11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Capri
No wonder the emperors Augustus and Tiberius decamped to the idyllic island of Capri to escape the bustle of ancient Rome. Today, it still attracts vacationers from southern Italian cities, along with boatloads of tourists every day. Its rugged 61-meter crags jut precipitously out of the deep blue Tyrrhenian Sea within sight of Sorrento, only 20 kilometers away. The island is an extension of the steep, mountainous Amalfi peninsula where Sorrento lies. Frequent ferries and hydrofoils for Capri leave from Sorrento (the closest) and from Naples, 43 kilometers away.
The island, only about six kilometers long and a little more than two kilometers wide, has two towns, Capri and high above it, Anacapri. Apart from the glamorous international people-watching scene (the island is a favorite for celebrities and the paparazzi that follow them), the island's chief pleasures are its scenery, natural wonders, and its lush greenery (look for acanthus leaves, the inspiration for Corinthian capitals on columns), all best appreciated from its many walking paths or by boat.
See also: Where to Stay in Capri
1 Marina Grande
Almost everyone arrives at the port of Marina Grande, on the north coast of the island. Apart from the docks and the island's biggest beach (which is free), there's little more here than a huddle of colorful fishermen's houses. If you plan to make any boat trips, this is the place to stop and reserve them at the ticket offices for all the operators. Otherwise, head left to the funicular for the 15-minute ride up the island's main town of Capri.
2 Certosa di San Giacomo
Apart from its chic shops and the tourists hoping to spot celebrities in the cafés
facing the little Piazza Umberto I (known simply as "the Piazza"), the town of Capri serves mostly as a jumping-off place for the rest of the island's attractions. The main sight in its center is Certosa di San Giacomo, founded in 1371, sacked and burned in 1553, and abandoned after 1807. But at its height, this Carthusian monastery dominated the island. The church has a Gothic doorway, 17th-century frescoes, and two cloisters. The convent holds the Museo Diefenbach, a collection of works by German art nouveau and symbolist painter Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, who lived on Capri from 1900 to 1915.
Address: Via Certosa di San Giacomo, Capri
3 Giardini di Augusto (Gardens of Augustus)
Close to San Giacomo, the beautifully maintained botanic gardens cover a leafy terrace, where flowers and pergolas frame views of the Faraglioni sea stacks standing in the blue-green water below. Look the other way to see the Bay of Marina Piccola and Via Krupp, a walking path leading down in a series of ribbon-candy loops to Marina Piccola, about 91 meters below. You can follow Via Krupp (built by the German arms manufacturer who vacationed on Capri) and return by bus.
Address: Via Krupp, Capri
4 Villa di Tiberio (Villa Jovis)
In the extreme northeast of Capri are the surprisingly intact remains of the Villa de Tiberio or Villa Jovis, one of the grandest of the villas of Emperor Tiberius. The ruins rise in terraces to the top of the hill, giving an idea of the size of the villa in which Tiberius is thought to have lived from AD 27 until his death in AD 37. Because of the steep terrain, the villa is split into several levels, in all covering more than 18,000 square meters. Despite all the luxury, he seems to still have been grumpy, as at the end of the road is Salto di Tiberio, a 274-meter cliff from which he is reputed to have tossed servants and guests who displeased him. Reach the villa via Via Botteghe, Via Fuorlovado, Via Croce to Via Tiberio, a 45-minute uphill walk from the Piazza.
Address: Via Tiberio, Capri
5 Punta Tragara
At the southeast tip of Capri, a terrace on the promontory of Punta Tragara overlooks the south coast and the three sea stacks known as the Faraglioni. The view sweeps from the mainland Amalfi peninsula to Monte Castiglione, with its castle, and down to the bay of Marina Piccola. From the right side of the terrace, a path leads to the Pizzolungo, one of the island's most beautiful walks, to the 15-meter-high Natural Arch.
6 Marina Piccola
If you imagine this spot before the sun-worshipers and cafés, it's easy to believe that it was the place where the Sirens lured Ulysses. The little harbor on the south coast gets the most sun and is protected from the winds by steep cliffs, so it's often warm enough for sunbathing even in the winter. Take the bus from Capri town or walk down Via Krupp, continuing down the steps from the little church of Sant'Andrea to find the free beaches of Marina di Pennauro and Marina di Mulo.
So far from the glitz and celeb-watching of the Piazza in Capri, Anacapri floats in a dream world atop its plateau. The flight of more than 500 stone steps, built in Phoenician times, has been supplanted by a three-kilometer road, which buses connect to the lower town. The 18th-century church of San Michele in Anacapri is built on an octagonal Greek cross floor plan, and its floor of majolica tiles depicts the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The town's principal church, Santa Sofia, dates from 1510, but the sacristy and oratory include the remains of an older church of San Carlo. It's hard to miss the red crenelated Casa Rossa, built by an American Civil War veteran; a museum inside displays Roman statues found in the Blue Grotto.
8 Villa San Michele
Few homes have such a perfect setting, but Villa San Michele's magic lies not only in its beauty, but in its personality. It was the home of the Swedish doctor Axel Munthe, who immortalized its concept, construction, and his life there in The Story of San Michele. The house and gardens surrounding it are filled with his personal collections, ranging from priceless archaeological artifacts -- Roman, Egyptian, and Etruscan antiquities - to 20th-century art. The views from its gardens, framed by vine-draped pergolas and marble statues, are breathtaking.
Address: 34 Via Capodimonte, Anacapri
9 Monte Solaro
From Piazza Vittoria in Anacapri, a chair-lift (12 minutes) and a footpath (1 hour) lead up to the summit of 588-meter Monte Solaro. From this highest point you can see not only the whole island, the Bay of Naples, and Amalfi peninsula, but as far as the mountains of Calabria. Not far below the summit is the 16th-century monastery of Cetrella, rarely open.
10 Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto)
The grotto is a massive flooded cave with an opening into the sea. Reflected sunlight makes the cave appear to be lit from inside with an eerie bright blue glow. Small boats cluster near the entrance to take tourists into the cave through an opening that is barely a meter high - you may have to lie on the floor of the boat to get through, and when the sea is rough, it is impossible to enter. Romans thought it the home of sea nymphs, but since the 19th century, it has been Capri's major tourist attraction. To access the Blue Grotto, take a boat from Marina Grande or a bus from Anacapri or by the Via Pagliaro (three kilometers) from Anacapri.
11 Boat Trips
For those who don't have the time to walk its many coastal trails, the best way to see the more remote parts of Capri is on a boat excursion around the island. It takes about two hours by motorboat, three to four hours by row-boat. Shorter trips around and among the Faraglioni sea stacks take about an hour.
Address: Dock 0, Marina Grande, Capri
Getting Around on Capri
As much of Capri's best scenery is from belvederes and walking paths, the best way to get around the island is on foot and by the buses that run frequently between Capri and Anacapri. A 15-minute funicular ride takes you from Marina Grande up to the town of Capri. (Walk left from the docks to reach the funicular station and a taxi stand.) The bus station in Capri is in Piazza Martiri d'Ungheria (on Via Roma); Anacapri's is in Piazza della Pace.
Where to Stay in Capri for Sightseeing
We recommend these delightful hotels on the beautiful island of Capri, close to the top attractions:
- Hotel Excelsior Parco: luxury Art Nouveau villa, boutique hotel, gorgeous sea views, elegant decor, scenic roof terrace, beach club.
- Capri Wine Hotel: mid-range boutique hotel, welcoming owners, sea-view garden, lemon groves, complimentary breakfast.
- Villa Helios: three-star hotel, friendly staff, beautiful views, comfortable bed, garden terrace.
- Casa Mariantonia: budget-friendly Anacapri hotel, family-run, large bathrooms, lovely pool.