A legendary idyll: Capri's beguiling combination of fabled beauty and hedonism has charmed Roman emperors, Russian revolutionaries and showbiz stars for decades. It’s the perfect microcosm of Mediterranean appeal – a smooth cocktail of chichi piazzas and cool cafes, Roman ruins and rugged seascapes.
Already inhabited in the Palaeolithic period, Capri was briefly occupied by the Greeks before the Emperor Augustus made it his private playground and Tiberius retired here in AD 27. Its modern incarnation as a tourist centre dates from the early 20th century.
It’s also a hugely popular day-trip destination and a summer favourite of holidaying VIPs. Inevitably, the two main centres, Capri Town and its uphill rival Anacapri, are almost entirely given over to tourism with the high prices that predictably follow. But explore beyond the effortlessly cool cafes and designer boutiques, and you’ll find that Capri retains an unspoiled charm, with grand villas, overgrown vegetable plots, sun-bleached peeling stucco and banks of brilliantly coloured bougainvillea. All of this overlooks the deep blue water that laps unseen into secluded coves and mysterious grottoes.
Travel to Capri is a highlight of a Naples or Amalfi Coast vacation. Capri is an enchanting and picturesque island made of limestone rock. A favorite with Roman emperors, the rich and famous, artists, and writers, it's still one of the Mediterranean's must-see places. The island's top attraction is the famous Blue Grotto, Grotta Azzurra. Tourists arrive by boat at Marina Grande, the island's main harbor. Beaches are scattered around the island. There are only two towns - Capri, just above Marina Grande, and Anacapri, the higher town. Lemon trees, flowers, and birds are abundant.
What to See in Capri:
Faraglioni, rock formations, are one of the island's natural wonders. The faraglioni make up the classic view one associates with Capri. On the shore, the Faraglioni beach is one of the island's most beautiful beaches. There are several other unusual rock formations in the sea around the island, including a natural arch. (Faraglioni picture)
Anacapri, the highest town on the island, has splendid views of the harbor below. Near the central square there's a chair lift to Mount Solaro and a street lined with shops, several of which offer limoncello tasting. Olive trees, grapevines, and flowers give it a Mediterranean charm.
Villa San Michele, in Anacapri, was built by the Swedish writer Axel Munthe in the late 19th century on the site of a Tiberian villa. Bits of the Roman villa are incorporated into the atrium and garden. Inside are traditional local and Swedish furnishings and hundreds of art pieces from antiquity to the 20th century. Not to be missed are the garden with breathtaking views of the cliffs, harbor, and sea. Read more about visiting Villa San Michele and see pictures of the atrium and views.
Capri is the main town of the island. Piazza Umberto I, often called La Piazzetta, is the central square that houses cafes and the cathedral of Santo Stefano. The piazza is filled with people both day and night. There's an archaeological museum in the town.
Certosa of San Giacomo is a 14th century monastery near the town of Capri. It houses a museum and library and holds concerts. Nearby are the beautiful Giardini Augusto, gardens of Augustus. There's an overlook with great sea views. (picture of view of Via Krupp winding down to the sea)
Marina Piccola, the south harbor, has restaurants and a rocky beach with swimming. I had an excellent lunch on the terrace of Ciro' Restaurant with beautiful views of the sea and the Faraglioni rock formations. There are bathing establishments that rent sun beds or deck chairs for the day. The marina can be reached by bus or taxi.
Roman villa remains from the 12 elaborate villas built by Emperor Tiberius include Villa Jovis, in a spectacular position on Mount Tiberio, the most elaborate and interesting and the Sea Palace and Baths of Tiberius near Marina Grande.
The Phoenician Steps, 800 ancient steps connecting Anacapri to the sea, offer splendid
Capri has a reputation for being a party island, and it's mostly well deserved. There are plenty of hotels, bars and restaurants that stay open late and, if you've got the energy (and the money), exclusive nightclubs that will take you through until dawn.
The most obvious place to have a drink and people watch is the Piazzetta. There are four café bars on the Piazzetta and there isn't much between them in terms of prices and what they offer, so I'd choose the one that you like the look of and grab a seat. The bars are all open until about 2am so, as long as the money doesn't run out, you could spend your entire evening watching what Norman Douglas described as "the world's little theatre".
The Piccolo bar is the oldest of the four and benefits from an upstairs bar (handy if you'd rather "see" than "be seen"). Tiberio (closed November) is popular with young Neapolitans, the Gran Caffè is usually popular with tourists and Bar Caso serves great granite (drinks over crushed ice).
On Marina Grande the Gran Caffè Augusto (Via Cristoforo Colombo 20; 081 837 0559) is the place to come for the wildest creations involving homemade ice cream; they're enormous.
There are those who wouldn't be seen dead on the Piazzetta ("far too touristy darling"), they might be found hanging out at a few of the more chi-chi hotel bars such as Quisi, the terrace bar of Grand Hotel Quisisiana (Via Camerelle 2; 081 837 0788, www.quisisana.com).
Tucked down a street off the Piazzetta, the best known of the clubs is Anema e Core (Via Sella Orta 39/e; 081 837 6461; www.anemaecore.com). The name means 'soul and heart ' and was the brainchild of Guido Lembo. While it's not so much a place for dancing or eating (no food is served), patrons seem happy enough sitting at tables and having a drink while enjoying the bands (though rumour has it that there is occasionally a bit of dancing on the tables when the crowd gets over-excited). It's open until 3am and reservations are advisable.
The newest kid on the block is Panta Rei (Via Lo Palazzo 1; 081 837 8898; www.pantareicapri.it). The rather high-brow name comes from Heraclitus's philosophy 'everything flows', and it certainly does, as the complex seems to expand year by year. On my last visit, Panta Rei contained a restaurant, bar and spa area with pool. The idea was by realised by owner/architect Massimo Esposito (who also designed Villa Marina, the newest 5-star hotel on the island). The place opens for business at around 7pm – when funsters arrive for aperitifs and to listen to lounge music, or head to Panta Gusto for dinner – and doesn't close until 2 or 3am.
When it comes to love and desire, the Italian woman gets the gold medal. And the farther south you go, the more passionate she is (I'm referring to the country, not the body-Stay focused!) The Italian woman is comfortable with her body and therefore exudes a sense of freedom which translates to confidence both in and out of the bedroom. This is not to say that she is promiscuous; she just doesn't second-guess herself! If she feels the chemistry and she's genuinely interested, you're in! (Sorry for the pun.) It goes without saying that "no" means "no" in either language so if you've put your best foot forward and she's still not impressed, walk away my friend.
When it comes to impressing an Italian woman, nothing works better than speaking her language. You don't have to be fluent or have good pronunciation, but knowing a few words, especially in the context of dating, will go a long way. Believe me, I've seen some of my Italian friends accept dates from American men who didn't have much going on except for the fact that they said all the right things...in Italian! So make the effort, and if she's not impressed, you'll still be ahead of the game