While it is never my recommendation to visit Capri for one day, taking the time to visit just one of two of these areas on a day trip will guarantee a near, if not perfect, visit. Rich with history dating back to prehistoric days coupled with its panoramic beauty, it is difficult to become bored. Below, I have listed some of my favorite places to visit. After eighteen years of visiting Capri, I still return to every one of these places listed below. It never gets old.
THE BLUE GROTTO
Tiberius’ personal swimming hole, also a cave said to be first discovered by German explorers who thought it was the fountain of youth, the Blue Grotto is a favorite. Avoided for some time during the 18th century by sailors and islanders due to the belief that it was inhabited by witches and monsters, the illuminated salt water cavity is something out of a dream that can only be visited under favorable conditions. Without calm water and low tides, it is very dangerous. Row boats with experienced cave dwellers wait outside the grotto for visitors, who are told to lay back and low he reaches for a chain at the roof of the entrance to guide visitors in and out. The best time to visit the Blue Grotto, in my experience, is off season, September or October when it is still warm and there aren’t droves of people waiting in line to get a glimpse. While anyone can go directly to the grotto with a tour boat, I highly recommend a day trip around the entire island on a boat with a terrycloth covered cushion and pillows. These types of boats are very easy to rent, and come with an adorable Italian driver.
HIKING UP TO VILLA JOVIS
Through the center streets of Capri, you will eventually run into the path that takes you up the mountain to Villa Jovis, which Tiberius had built because he feared assassination. Trust me, this is no easy feat. You have to be dressed for serious hiking and this steep hill will take the breath right out of you. You can stop along the way like I did at a little café, sit for a while, have some water with gas, and hike some more when you’re ready. And yes, I said gas. In Italy they refer to water with gas or no gas. Sparkling or non-sparkling. Straight walk, no stop, will get you there in 45 minutes or so. If you think walking down is easier, think again. Walking down will get your quads working, so you want to stay hydrated. It is also worth having a private tour. The plaques are not going to tell the deliciously creepy stories a tour guide will give you. By the time you return down the hill, you will be ready for siesta.
2. MONTE SOLARO
If you like hiking, you can get your exercise worth walking up and down the hills and stairs of historic sights all over Capri and Ana Capri. Monte Solaro can be reached by foot or chair lift. If you want to hike, there is a path going up the hill under the chair lift. It is the highest point in Ana Capri. You will find the remnants of Fortino di Bruto, a fort built during Napoleonic times, a statue of Emperor Augustus, and breathtaking views you can take in while enjoying some gelato or Lemoncello.
3. THE PHOENICIAN STEPS
If you want more exercise during your stay on the island, you can walk 921 stones of the Phoenician Steps which was, at one time, the only path between Ana Capri and Marina Grande. The Pizzolungo trail takes you along the south side and the Migliera takes you along the west side to the Guardia watchtower. These are places less travelled, perfect for understanding how people navigated the island before roads, cars, and Vespa’s.
4. CERTOSA Di ST. GIACOMO
One of the most historic monasteries and most certainly one of my favorites was built by Giacomo Arcucci in 1363, Grand Chamberlain of Queen Joanna I of Anjou, in celebration of his first born son. Considered some of the best land in Capri, the Carthusian Monks, were granted control over much of the agricultural and economic privileges resulting in increasing wealth and power. Of course, there is more to this story, but you will have to visit. Take note of the mark of Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, German painter, whose deep, dark, mysterious paintings had me captivated for hours. It’s also in close walking distance to Capri’s exclusive shops on Via Camerelle.
5. AUGUSTUS GARDENS AND VIA KRUPP
More breathtaking views from the Augustus Gardens which sit close to the Hotel Luna and overlook Via Krupp, the long windy path along the sea connecting St. Giacomo and Marina Piccola. The botanical gardens were financed by Friedrich Alfred Krupp, a rich German businessman, who had purchased quite a bit of land from a Caprese named Eduardo Settanni, and who was also building a mansion on Capri. While Krupp was responsible for a bit of prosperity in Capri, he was also notorious for scandal. Accused of sexually engaging conspicuously young men for money and favors, his relationships and luxurious life came to an abrupt end on November 22, 1902, just one week after a German newspaper published an announcement that Krupp must be held liable. This act, under paragraph 175 of the German penal code during the Second Reich, carried out a possible sentence of hard labor. Krupp died shortly afterward. It was never determined whether he committed suicide or died of natural causes. Today, small waves cresting over rocks below can be viewed from the walk and Augusta Gardens above, although it has been closed to pedestrians for quite some time due to falling rocks. For many years I walked the windy path like a labyrinth pondering life. The view is mesmerizing as you can see below.
6. SAN MICHELLE
One of the most popular sights to visit on the island, Villa San Michele, which sits on land physician Axel Munthe purchased in 1890 in search of a gentler, healthy lifestyle, although those who knew him might say he never achieved this as he referred to himself as a lonely hypochondriac always tired yet never able to rest. The land included the remains of a Roman villa, a vineyard, as well as the ruins of a chapel. Visualizing the home from which he so desperately sought peace, he described his desire for “Light, light, light….everywhere, light” The good doctor had a tremendous love for animals and once started a campaign against the killing of songbirds. Etched in the side of a cliff on Ana Capri, the vast views of the Tirrhenian Sea and Marina Grande are spectacular for taking pictures.
The small marina. That’s what they call it. Quaint. Quiet. Lovely. If you want a break with lovely views, Marina Piccola is perfect for a lazy sun filled afternoon on a wind shielded beach with views of the Faraglioni Rocks, one of the few rather cumbersome places islanders took refuge in the 1500’s during hostile raids less they be carried off into slavery in the middle of fishing. If you are taking a private boat tour around the island, the marina is a wonderful place to stop. Although small, there are several places to eat and shop.
ANA CAPRI HISTORIC CENTER
Think aromatic Lemoncello shops, perfume shops, local handmade Italian ceramics, gift shops, jewelry shops, scarf shops, clothes shops, Monte Solaro Chair Lift, the Mariorita International Boutique, Antonio Viva Sandals, and countless adorable restaurants. This is also the location to catch the chair lift up to Monte Solaro.
THE TERRACE AT THE CAESAR AUGUSTUS
The view from the terrace at the Caesar Augustus should be one of the top items on your to do list in Ana Capri. Etched in a cliff and perched one thousand feet above sea level, the view of Marina Grande and Naples in the far off distance is second to none. Enjoy a coffee or cocktail in the open air and lose yourself for a bit of time by the hypnotic endless sea view, especially at night when the lights of Naples glitter in the distance like stars you wish you could pull closer. Simply and elegantly spectacular. If you are lucky enough to run into the owner, Paolo Signorini, ask him to share the history of the hotel. He is fascinating and has a gentle, kind and elegant demeanor. You will see him in the video below.
A WORD ABOUT HOTELS and RESTAURANTS
Both Capri and Ana Capri serve people of all economic status. While it is not uncommon to see celebrities on Capri, most of the island is visited by people just like you and me. If you have the money to stay in one of the islands more expensive hotels, there are plenty to choose from, although my personal favorite is the Caesar Augustus Relais & Chateaux in Ana Capri perched 1000 feet above sea level. The same goes for people on a budget. There are B&B’s popping up everywhere, adorable less expensive boutique hotels, Airbnb’s and VRBO’s. One of my favorites is Il Giardino Del Arte . Franco, who was a former manager of the Caesar Augustus, now owns the boutique hotel. The island has something for everyone. This is what makes it so spectacular. So unpack, stay awhile and let Capri adore you.