While Europe in general is rich with tradition, culture, history and natural beauty, Italy ranks up there in the top by any comparison. From stunning views, seashores, history, art, cuisine and culture, there is always something spiritual to be experienced in Italy.
Simply stated, Capri is magical, historic, stunning, romantic, and an endless list of other like adjectives. We only spent a day here although there are many hotels on the island and Capri is definitely on the list of places to return to in order to spend more time exploring.
Capri is a very enjoyable day trip and depending upon the level of physical activity desired, one can see quite a bit of the island. The actual roads accessible by vehicle are very limited although much of the island is accessible by foot which provides an up close and personal view of the island’s many experiences.
Capri can be reached easily from Naples or Sorrento via high speed ferry. The ferries run on a set schedule so be sure to note the last ferry leaving the island to your port of departure. Tickets are round trip and cost ~ 28 € and can be used all day on the day of purchase regardless of the departure time noted on the ticket. While crowded, the ferries are comfortable and you can sit outside or in the air conditioned inside. They even offer a snack bar where light refreshments may be purchased.
All the ferries arrive at Capri in the main port; Marina Grande. This area itself is quite historic as for centuries, it has served as a port area for Capri, even welcoming the Roman emperors who came to enjoy the villas or the baths. The Marina Grande area has many shops and cafes and here you can rent boats to explore Capri by sea or even spend most of the day here shopping or renting beach chairs and umbrella at the nearby beaches. Before venturing on, stop at one of the shops and purchase a map of the island which will make exploring much easier.
From Marina Grande head up to the Centro, AKA La Piazzetta. You can follow the signs to Centro on foot or take the cable car. The walk is all up hill and while moderate, some may prefer the easier route via the cable car.
La Piazzetta is a cozy center of town framed by Santo Stefano, city hall, and a clock tower. There is a fountain in the plaza with cool refreshing water as well as many cafes to stop and enjoy a refreshing drink and a bit of shade before venturing forth. Several walks in different directions are all possible from La Piazzetta.
After a refreshing drink of mineral water and espresso, we headed first to the Gardens of Augustus. The way the the gardens is well marked by street signs on the corners of the buildings. The walk is easy and takes you past many of the boutique hotels on Capri as well as past some nice shops. (Probably cheaper to go shopping for the same stuff in Naples but still nice to browse and window shop.)
The Gardens of Augustus do not actually date to the emperor Augustus. Rather, they were designed in the twentieth century. The gardens themselves are quite compact although beautiful and the prime attraction are the stunning and spectacular views. From the observation point, you can see the entire southern coast of the island as well as the far reaching views of the Caprese sea. One particular view offering photographic opportunities of of the Faraglioni. (See below)
From the gardens, it is possible venture down to the sea and Marina Picolla on the Via Krupp. This is a very, very steep path although well paved and only accessible by foot so be sure to understand that if you go down, you will have to walk back up!
After visiting the gardens, head back to La Piazzetta to pick up the road to Villa Jovis. Two trips are possible from this point to see both the imperial villa of the emporer Tiberius, as well as the natural arch. Follow the signs for Arco Natural from La Piazzetta through the medieval area of the city. Eventually you come to a fork in the road.
Bearing right on Via Matermania takes you out to the Natural Arch. Heading left on Via Tiberio takes you to Villa Jovis and the ruins of the imperial villa of Tiberius. This is a very relaxing and enjoyable walk past some very nice villas with gardens basking in the Caprese sun. I found the walk to Villa Jovis quite spiritual and stimulating as I could not escape a sense of the past knowing I was walking along the same road as the Romans centuries ago. The entire way, I could not escape the feeling that I was “going to see the emperor.”
Villa Jovis sits at arguably, the most spectacular vantage point on the island. It was excavated from the rock at the top of Mount Tiberius and overlooks the entire island looking west as well as the strip of sea separating Capri from the Sorrentine peninsula. Built on top of the ruins is the church of Santa Maria del Soccorso and this location offers the highest vantage point for views in all directions.
Take time to explore the various parts of the ruins which range from the servants area, guest areas, to the imperial apartment. This place is alive with history and the more one explores and walks around the ruins, stopping and taking time to reflect, the more history comes alive in the imagination and you can get a genuine feel for what life was like here two thousand years ago.
The most spectacular view is of the Tiberian Leap, a massive, sheer, rocky slope dropping over 300 yards into the sea. This is where legend has it that Tiberius would throw his enemies over the cliff into the sea below, thus the name. Today, the site offers spectacular views although I could feel a strong sense of troubled spirits here.
Heading back along Via Tiberio to the intersection with Via Matermania, you will find a nice little cafe at the fork in the road called Cafe Toraldo. This is a nice, shady spot to sit and have lunch and a refreshing drink. They have excellent sandwiches and pizza and the owner is very attentive. It seems that the locals also come here to eat and socialize so this is a great place to get a local flavor of Capri outside the main tourist areas.
If time permits, head out to see the Natural Arch. It will take you a coupe of hours out and back including the time to view the arch.
Heading back into La Piazzetta, and onward down the hill to Marina Grande, we were able to catch the next to last ferry back to Sorrento. This was a very full but enjoyable day trip and we even had time to head back to our hotel for a shower before heading back into old Sorrento for dinner and the evening after our day under the Caprese sun.