No wonder Emperors Augustus and Tiberius flocked to the idyllic island of Capri to escape the hustle and bustle of ancient Rome. Today it still attracts holidaymakers from southern Italian cities, along with boatloads of tourists every day. The rugged 61-meter-high rocks invariably jut out from the deep blue Tyrrhenian Sea within sight of Sorrento, just 20 kilometers away. The island is an extension of the craggy, mountainous Amalfi Peninsula, where Sorrento is located. Many ferries and hydrofoils for Capri leave from Sorrento (closest) and from Naples, 43 kilometers away.
The island, only about four miles long and just over two miles wide, has two towns, Capri and, high above, Anacapri. Apart from the glamorous international view of people (the island is a favorite for celebrities and the paparazzi who follow them), the island’s main pleasures are its scenery, natural wonders and lush greenery (search for acanthus leaves, the inspiration for Corinthian capitals on columns), best appreciated from the many hiking trails or by boat.
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6 Marina Piccola
If you imagine this spot for the sunbathers and cafes, it’s easy to believe that it was where the Sirens lured Ulysses. The small harbor on the south coast gets the most sun and is protected from the wind by steep cliffs, so it’s often warm enough to sunbathe, even in winter. Take the bus from Capri town or walk along Via Krupp, continue down the steps of the little church of Sant’Andrea and find the free beaches of Marina di Pennauro and Marina di Mulo .
2 Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto)
The cave is a huge flooded cave with an opening to the sea. Reflected sunlight makes the cave appear illuminated from the inside with an eerie bright blue glow. Small boats cluster at the entrance and take tourists into the cave through an opening barely three feet high. You may have to lie on the floor of the boat to get through and if the sea is rough it will be impossible to get in. Romans thought it was home to sea nymphs, but it has been Capri’s main tourist attraction since the 19th century. To access the Blue Grotto, take a boat from Marina Grande or a bus from Anacapri or via Via Pagliaro (three kilometers) from Anacapri. There are other dramatic sea caves where the light reflects the intense colors of the Mediterranean:
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3 Gardens of Augustus (tuinen van Augustus)
Close to San Giacomo, the beautifully maintained botanical gardens cover a leafy terrace, where flowers and pergolas provide views of the Faraglioni sea stacks that stand in the blue-green waters below. Look the other way to see the bay of Marina Piccola and Via Krupp , a hiking trail that leads down a series of ribbon candy loops to Marina Piccola, about 300 feet (91 m) below. You can follow the Via Krupp (built by the German arms manufacturer who went on vacation) and return by bus.
Address: Via Krupp, Capri
4 Villa San Michele
Few homes have such a perfect setting, but the magic of Villa San Michele lies not only in its beauty, but in its personality. It was home to Swedish physician Axel Munthe, who immortalized his concept, construction, and life there in The Story of San Michele . The house and gardens surrounding it are filled with his personal collections, ranging from priceless archaeological artifacts – Roman, Egyptian and Etruscan antiquities – to 20th century art. The views from the gardens, surrounded by vine-covered pergolas and marble statues, are breathtaking.
Address: 34 Via Capodimonte, Anacapri
Official site: www.villasanmichele.eu
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5 Tragara Point
At the southeastern tip of Capri, a terrace on the promontory of Punta Tragara overlooks the south coast and the three sea stacks known as the Faraglioni. The view extends from the mainland Amalfi Peninsula to Monte Castiglione, with its castle, and to the bay of Marina Piccola . From the right side of the terrace, a path leads to the Pizzolungo , one of the most beautiful walks on the island, to the 15-meter-high Natural Arch .
6 Monte Solaro
From Piazza Vittoria in Anacapri, a chairlift (12 minutes) and a footpath (one hour) lead to the top of 588-meter Monte Solaro. From this highest point you can see not only the whole island, the Bay of Naples and the Amalfi Peninsula, but also up to the mountains of Calabria. Not far below the summit is the 16th-century Monastery of Cetrella, which is rarely open.
7 Villa di Tiberio (Villa Jovis)
In the extreme northeast of Capri are the surprisingly intact remains of the Villa de Tiberio or Villa Jovis, one of the largest of the emperor Tiberius’s villas. The ruins rise from terraces to the top of the hill, giving an idea of the size of the villa Tiberius is believed to have lived in from 27 AD after his death in 37 AD. Due to the steep terrain, the villa is split into several levels, totaling over 18,000 square feet. Despite all the luxury, he still seems to be grumpy, like at the end of the Salto di Tiberio road, a 274-meter cliff where he has a reputation for throwing servants and guests who disliked him. Reach the villa via Via Botteghe, Via Fuorlovado, Via Croce to Via Tiberio, a 45-minute walk from the Piazza .
Address: Via Tiberio, Capri
So far from the glitz and celeb viewing of the Piazza in Capri, Anacapri floats in a dream world atop its plateau. The flight of more than 500 stone steps, built in Phoenician times, has been supplanted by a three-kilometer road, which connects buses to the lower city. The 18th century Church of San Michele in Anacapri is built on an octagonal plan with a Greek transverse floor and the floor of majolica tiles depicts the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The city’s main church, Santa Sofia, dates from 1510, but the sacristy and oratory include the remains of an older San Carlo church. It’s hard to miss the red jagged Casa Rossa, built by an American Civil War veteran; a museum inside displays Roman statues from the Blue Grotto.
One of the newer things to do in Anacapri is to walk the quiet paths in the Capri Philosophical Park at the end of the Migliera hiking trail. Each of the three paths up the hill is dedicated to a different philosophical theme and is lined with ceramic plaques quoting philosophers and writers from the past 13 centuries.
9 Charterhouse of San Giacomo
Close to the Gardens of Augustus in the center of Capri town is Certosa di San Giacomo . Founded in 1371, it was sacked and burned in 1553 and abandoned after 1807. But at its peak, this Carthusian monastery dominated the island. The church has a Gothic doorway, 17th-century frescoes and two cloisters. The monastery has the Museo Diefenbach , a collection of works by the German Art Nouveau and Symbolist painter Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, who lived on Capri from 1900 to 1915.
Adres: Via Certosa di San Giacomo, Capri
10 Piazza Umberto I
This lively square stands below the clock tower, known simply as the Piazzetta. Here the cable car descends for passengers arriving at Marina Grande. Tourists linger here hoping to spot celebrities in the cafes that line it. The square and nearby streets are the place for shopping in Capri. The greatest concentration of well-known designer shops can be found on Via Camerelle, and elsewhere you will find shops selling souvenirs, flowers, brightly colored pottery, clothing, locally made perfumes and Capri’s other specialty – sandals custom made in just an hour.
Addresses: Dock 0, Marina Grande, Capri
11 Boat trips
For those who don’t have the time to walk the many coastal paths, the best way to see the more remote parts of Capri is on a boat tour of the island. It takes about two hours by motorboat, three to four hours by rowboat. Shorter trips around and between the Faraglioni sea stacks take about an hour.
Addresses: Dock 0, Marina Grande, Capri
Where to Stay in Capri for Sightseeing
We recommend these delightful hotels on the beautiful island of Capri, close to the top attractions:
- Hotel Excelsior Parco: luxury Art Nouveau villa, boutique hotel, stunning sea views, elegant decor, lovely rooftop terrace, beach club.
- Capri Wine Hotel: boutique hotel right in the center, hospitable owners, garden with sea view, lemon groves, free breakfast.
- Villa Helios: 3-star hotel, friendly staff, nice view, comfortable bed, garden terrace.
- Casa Mariantonia: budget-friendly Anacapri hotel, family-run, big bathrooms, nice pool.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Capri
- Day Trip from Naples or Sorrento : The Capri and Blue Grotto Day Tour from Naples or Sorrento includes full-day jetfoil transport to and from the city, as well as minibus transfer. You’ll see the highlights of the island, with stops for sightseeing and shopping in Anacapri and the village of Capri. A visit to the Blue Grotto is included, and the small group size ensures individual attention from your local guide.
- Day Trip from Positano or Praiano : On the Capri Day Trip from Positano or Praiano, a small group sails on a traditional wooden “gozzo” boat from the Amalfi Coast and around Capri to see the rugged coast and famous caves. After a swim stop, the boat stops for four hours of free time to explore the island’s sights.
- Day Trip from Rome: Visitors to Rome can spend a day on the island by signing up for the 13-hour Guided Capri Day Trip from Rome, traveling by bus to Naples and by boat to Capri. On the island there will be time to visit the Blue Grotto and explore Capri and Anacapri (with bus transfer).
- Arriving in Capri : Boats from the mainland arrive at the port of Marina Grande, where you must stop and reserve any boat trips you plan to take. Otherwise, turn left for the funicular for the 15-minute ride to Capri, the island’s capital.
- Getting Around Capri: Capri’s best scenery comes from walking trails and hiking trails. The best way to explore the island is on foot and with the buses that run frequently between Capri and Anacapri. The bus station in Capri is in Piazza Martiri d’Ungheria (on Via Roma); Anacapri’s is located in Piazza della Pace.
More must-see places to visit near Capri
The island of Capri is just 20 kilometers from Sorrento and about 40 kilometers from the city of Naples, both of which provide a convenient base for seeing the historic sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. You’ll find even more easy day trips from Sorrento, including the beautiful Amalfi Coast. Continue south to see the ancient Greek sites of Paestum. North of Naples is Rome, with its Colosseum, churches and the splendor of the Vatican City.