Ever since I was little, well young, I’d wanted to go to Capri. I’m not even sure why. I lived at the bottom of the world and don’t remember seeing it in a film or anything but I must have done, or seen pictures or read a book about it or something. Capri was always one of the places I felt I had to visit one day as it seemed a fabulous romantic spot full of glamour and style, hell, Capri even has a pair of iconic pants named after it. (Less impressively it also has the third best car in the Ford stable named after it but this isn’t a motoring story.)
Once in England many years later I was able to realise the dream of a trip to Capri. I was actually quite nervous that it would be a disappointment, that old adage about never meeting your heroes seemed to spring to mind. Regardless I had to go, so Jen and I planned and booked a week on the Isle of Capri. It was pretty amazing and I’ve finally got around to writing about it, so here goes. This is the how, why and what of Capri. Stick it on your bucket list as its worth it.
The most common way of getting to Capri for the masses who can’t afford a private Yacht (which would be the best way to get there) is by ferry from Naples. Most people with even the scantest knowledge of Europe in general and Italy in particular will know that Naples is a bit of a toilet, rough and squalid, well past its glory days. Well if Naples is a toilet then the port is the sewage outlet. (I would heavily suggest you actually get to Capri via Sorrento if you have the choice.)
You will probably have arrived by plane at Naples, so you then get a taxi to the Molo Beverrello (the ferry port). The taxi ride will most likely be hair-raising as the Italian taxi drivers are apparently all Grand Prix drivers in waiting. They are men who will want to demonstrate their enhanced testosterone to you by driving at suicidal speeds through heavy traffic while shouting, gesticulating and writing notes to themselves on the steering wheel. Just relax, there are hardly any fatal accidents on the Italian roads involving folk on their way to the Capri ferry.
When you get to the Beverello you will have noticed the taxi meter said 25 Euros which will make the taxi driver asking for 40 euros all the more surprising as is the immediate loss of his (previously demonstrated) ability to speak English when you question him. What you do now is wave, point, shout, gesticulate wildly, offer him 30, which he will accept and enjoy the ‘Italian’ exchange. Then walk off dragging your bags to the Ferry piers.
Catch the Hydrofoil rather than the slow ferry and good luck navigating the information systems and various ticket vendors to get the right ticket to the right ferry and finding the right pier. I can’t help you with this as it defies description. Instead I will suggest the following. Don’t talk to anyone ‘malingering’ about the place, there are many of them, and don’t accept offers of help from anyone. It will be chaos at the terminal, no real organisation to anything and frankly its all a bit daunting so just pause, keep calm, gather your thoughts and take your time. Keep your wits about you and your bags close by, you’ll be fine. Once on the right Hydrofoil it’s all much calmer.
After about 40-50 minutes or so you’ll pull into the Capri marina, my first thoughts were that it was bigger and steeper than I had imagined. On the port side there are bag boys who will take your bags for a fee to your hotel, we took our own and took the funicular. A funicular for the uninitiated is a sort of cable car. It runs up the very steep hill from the little port to Capri town. A small point, but important, if you do take the funicular, you need tickets first! The ticket office is near the ferry ticket office, across the way from the funicular, behind you, behind the large queue who probably also don’t have tickets. Don’t queue for a while only to find you don’t have a ticket when you get to the entrance and have to go back and start again.
In true Italian style there are no signs warning of this!
To get your funicular ticket, when you get off the ferry follow the crowds along the pier and at the end of it on the promenade on your right is the funicular ticket office.
There are also Taxi’s but we felt there was little point in using one as they cost more and won’t get you any closer to a hotel as the centre of Capri town is pedestrianized. So you get a car ride up the hill instead of the funicular experience but they have to unload you still some distance from your hotel.
We went in April and I reckon in the height of summer Capri would be very hot and busy also there would be even more thousands of day trippers. Your first impression will be one of overwhelming humanity and why did you bother coming here. You’ll feel the world and his wife has had the same idea as you, this is a tourist trap surely? You will be disappointed probably, but wait, there’s more, all those people? They are day trippers and they don’t venture far from Capri town.
I am also pretty sure that every school child in Italy has to do a field trip to Capri. You know how they have those collective terms for groups of things? Like a flock of sheep, a herd of cattle, a murmuration of Starlings and a parliament of Owls? Well a group of italian school children should be termed, a cacophony because the noise of the chatter is constant and loud, like a living thing above them as they move about
So having taken in all this chaos you still need to get to your hotel! It’s probably going to be a few minutes walk down some cobbled streets from wherever you are currently standing so get your map out. Capri town is very small.
You should find your hotel easily and it will also most likely be very pleasant, there is little in Capri that looks anything other than fabulous and stylish. When you book a hotel try to get a room with a view of the sea, it’s a lovely sea to look at.
Unpack, unwind, have a drink in the hotel bar and wait then venture back out in time for early evening drinks. The transformation from chaos to calm will amaze you, the trippers have gone and you now have the Capri you came to see. Dress up to go out, if you don’t you’ll wish you had.
The focal point of Capri town is a little Piazza surrounded by bars and restaurants. The bars on the piazza are great for people watching but will be busy and I’m afraid are expensive, think 16-20 euros for a beer and a glass of wine as an average. We did find though a good but plain little bar directly above the funicular terminal which has great views across the bay and not quite as expensive as the bars on the piazza.
Eating out will set you back an average of 150 Euros or more for a 2-3 course meal for two with wine depending on where you go and what you drink. We liked Da Giorgio, near the little bus station, it doesn’t look much but the food is good and reasonable (for Capri) prices.
There are a small handful of lanes and little alley type streets dotted with restaurants, the choice is pretty vast, no shortage of places to have a fabulous meal. We liked the Aurora as it is great for people watching. It gets busy though so you will have to book, get a table outside wherever you can. The Aurora is on the lane on the way to the JW Marriott hotel, this lane is a great place to wander up and down with shops and bars. The JW Marriott is worth a look just for visual effect alone. When you see it you’ll see what I mean
‘Capris’ restaurant down the hill a bit from the bus station again has a wide eclectic menu, great views out to sea and the prices aren’t too bad. for a special treat check out Edode near the end of Via Cammarelle. The food is haute cuisine and the wine list is awesome, its pricey but pretty special, do have a look before you commit though as it might not be to your taste. You may want to perch on the terrace of the bar of the Quisisana Hotel, pretend you are a millionaire, (which would also be helpful to afford the drinks) and watch the people go by.
The Quisiana is in the middle of the serious shopping and showing off bit of Capri where the shops are top end Italian Designer stuff, all of them. Think London’s New Bond Street sort of style. It is easily one of the smartest shopping promenades anywhere in the world. Lot’s of shops full of beautiful expensive things, the things for sale in the shops are also very beautiful.
If you don’t wish to bankrupt yourself shopping like an Oligarch there are other things to do though, you should take an open top taxi to Anacapri for instance. Anacapri is like the poor cousin to Capri town. Do the chairlift up to the top of the island and have a poke around in the old Roman stuff that is up here.
Definitely take a boat trip around the island but not from the main operator in the middle of the Capri marina, or you will be queuing all day with the day trippers. Take a walk further down to the boat charter place along to the right as your back is to the funicular and hire a boat of your own. It will be about 200 Euros or so but it’s worth it to avoid the crowds. Basically you get a good look at the whole island from the sea and have a look inside some amazing Grotto’s
We also took a trip to Sorrento and caught a bus to Positano, when we were there you couldn’t take a boat to Positano. Either way, go there and have lunch at Chez Black, right down on the beach. From there you can hire a speedboat and driver to take you back to Capri for about 200 Euros, this seems to be the price of personal boat travel around here. You’ll feel very special speeding across the Med back to your holiday Island.
The guide books will tell you to take the coastal path from Villa Tragara, do it but get a map and go the other way as the climb up to Grotto Matermania and the Arco Naturale is murderous. Unless you are fit as a triathlete you will actually die. So what you do, as you now have the inside information, is go to the Arco Naturale via the top of Capri town and walk back round the coast path to Villa Tregara. The walk is beautiful and the views amazing.You will have photo’s taken of yourself at this spot and they will be your favourite ones, unless like me you are extremely unphotogenic.
One absolute must do is get a bus down to Marina Piccola, it’s beautiful down there and there are a couple of great seafood restaurants right on the water, perfect for lunch. A long lunch, like all day, dissolving into an evening looking out across the Mediterranean sea. This will be one of your great ‘life snapshots’ which is what I call those images that imprint themselves on your psyche.
Much is made in all the books about the Blue Grotto, well we didn’t go to the Blue Grotto which surprises a lot of people, but it was heaving and we just didn’t fancy the queues. There’s plenty of blue water to look at all around the island and on your boat trip you will see lots of little grottos, your call, apparently its great but we just didn’t fancy it. The boats that take you in will ask you for another pile of money on top of the boat that takes you to the grotto entrance, you don’t find this out until you are in the boat and it’s a bit late then if you don’t want to pay more. So we demurred.
All in all Capri was an amazing experience. As I said, it comes into its own in the evening when the crowds have dispersed. When you are there take your time, don’t get worked up by the crowds during the day and if you find a good spot in a bar, keep it, don’t feel any pressure to keep moving. Let the day trippers do the rushing.
I loved it and I’m happy to say that despite my very high expectations I was delighted. It was exactly what I hoped it would be. Chuck it on your bucket list. Do before you die sort of thing.
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