Capri & Anacapri

The Island of Capri is one of the most picturesque and visited locations in Campania.  Its unique beauties have been celebrated since ancient times.  There are two main towns—Capri and Anacapri.  Capri is definitely for the smart set, with its luxury boutiques, glamorous hotels and celebrity restaurants.  The town centre is a maze of narrow little lanes winding between traditional whitewashed buildings.   The town of Capri is situated on a verdant little plateau – like a saddle – high above the sea. The island’s port, Marina Grande, is connected with the town by funicular, bus and taxi or the Phoenician Steps (Scala Fenicia).  Take a stroll out to Punta Tragara, a viewpoint above the Faraglioni rocks, from which the Emperor Tiberius disposed of his enemies! 

Certosa di San Giocomo is a monastery or charterhouse, which dates to the fourteenth century and is the oldest historic building on the Island of Capri. There are two attractive cloisters and exhibitions of art, plus a somewhat ramshackle if shady garden.

Giardini di Augusto are beautifully manicured, picturesque gardens established by the German Industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp in the early 20th Century to build his mansion in.

Grotta di Matermania is a large cave containing ruins dating back to the Roman age, and was used by the Emperor Tiberius as a Nympheum.  The irregularly shaped Grotto was consolidated and rendered more regular with massive masonry structures by the Romans, so as to assume the shape of a rectangular apsed hall; the walls at the two sides originally supported the vaulted ceiling of the Grotto; the end being formed by two high semicircular plinths and by the natural rock wall, out of which flowed a spring of fresh water that was collected in a small hollow.

Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto) is a natural sea cave, 60 meters long and 25 meters wide and accessible only by boat.  The bright blue colour of the water inside the cave is due to the sunlight which enters the cavern through an underwater opening ,which is positioned exactly under the cave’s mouth.  As the light passes through the water, the red reflections are filtered out and only the blue enter the cave itself.  The famous silver reflections of objects in the water are caused by tiny bubbles covering the outside of objects underwater, which causes the light to refract differently than that of the surrounding water and causes this silvery effect.   During the reign of Emperor Tiberius, the grotto was used as a marine temple, the ancient statues of which can now be found on display at the Casa Rossa in Anacapri.

Grotta Verde (Green Grotto) is a popular sea cave, again only accessible by boat from Marina Grande.  It gets its name from the green light that reflects on the rocks inside of the cave, creating a beautiful visual effect .

Via Krupp is a historic switchback paved footpath on the island of Capri, connecting the Certosa di San Giacomo and the Gardini di Augusto with Marina Piccola.  Commissioned by German industrialist, Friedrich Alfred Krupp, the path covers an elevation difference of about 100 m.  Built between 1900 and 1902, ostensibly Via Krupp was a connection for Krupp between his luxury hotel, Grand Hotel Quisisana, and Marina Piccola, where his marine biology research vessel lay at anchor.  In reality the path played a significant part in a scandal, which led to Krupp’s banishment from the island and may well have led to his death.

The Faraglioni Rocks are the three stacks, coastal and oceanic rock formations eroded by waves, that come into view as you approach the island.  The largest and closest to Capri is attached to land by a short isthmus.  Known as Stella, or Faraglioni di terra, the dramatic pinnacle reaches a height of 365 feet / 110 metres and it is from here that the Emperor Tiberius is said to have thrown his enemies.  The middle stone formation, called Faraglioni di Mezzo, is recognized by its natural archway, which is large enough to allow for the passage of a small boat.  The shortest of the three rocks, Faraglioni di Fuori, peaks at 265 feet / 80 metres.  It is also known as Scopolo and is the home to the blue lizard (Podarcis sicula coerulea), which is found nowhere else in the world.

Villa Jovis is one of 12 villas built by the Emperor Tiberius on Capri and is the most extensive remains.  It sits high on the cliffs, a little over a mile long walk from Capri town centre.  This most luxurious and sumptuous of Tiberius’s island villas is just over a mile’s walk from Capri town.  A vast complex, now reduced to ruins, it famously pandered to the emperor’s supposedly debauched tastes, and included imperial quarters and extensive bathing areas set in dense gardens and woodland.   The villa’s spectacular location posed major headaches for Tiberius’ architects.  The main problem was how to collect and store enough water to supply the villa’s baths and 3000-sq-metre gardens.  The solution they eventually hit upon was to build a complex canal system to transport rainwater to four giant storage tanks, whose remains you can still see today.

Scala Fenicia (Phoenician Steps) leads you on foot from the main ferry port of Marina Grande to Anacapri via the Phoenician Steps – all 921 of them—and then on up a well marked track to the summit of Monte Solaro (589 m above sea level).  Until recently, it was believed that the Scala Fenicia had been built by the Phoenicians, hence the name.  Recent research has demonstrated that the stone steps were chiselled out of the rock face by the Ancient Greeks, between the 7th and 6th century B.C.

Anacapri, the island’s second town, is located on the slopes of Mount Solaro and is a concentration of Mediterranean colours, scents, and sounds.  Town life here has remained authentic despite the island’s tourism.  Tucked between the houses there are tiny, humble vegetable gardens surrounded by lush tropical plants.  A walk around the centre of Anacapri will take you past tiny Neapolitan tailor shops, artisan shoemakers, ladies sitting in the shade outside working on their knitting while exchanging gossip and news…all with the scent of the town’s lemon groves that permeates the air.   The landscape is surprisingly wild, with rocky terrain inhabited by goats and gulls, and groves of pine and semitropical, Mediterranean brush.  A zigzag road connects the town with Capri, a journey of a mere 10 minutes.

Monte Solaro is the highest point on the island at 1,932 feet, the summit of which accessible either by chairlift from the Piazza della Vittoria or by walking the well marked track, which may take up to 1.5 hours.  Locals often refer to Monte Solaro as the “Acchiappanuvole” or “cloud catcher” after the thick blanket of fog which forms around the summit, especially at dawn, when the thermal difference between the sea and the rock is accentuated. The warmer, damper sea air condenses in a dense mist on the ground, the temperature of which has notably diminished during the night. Where its path is obstructed, the vapors rise upwards generating a characteristic crown of clouds. This phenomenon also occurs in the evening, especially in the autumn. The wind clears away parts of cloud, randomly revealing various segments of the beautiful island landscape below.