The Magical Isle of Capri
by Glenn O with Anne-Marie C.
From the moment you spot the magical isle of Capri,
it begins to weave its spell on you. Situated in the Mediterranean Sea five kilometers from the Italian mainland
, the island Capri has defined itself over the years as the place to escape. From the trendy, people-watching mecca of Capri’s main town to the more subdued retreat of Anacapri, the island’s magnetic charm has drawn visitors from all over the world.
On the day I arrived in Capri, I couldn’t help thinking of my first trip to Paris. I had a preconceived notion that Capri would be inundated with tourists and not to my liking – this is what I had thought Paris would be like as well before I fell under its spell years ago! Before visiting Capri I thought, “Isn’t that where everyone goes?” Now I know – yes, lots of people visit Capri, for good reason! What Anne-Marie and I had the pleasure of discovering during our time on the island is that, after buzzing all day with its eclectic dose of daytrippers, the island settles into its small town roots at sunset. A full day of first-rate exploring and five-star dining can be completed at a café in Capri’s main square watching the crowds board the ferries and depart for Naples or Positano.
When Anne-Marie and I sped away from the Italian mainland headed to Capri on an early morning hydrofoil I was watching both the looming outline of Mount Vesuvius and the spectacular Amalfi Coast disappear in our wake. When I turned and saw the coast of Capri jutting up from the deep blue waters of the Bay of Naples I was startled by its beauty. As the boat drew closer I could see the lovely town of Capri perched high on the hill above the harbor and the dramatic outline of the island’s Mount Solaro to the west. The hydrofoils, which take about 40 minutes to travel from Naples to Capri, and ferries (which take a little over an hour) all arrive in Marina Grande, a busy seaside town that absorbs and distributes a daily infusion of visitors.
After falling in love with the Italian countryside I wasn’t sure what this little island in the Med would offer but as we docked and went ashore I knew I was already under its spell. We had arranged with an Italian travel service to make all of our Capri arrangements for us – they picked us up at the Naples airport, drove us to the ferry dock, collected our ferry tickets, handled our luggage and put us on the ferry to Capri. When we arrived in Capri the service rep met us at the dock, helped us with our luggage and drove us to our hotel in Anacapri. The service they provided smoothed out the bumps in Italian travel and provided us with something priceless – peace of mind.
The island has two main areas – Capri and Anacapri. From Marina Grande we could see the town of Capri perched on top of the cliff high above us. Although a few brave souls choose to walk several miles up the steep hill to town, most people hail one of the many convertible taxis or ride the scenic funicular – the rail car – up the cliff. We actually bypassed Capri town our first morning and went along the coast and around the mountains to the small town of Anacapri to our hotel, the Capri Palace
. A five-star luxury resort built in 1962, the Capri Palace hugs the cliffs 300 meters above the Bay of Naples and the Mediterranean Sea and is one of the most idyllic honeymoon spots I have ever seen. Upon entering one is immediately calmed by the white fabrics that compliment the classical Mediterranean architecture. The exquisite vases of calla lilies added a subtle yet regal touch around the hotel. Although all of the 77 rooms are gorgeous, six of them have their own private gardens and swimming pool. The grand Megaron Suite has its own hanging garden, swimming pool and mesmerizing view of the bay, while the Acropolis penthouse boasts a shell-shaped hot tub with views across the sea.
Anne-Marie decided that the Capri Palace was the most beautiful hotel she had ever visited. Afterwards she added that the hotel offered the best service of any place she had ever stayed. Although it is definitely five-star luxury, it still manages to be very casual and extremely comfortable. The staff was so hospitable that we felt that we entered as guests and left as friends.
The hotel offers several packages, one of which is a dreamy, five-night honeymoon that includes a night on a 30-foot yacht complete with candlelight dinner, spa treatments for the lucky couple and a private picnic on a secluded mountaintop. Not surprisingly, the hotel is classified in the international and Italian press as the “Hotel of the Stars” and accommodates rock stars, Hollywood celebrities, and high-fashion gurus as well as those seeking a respite from the busy world.
The Capri Beauty Farm, one of Europe’s most prestigious and modern spas, is located in the hotel. The spa offers ancient treatments such as “Thalassotherapy,” therapy that uses products from the sea, along with a modern menu of botox, skin peels, manicures and pedicures. Anne-Marie and I had our eyes on the unique “Vinissimo” package, a four-night stay in a garden suite that includes wine classes and wine-based meals geared toward educating the guests about the powerful antioxidants found in grapes. The spa treatments in this package include a seaweed and grape detoxifying treatment, skin peels, massages and facial masks using grape extracts.
The sunny village of Anacapri is just steps from the Capri Palace. Stylish restaurants and quaint cafes line the picturesque streets, and the town is a great place to browse for local art wares. Dozens of small boutiques sell everything from sandals to ceramics. We stole back to Capri town in the late afternoon with a mission to poke around the shops there and relax at one of the cafes. Life in Capri centers around the Piazza Umberto, the main square in the center of town. Cafes and shops surround an ancient clock tower and spread around the square to the edge of a patio that overlooks the sea. Shops selling caprese cheese and salami, local wines, olive oils, fresh bread and an endless selection of pastries primed our appetites, and we found a shady spot under a colorful umbrella to sit for awhile. We ordered a light snack and sampled a refreshing Limoncello di Capri, a liqueur made from lemons grown on the island.
Capri is wonderfully sophisticated, but not for the faint of heart. It is the Land of a Thousand Steps! If a description reads that there are 68 steps, don’t believe it! That doesn’t mean from the street level; add another 40 steps and you might be right. The town is designed for walking and comfortable shoes are a must. There are several terrific walks around the town and just outside of town. An hour’s walk brings one to Villa Jovis, or Jupiter’s Villa, the ancient home of Emperor Tiberius. Heading south from the villa one can take in the Natural Arch, Via Krupp (an incredibly steep, winding road that leads down to the sea) and the offshore rock formations of Isola Faraglioni. We decided to stick to town and wandered around the streets surrounding the square. We were captivated by one tiny shoe shop run by an older gentleman who was not more than five feet tall. We loved what we saw and decided to have some shoes made. Anne-Marie chose a pair of white Capri sandals, and I ordered a pair of hot pink loafers. The proprietor warmed to us and pulled out a photo album of his past clients. Imagine our astonishment when he flipped through pictures of Jackie Onassis and Sophia Loren wearing his shoes!
We knew we had a full day the next day with villa inspection appointments, plus we wanted to see as much as possible of the island, so we struck out early in the morning for Villa Marina
near Marina Piccola. Charmingly appointed, the endless terrace with built-in banquettes offers breathtaking views of the seashore and the coast below. A stroll through the spectacular gardens laden with lemon trees and lush vegetations affords dramatic views of the cliffs of Faraglioni and the sea beyond.
We had a little time before our next appointment so we used this chance to visit Villa San Michele. The villa lies within walking distance of the main piazza and is a tranquil sanctuary in the middle of the bustling town. The gardens are a feast for the senses – rosemary, lavender and the ever pervasive lemon trees surround a pool where ancient trees provide a cool respite.
Our next stop, Villa Mafalda,
was quite near the Blue Grotto
and we only wished that we had the time to explore the magical cave. An underwater entrance to the cave reflects sunlight onto the walls of the grotto, turning the interior into a luminous blue that dances around the cavern. We realized that no visit to Capri is complete without spending at least a few hours out on the sea. Chartering a small boat and exploring the secluded bays and empty beaches along a shoreline inaccessible by car is a must.
Our time on the magical isle of Capri
was too short, though, and we left hoping we would return to seek out these hidden pieces of paradise for ourselves again someday soon.
Interested in more Italian adventures? Travel to the coast of Amalfi and read about the variety of restaurants offered with a water front view: Traveling along the Amalfi Coast