Italy’s fabled Isle of Capri is a stunning destination best experienced over a minimum few days’ stay. Most visitors only see it on a bustling day trip from Sorrento, Positano or Naples, where the tourist hordes and time crunch limit your enjoyment of this exquisite island. If you have a chance to take it slow, you will discover some different sides to this historic setting away from the maddening crowds. May to September is the height of the season when international travelers and local Italians flock to the rock. Staying overnight gives you a head-start advantage to explore the area before the ferries arrive. When the last hydrofoil departs, you can savor a more mellow evening and let its romantic charms wash over you. If you only have a day trip to spare, don’t miss this Mediterranean marvel, but the more time you can allot to this storybook island the more you will fall in love with it. Here are 13 incomparable experiences awaiting you on the Isle of Capri.
1. Staring at the Faraglioni Rocks
The iconic postcard image of the Isle of Capri is the dramatic Faraglioni Rocks. This trio of towering formations juts out from the Mediterranean just off the coast. If you explore this area by boat, you can sail right through the stone arch – don’t forget to kiss for good luck while you pass under. Alternatively, set up camp on La Fontelina or da Luigi beaches with a view of the Faraglioni. The farthest rock is home to the famous blue lizard whose camouflage reflects the incredible cobalt hue of the sea. The beauty of staying on-island is you will have the time to experience the sunrise or sunset lighting caressing these rocks.
2. People Watching in the Piazzetta
The heart of Capri is its small central square – the always fashionable, always packed Piazzetta. Officially known as Piazza Umberto 1, if you can get a table at one of the terraced cafes overlooking the clock tower, you can while away the afternoon watching well-dressed beautiful people come and go. You may even spy a celebrity or two, as this square is a magnet for the rich and famous. It’s not a cheap spot for a coffee or cocktail, but its a memorable splurge. Afterwards, stroll down the Corso Vittorio Emanuele and via Camerelle for some Caprese retail therapy. A funicular train can transport you from the port to the Piazzetta in about 3 minutes.
3. Enjoying the Giardini Di Augusto
A 15 minute walk from the Piazzetta you’ll find this idyllic garden built on the ancient grounds of Emperor Augustus’ villa. A series of terraces overlook sweeping views of the Faraglioni, Marina Piccola and Via Krupp, making for a classic Caprese panorama. A stroll through these floral-lined pathways and cliff-side lookout points is not to be missed. If you can time your visit against the grain of the daytripper crowds, all the better.
4. Basking in the Blue Grotto
If there’s one must-see sight on the Isle of Capri, it’s the gob-smacking Blue Grotto, known locally as the Grotta Azzurra. The natural cavern has a second cave mouth beneath the surface which emits sunlight from below. This magical effect creates a intense blue glow you have to see to believe, especially if you can be there from noon to 2pm (although that’s when the line-ups are longest). Rowboat guides take you into the cave for about five minutes of azure awe. A word of caution: the small entrance to the Blue Grotto is less than a meter high, and is closed during the frequently rough seas. If you only allot one day to visit Capri, you might not get to experience this highlight.
5. Loving the Lemons
You can’t visit the Isle of Capri without seeing, smelling and tasting the luscious lemons. These bright yellow orbs are everywhere, and have become the symbol of the island. Various types of lemons grow at different times throughout the year including femminiello, bianchetti and Verdelli lemons, so there is always a citrus perfume in the air. Naturally, there are lots of lemony delights to savor in Capri, most notably lemon gelato and Limoncello liqueur.
6. Exploring Anacapri
Capri’s other residential town, Anacapri, is set on the high point of the island at the base of Monte Solaro. It makes a pleasant counterpoint to the more touristy Capri and is well worth a visit if you have time to experience both. Better yet, stay here for a few days so you can enjoy a different side of the island at a more leisurely pace. Arrive early and take the chairlift to the top of the mountain to enjoy spectacular views of the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius before the boatloads of daytrippers arrive. Stroll around the whitewashed village lanes and poke in the artisan shops and cozy cafes to get a taste of island life.
7. Beaching at Marina Piccalo
If you’re looking to spend a day at the beach while on the Isle of Capri, Marina Piccalo on the southern coast is a lovely one. It’s a scenic 15 minute walk from the Piazzetta following the Via Roma and down the stairs at Via Mulo. The beach is pebbly, but the views of the rock formations are gorgeous. This is where the Scolio dell Sirene are, the bewitching siren rocks where Ulysses was seduced in Homer’s Odyssey. These rocks divide the bay into two pretty beach areas, one within swimming distance of the Faraglioni. You can rent sunbeds and umbrellas here, and there are places to eat and drink by the water’s edge. The cliff walls make it shady by mid-afternoon, but that’s when the crowds tend to disperse so its still a good time to visit.
8. Taking a Traditional Gozzo Boat
One of the most recommended way to experience the Isle of Capri is to circumnavigate it by water. There are a wide range of yachts, sail boats, luxury speedboats and motorboat tours you can take around the island, but one of the more traditional vessels to charter the wooden gozzo boat. The comfortable 10 x 3 meter craft has a cushioned sundeck, a shady awning, and a shower for a post-swim rinse off. The Capri coastline is best appreciated by sea, and an excursion on a gozzo boat will allow you to take it all in with quintessential Caprese style.
9. Pizza Perfection on the Isle of Capri
Naples is the birthplace of pizza, and there really is something extraordinary about the pies in this region. There is no shortage of deliziosa pizzerias with a panoramic view on Capri, which is a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds. The pizza here not the crispy thin crusts you find in Rome, but a soft, thicker, chewier dough that melts in your mouth. A simple topping of sweet tomatoes, basil and local Campania bufala mozzarella is the classic Caprese treat, but just about any combination of ingredients atop one of these wood-fired wonders will work. Ristorante Pizzeria Aurora and da Giorgio are two recommended restaurants for pizza in Capri.
10. Gazing at the Farodi Punta Carena Lighthouse
On the southwest coast of Capri sits the lighthouse (faro in Italian) of Punta Carena, which has been keeping vigil over the Tyrrhenian Sea since 1867. It’s the second tallest and brightest lighthouse in Italy, after Genoa. The island of Ischia is visible in the distance. Many locals consider Il Faro to be their favorite beach. In the summer months there are two casual cafes featuring live music, and coming here to watch the sunset with an aperitif in hand is a must when on the Isle of Capri.
11. Treking to Tiberius’ Villa Jovis
The Roman Emperor Tiberius, born in 42 BC, considered Capri to be his favorite island retreat. He built 12 lavish imperial villas here as his own personal playground for orgies and other debauchery. Villa Jovis is the largest and best preserved of these villas. It was here that this torturous tyrant tossed unwelcome visitors or disobedient slaves off a dramatic cliff for sport. If you have the luxury of time in Capri, take the 45 minute uphill walk from the Piazetta to this impressive ruin with the most spectacular 360 degree views on the island. You’ll pass through winding village streets and vaulted arches of Via Longarno and along the Via Sopramonte, and step back in time a world away from the touristy resort town below. Goats that roam the property add to the charm of this formerly glorious place. It closes at 1pm, so make this a morning excursion.
12. Indulging in Torta Caprese
Food is always a highpoint in Italy, and Capri is no exception. Make sure you sample a slice of traditional Torta Caprese when on the island. Legend has it the original recipe stems from a baking mistake. This velvety chocolate almond cake is flourless, so even those on a gluten-free diet can indulge. It’s dense, decadent and delicious, but not too sweet. A light dusting of powdered sugar tops it off, making this torta look as good as it tastes.
13. Traversing the Via Krupp
This paved switchback on the Isle of Capri is one of the world’s most beautiful footpaths. It was commissioned by Friedrich Krupp, a German munitions baron, back in 1902. The elegant hairpin turns are cut into the 100 m cliff-face and connect the Charterhouse of San Giacomo and the Gardens of Augustus with Marina Piccola. A problem with falling rocks has the Via Krupp closed from time to time, but if you have a chance to traverse it – or at least see it from one of the vantage points – it is a work of art.