blue water. There are other grottos along the way you stop in as well as you go through the opening of the iconic Faraglioni rocks.
4) The shopping in Capri is both luxury and affordable. There is Gucci, Chanel, Prada and the like but good souvenirs include limoncello, linen goods and pottery. There are shops in both Anacapri and Capri Town. The only industry on the island is Carthusia perfumery. Stop in and smell their amazing perfumes, lotions and candles. Get fitted for a custom pair of beautiful sandals at Capri Sandalmakers, made famous by Jackie O. They’ll be ready in a couple of hours.
5) Tour the Krupp Gardens and get fabulous photos of the Faraglioni below.
6) Hike around the ruins of Tiberius’ palace and tour Axel Munthe’s home and revel in the lush gardens and his priceless Roman artifacts.
Summer is best time to enjoy Capri but it will be crowded. The island is completely closed down mid-October to early April. Fly into either Rome or Naples and the hotel will arrange airport pick up for you at either location. So Open the Map! Find Capri and plan your next trip there to discover why it is the gem of Italy for both Roman Emperors, movie stars and this girl from Texas.