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Capri is an exceptionally beautiful island best known for its dramatic coastal scenery that has been appreciated for at least 2000 years: Emperor Augustus and Emperor Tiberius both had homes here, Odysseus sailed past in Homer's the Odyssey and Capri has attracted 'modern' tourists for at least 200 years.
Capri's well known attractions mean that most visitors to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast will also come here, at least for a day trip, so the island can get quite busy, although never to the point that we would suggest you don't bother coming! It is one of those exceptional places that will stay in your memories, and make you wish you could come again, for long after you have returned home and long after you have forgotten the queues or crowds...
You will arrive in Capri by ferry into the port of Marina Grande, on the north-east coast of the island. As you approach and get your first view of the colourful houses overlooking the harbour filled with small fishing boats and the mountain behind you get your first hint of how beautiful Capri is going to be.
The main town on the island, also called Capri, is a funicular train ride or a short but steep stroll up the hill behind the harbour. Queues for the funicular are likely to mean it is quicker to walk, although this will be rather warmer on a sunny summer day.
The town is very pleasant to explore with quaint alleys and streets and small piazzas, and a wide choice of shops and restaurants. The main square is called the Piazzetta (also Piazza Umberto I) and has great views and astonishingly expensive cafes.
Continuing south from Capri town you can take the path or get the bus down to see the smaller harbour, Marina Piccolo, on the southern side of the island. There are a couple of small stone beaches here but they are very crowded, at least in high season.
Heading east from Capri town you can visit two of the important historic monuments on the island:
- Villa Jovis is an extensive Roman Villa that was the heart of the Roman Empire in the time of Emperor Tiberius (42 BC - 37 AD): he governed the entire Roman Empire from this villa. It is said that he also threw his enemies off the cliffs here so you didn't necessarily hope for an invitation! As well as the substantial remains of the villa, the views to the north towards Ischia and Pricida from here are very worth seeing.
- The 14th century Certosa di San Giacamo is a very substantial Carthusian Monastery with cloisters that was originally built on part of one of Tiberius' villas.
By now you will certainly have caught site of the dramatic rocks off the south-east coast of Capri, which can be seen from several places in this part of the island including the Augustus Garden (don't miss the view of the coast and of Via Krupp pathway from the terrace in this garden!) next to the monastery and the Belvedere del Cannone to the west of here. These are called the Faraglioni rocks and are one of the scenic highlights of the island.
At the west of the island the Arco Naturale is another remarkable natural sight, with views through a large natural stone arch and down to the cliffs and water beyond. Reach the arch by walking along Via Tragara to a viewpoint then following the coastal footpath to the right.
Heading back to Capri town you can now travel to the west and explore the other town on the island, called Anacapri and much higher altitude than Capri itself. Although less interesting than Capri town, it retains the same architecture of picturesque small whitewashed houses and is still pleasant to explore. The terrace on Monte Solara is one of the most popular and stunning places to visit for a global view of the coast of Capri, and reached by chairlift from Anacapri. Called the Seggiovia the return trip costs around 10 euros.
At 589 metres above sea level Monte Solaro is the highest point on Capri island.
Also in Anacapri you can visit the Villa San Michele. This villa was built at the beginning of the 20th century by Axel Munthe, a Swedish doctor and has yet more exceptional views from the gardens.
One of the most popular and best known attractions is the Blue Grotto - properly called the Grotto Azzurro - near the north-east corner of Capri. Clamber down to take the short boat trip to enjoy the sea-filled cave and you will quickly realise where the name came from: the sea really is quite a remarkable blue colour!
This isn't the cheapest way to spend your time, a visit to the Blue Cave costs around 13 euros and literally takes just five minutes (excluding queueing time). And you will still feel pressured to give a tip to the boatsman afterwards, although this is not really necessary and many don't.
You can get boat trips from Marina Grande which will bring you directly to the Grotte Azzurro, or take a bus from the main square in Anacapri, or walk which will take you almost an hour. We enjoyed walking but did get rather hot!
Round the island boat trips
Another very enjoyable way to see Capri is to take one of the organised boat tours of the island that go around the coast departing from Marina Grande. Allow two hours and about 20 euros per person.
If you are confident in a boat you can also rent one to drive yourself which carries up to 4 or 5 people for a couple of hours - the price works out about the same as an organised boat trip.
Capri visitor information
The island is situated a few kilometres off the Sorrento peninsula in the Campania region of southern Italy. Day trips to the island are a very popular (and highly recommended) day trip for visitors to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, although of course it is also possible to spend longer here!
Ferries to Capri leave from both Amalfi and Sorrento (the shortest and most popular ferry route, around 20 minutes), and also from Naples (the longest of the ferry routes available, around 45 minutes).
It is possible to see most of the highlights on Capri in a single day, but it will be quite a long and busy day so we suggest you get here reasonable early to allow time for lunch and the trip to see the Grotta Azzurra and to take in the atmosphere, rather than just rushing between the principal sights in an afternoon.
Ideally you will also spend the night here so you have time to better enjoy the scenery, see Capri without the crowds and to take a leisurely walk along the cliffs - there are footpaths around almost the entire coast. Alternatively you might prefer to enjoy a leisurely dinner on a restaurant terrace. And in a perfect world you visit in May, June or September when the island is a bit less busy...