The Island of Capri’s Eternal Appeal
Like an exclamation point at the end of the Sorrentine Peninsula, Capri is an effusive burst of natural beauty, ancient history, and jetsetting excess unlike anywhere else in Italy. Beloved by Roman emperors and Hollywood royalty alike, it’s a distillation of the Amalfi Coast’s many pleasures combined with an idyllic island charm that’s both quirky and refined. What will you encounter there? Here are a few of our favorite highlights.
The Faraglioni Cliffs. Part of what makes Capri so special is the way you get there: a five kilometer ferry ride across the Tyrrhenian Sea from Positano. As you approach the island, you pass dramatic sea stacks known as the Faraglioni (far-ah-lee-own-e) Cliffs—one of the countless spectacular seascapes offered by the island.
Villa Jovis. Capri’s first vacationers were Roman emperors. Ceasar Augustus made it his summer home around 29 BCE and his successor, Tiberius, retired there completely around 25 CE, building 12 luxurious villas around the island. The grandest of these was Villa Jovis, whose massive gardens and baths were supplied by a huge complex of canals and cisterns. Tiberius’s legendary debauchery is the subject of some of the more lurid (and, hopefully, exaggerated) chapters of Roman history. For example: visitors today can follow stone steps to the high cliff where he reportedly threw dissidents into the sea.
Church of San Michele. There are two towns on Capri. The first, simply called Capri, is the one most often visited by travelers, but Anacapri, on the far side of the island, is equally compelling. For instance, the remarkable Church of San Michele is one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the Campana region. Though unassuming from the outside, on the inside this Baroque masterpiece presents a stunning painted ceramic floor, depicting the exile of Adam and Eve from Eden. Its engraved marble altar and stucco dome are beautiful as well.
Blue Grotto. Perhaps Capri’s most iconic sight, the Grotta Azzura has been a destination for travelers since the 1800s. Capri’s coast is laced with sea caves and this is (by common consensus) the most spectacular—a large natural dome bathed in otherworldly blue light. Accessible only by boat (travelers may purchase tickets on the Capri waterfront), it was beloved by the ancients as well. Tiberius’s quay is still visible in the back of the cave.
Monte Solaro. The highest point on the island, Monte Solaro divides the towns of Capri and Anacapri with sheer dolomitic cliffs. An imposing and romantic view from anywhere on the island, the small mountain is also a pleasure to climb—following well maintained paths that skirt its dramatic drops. From the top, walkers are rewarded with views across the whole of the Bay of Naples, Vesuvius, and the islands of Ischia and Procida on one side; and the Sorrentine peninsula, the Amalfi Coast, and the islets of Galli on the other.
Insalata Caprese. With exceptional local olive oil, tomatoes, and basil in abundance right on the island (and creamy buffalo mozzarella produced throughout the region), it’s no wonder that the Caprese salad became a mainstay of Capri’s cuisine. Like many dishes served there, its relatively simple recipe belies a symphony of sophisticated flavors, allowing the exceptional ingredients to shine. Foodies may enjoy a number of other delicious dishes here, including Caprese ravioli and an endless array of fresh seafood.
Gardens of Augustus. Just a short walk from Capri’s main port, a series of terraced gardens cling to the steep slopes of the island, affording panoramic views of the coast and the Faraglioni Cliffs. Walking here, surrounded by blooming geraniums, dahlias, and brooms, it’s easy to feel the island’s special charm. With Monte Solaro above and the sea below, it’s an ideal blend of majestic nature and European sophistication.