Capri travel Tips: how to optimize your visit of the Blue Island.
Famed for its natural beauty since the 1960s when celebrities like Jacqueline Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, and Sophia Loren put the island on the jet-set map, Capri is no longer so hidden. But with its wild steep cliffs rising majestically from an impossibly blue sea and its spectacular villas, it’s easy to forgive Capri for being so famous and popular.
The island is indeed a seductive combination of fairy-tale landscapes and fun, which over the centuries has conquered Roman emperors and Hollywood stars. With its whitewashed villas and small houses and narrow streets, the town of Capri is nowadays a concentrate of exclusive Mediterranean elegance, a unique mixture of luxury hotels, expensive bars, sophisticated restaurants, and designer boutiques.
Being the perfect day-trip destination both from Naples and Sorrento, as well as a popular summer resort for those willing to fully embrace the unique local atmosphere, in summer, the centre is often packed with tourists armed with cameras but don’t give up exploring this suggestive blue island because, if you know where to look, the crowd quickly disappears!
Let’s get started!!!
Capri Travel Tips – What awaits you as soon as you get off the hydrofoil…
Capri’s main port is an attractive place and very Italian, with little evidence of the cosmopolitan reputation of the island that awaits you up the hill. The area is surrounded by nice café, restaurants and small shops selling the perfect souvenir everybody is looking for. If you are desperately looking for a swim after the ride on the hydrofoil, there’s an attractive 200m-long pebble beach (Capri’s largest) on the right hand of the port. Here you can also find local companies offering shared guided boat tours of the island, to the famous Blue Grotto as well as longer full-day trips to Positano. Alternatively, you can hire a private boat for three hours or a full day to tour the island and swim in the breath-taking blue Mediterranean Sea.
The first challenge you will face once on the island is how to get from Marina Grande to Capri Town uphill. The most enjoyable option is the funicular, which includes evocative en-route views of lemon orchards and surrounding countryside. The ticket booth in Marina Grande is not at the funicular station itself but right behind the tourist office at the ferry port. Note that the funicular may be closed from January through March for maintenance so you may catch a substitute bus service. The funicular ride costs 2€ each way.
Capri Travel Tips – What to see once in town…
Piazza Umberto I
The official name of this world-famous public square is Piazza Umberto 1. In Caprese dialect, it’s called chiazza, but most visitors to the island know it simply as the Piazzetta. Located beneath the 17th-century lemon-coloured clock tower and framed by several cafes, this tiny open-air squared area is central to your Capri experience. Be prepared for the cost of the front-row seats, the moment you sit you will definitely pay dearly for this local experience. Watching the crowds however, is a charming scene that seems quintessentially Mediterranean.
Santo Stefano Church
The biggest church on the island is Santo Stefano, next to the Piazzetta. It was erected in 1685 where the homonymous Benedictine convent of the 580 d.C rose of which the bell tower remains alone on the Square. Do not miss the remarkable marble from Jovis Villa, the villa to Capri of emperor Tiberio Claudio Nerone from which it governed its empire for beyond eleven years.
San Giacomo’s Charterhouse
Founded in 1363, this monastery is generally considered the finest remaining example of Caprese architecture and today houses a school, a library, a temporary exhibition space and a museum with some evocative 17th-century paintings. A must-see is the cloisters, which have a real sense of faded glory. To get here take Via Vittorio Emanuele III, east of Piazza Umberto I, and venture down to the monastery.
Giardini Di Augusto
As their name suggests, these gardens near the San Giacomo’s Charterhouse were founded by Emperor Augustus. Rising in a series of flowered terraces, they offer breath-taking views over to the Isole Faraglioni, a group of three limestone stacks rising out of the sea. From the gardens, Via Krupp winding road leads down to Marina Piccola and past a bust of Vladimir Lenin overlooking the road from a nearby platform. The Russian revolutionary visited Capri in 1908.
Carthusia: The perfume of Capri
The factory produces perfumes, perfumed candles, and bath oils made from all the different kinds of Capri’s flowers. According to a local legend in 1380, the prior of the monastery was surprised by the news of an impending visit of Queen Joan I of Naples. He decided to prepare large flower bouquets with the most beautiful flowers of the island. After three days, the moment he was throwing away the flowers, he noticed the wonderful smell of the water and he called the alchemist, who discovered a unique fragrance that became Capri’s first perfume. In the 1950s, the ancient formula was rediscovered and given to a chemist who owned the world’s smallest laboratory called “Carthusia”. Nowadays the method of producing the perfume is the same one the Carthusian monks once used.
Capri Travel Tips – Off the beaten path…
Belvedere di Tragara
15 minutes walk from Piazza Umberto I, this panoramic terrace has heady views above the Isole Faraglioni. Steps near the belvedere lead down to a small rocky beach that has a couple of private beach clubs. The climbing down takes approx. 25 minutes.
Villa Jovis was the largest and most sumptuous of 12 Roman villas commissioned by Roman Emperor Tiberius (AD14–37) on Capri and was his main island residence. This vast complex, now reduced to an archaeological area, includes imperial quarters and extensive bathing areas set in dense gardens and woodland. It’s located a 45-minute walk east of Capri Town along Via Tiberio.
This beautifully melancholic art-nouveau villa is set on a clifftop and was the one-time retreat of French poet Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen, who came to Capri in 1904 to escape a gay sex scandal in Paris. The interior has been left almost entirely empty; this is a place to let your imagination flesh out the details. It’s a 40-minute walk from Piazza Umberto I and rarely crowded.
Did you know that there are two separate towns on the island of Capri? Most visitors only visit Capri town with its well-known sites like the Piazzetta, Marina Piccola, and the famous shopping streets. But there is another world a short bus or taxi ride away on the other side of the island. Anacapri is much more spread out and residential.
Villa San Michele di Axel Munthe
The former home of Swedish doctor, psychiatrist and animal-rights advocate Axel Munthe, should be included on every visitor’s itinerary. Built on the site of the ruins of a Roman villa, the gardens make a beautiful setting for a relaxing tranquil stroll, with pathways flanked by immaculate flowerbeds. There are also superb views from here together with some fine photo props in the form of Roman sculptures.
Chairlift to Monte Solaro
Sitting in an old-fashioned chairlift as you rise to the top of Capri’s highest mountain is one of the island’s most sublime experiences. The ride takes an all-too-short 13 minutes, but when you get there, the views are outstanding.
Chiesa di San Michele
Anacapri’s chief building is most famous for its handsome floor, a veritable work of art depicting the Adam and Eve story in multi-coloured tiles. For the best view, head up a coiled spiral staircase to a tiny viewing gallery.
Capri Travel Tips – The Natural side of the island…
The Grotta Azzurra or Blue Grotto is undoubtedly Capri’s most famous attraction. The easiest way to visit this unusual sea cave illuminated by an otherworldly blue light is to take a boat tour from Marina Grande (tickets include the return boat trip, but the boat into the cave and admission must be paid separately). Beautiful though it is, the Grotta is extremely popular during summer, so the crowds, coupled with long waiting times can make the experience underwhelming for some. The grotto had long been known to local fishermen when it was rediscovered by two Germans in 1826. Measuring 54m by 30m and rising to a height of 15m, the grotto has sunk by up to 20m in prehistoric times, blocking every opening except the 1.3m-high entrance. And this is the key to the magical blue light. Sunlight enters through a small underwater hole and is refracted through the water; this, combined with the white sandy seafloor, produces the vivid blue effect to which the cave owes its name. The grotto is closed in case of rough sea and swimming in it is absolutely forbidden, although you can swim outside the entrance.
This imposing natural arch is a 1.3km walk east from Piazza Umberto I. Dating back to the Paleolithic era and formed by millennia of natural wear and tear, the rocky arch measures 12m in width and 20m in height. A small terrace by the arch offers views across to the Peninsula of Sorrento and the Li Galli islets.
These three limestone pinnacles rise vertically out of the sea, measuring 109m, 81m, and 104m respectively and are home to a rare blue lizard that was once thought to be unique to the Faraglioni but has since been found on the Sicilian coast. This massive rock formation made up of three separate limestone stacks is one of the first things you see on your way to Capri. Some of the best views are from the scenic overlook at belvedere di Tragara and the flower-filled gardens of Augustus. You can swim next to them at the Da Luigi beach club and sail through them on a private boat tour.
Capri Travel Tips – Looking for a bit of adventure or relax ?
Capri has miles of wild hiking trails and walking paths. The Pizzolungo which is a series of steps, wooded trail, and a paved path will take you from the Arco natural to a breath-taking view of the Mediterranean Sea and the Faraglioni. Another perfect hiking activity is the Path of the Little Forts in Anacapri, which you can time to end with a sunset view of the lighthouse. Named after the three coastal forts (Pino, Mèsola, and Orrico) along the way, it passes through some of Capri’s most unspoiled countryside. Give yourself three hours to complete the 5.2km walk and carry plenty of water. In case it wasn’t enough you can climb the 921 Phoenician stone steps that link Anacapri to the Marina Grande.
Bagni di Tiberio
This pebble beach is home to the island’s most popular beach club (entry €20), where you can swim amid the ruins of a Roman villa. It’s a 10-minute walk or a short boat ride from Marina Grande.
Little more than a series of private bathing facilities, Marina Piccola is on the southern side of the island, directly south of Marina Grande. A short bus ride from Capri Town, or a downhill 15-minute walk, it has a 50m-long public pebble beach dominated by the Scoglio delle Sirene (Rock of the Sirens) and the Torre Saracena. The swimming’s not great, but the two rocks rising out of the water about 10m offshore make excellent diving boards.
Capri Travel Tips – Shopping Time!
From a simple souvenir to a luxury watch, the streets of Capri town are an endless temptation for all shopaholics. Make your way along Via Camerelle to get to the area around the Grand Hotel Quisisana from Via Tragara where you will come across all the biggest brands from the world of fashion. If you are looking for something unique do not leave the island without Capri famous handmade sandals. Simply walk into a sandal shop, let the artisan measure your feet while you choose the type of straps you want, and, in less than an hour your sandals will be ready to be worn. Or if you are not fond of shoes you can choose one of the beautiful artisan-made perfume at the Carthusia perfume factory. If you like the idea of edible souvenirs do not miss the chance to get a decorated bottle of limoncello liquor or a slice of rich chocolate and almond Torta Caprese.
Capri Travel Tips – Getting Around
- Autobus ATC runs buses between Marina Grande, Capri Town, Marina Piccola, and Anacapri.
- Staiano Autotrasporti runs regular buses to the Grotta Azzurra and Punta Carena from Anacapri and Marina Grande.
- Funicular connects Marina Grande with the centre of Capri uphill. The ticket booth in Marina Grande is not at the funicular station itself; it’s behind the tourist office (turn right onto Via Marina Grande from the ferry port).
- Capri Scooter If you’re looking to hire a scooter at Marina Grande, stop here. There’s another outlet in Anacapri. You need an international driving licence to rent the scooter.
- Boats offer rides to the Blue Grotto from Marina Grande. The rowing boat into the cave is not included, you’ll have to pay for this at the entry to the cave. Companies also run a two-hour trip around the island which includes a visit to the Blue Grotto. If you have time, the best way to experience the incredible water that surrounds the island is on a boat. Hire a skipper and spend a few hours swimming in rocky coves and emerald green grottos.
- Taxi offer rides from Marina Grande to Capri Town, Anacapri and Marina Piccola.
Wanna check the scheduled departures of the hydrofoil from Sorrento, Naples, Positano to Capri?
Please visit the official website.