Capri and the Blue Grotto Attractions
Boat servicesRegular service several times daily from Naples (taking car not worth while; use prohibited in summer); also hydrofoil service. Also services from Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ischia.SituationThe island of Capri, one of the most beautiful and most visited of the islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, is in fact an extension of the peninsula of Sorrento, and lies at the southern end of the Gulf of Naples.In Roman times, when it was known as Caprae, it was a favorite resort of the emperors Augustus and Tiberius.The island, about 6km/4mi long and between 1 and 2.5km/0.5 and 1.5mi wide, has rugged limestone crags rising to a height of 589m/1,944ft above the sea. The only places of any size are the picturesque little towns of Capri and Anacapri.The island has a rich flora, including the acanthus, whose leaves form the characteristic ornament of Corinthian capitals.
Marina Grande, Capri, Italy
The regular boats land their passengers in the picturesque port of Marina Grande, on the north coast of the island. From here a funicular (5 minutes), a stepped footpath (30 minutes) and a road (3km/2mi) leads up to the town of Capri (124m/409ft; pop. 8,000), the island's capital, situated on a saddle between the hills of Il Capo to the east, Monte Solaro to the west, San Michele to the northeast and Castiglione to the southwest.
Certosa di San Giacomo
The central feature of the town of Capri is the little Piazza Umberto I ("the Piazza" for short), at the top of the funicular from Marina Grande. From here it is a short walk past the steps leading up to the church of Santo Stefano (1683) and along the main shopping street to the Certosa di San Giacomo (founded 1371, restored 1933), a former Carthusian house, which houses the Museo Diefenbach, with late Romanesque pictures by Diefenbach (1851-1915). The adjoining church of San Giacomo has a Gothic doorway, 17th century frescoes and two cloisters (access to the Belvedere).
From the Hotel Quisisana it is a 15 minutes' walk to the terrace on Punta Tragara, the southeast promontory of the island, which commands a picturesque view of the south coast and the three stacks known as the Faraglioni.
From Capri a very attractive footpath, the "Via Tiberio" (45 mins), runs northeast to the promontory of Il Capo. Immediately beyond a gateway is the rock known as the Salto di Tiberio (297m/980ft) from which legend has it that the tyrannical Emperor Tiberius had his victims thrown into the sea (view). To the right are the substructures of an ancient lighthouse.
Villa di Tiberio
In the extreme northeast of the island of Capri are the remains of the Villa de Tiberio or Villa Iovis, rising in terraces to the top of the hill, in which Tiberius is said to have lived from A.D. 27 until his death in 37.
Santa Maria del Soccorso
On the promontory adjoining the Villa di Tiberio is the chapel of Santa Maria del Soccorso, with a conspicuous figure of the Virgin; magnificent views from the top.
From the Villa di Tiberio a footpath to the right leads in 15 minutes to the Arco Naturale, a natural archway in the rock (view), from which steps run down to the Grotta di Matromania, perhaps a sanctuary of the nymphs. From the cave a foothpath (45 minutes) runs along above the sea, with views of the Monacone, a rocky islet, and the Faraglioni, and so back to Punta Tragara.
Southwest of Capri is the little harbor of Marina Piccola, reached by a wide footpath, the Via Krupp. The path begins west of the Certosa and runs below the beautiful Parco Augusto (terrace with fine views) and round the steep-sided Castiglione to join (15 minutes) the road from Capri, on which it is another 10 minutes' walk to the harbor of Marina Piccola on the south coast of the island.
Trip to Anacapri
Anacapri, in the west of the island of Capri, is reached either by a beautiful road (3.5km/2mi; bus service) which winds its way up the rocky slope from the town of Capri or from Marina Grande on an ancient flight of over 500 steps, the so-called Scala Fenicia (not all usable) to the viewpoint of Capodimonte, 10minutes' walk east of the town. Above the viewpoint is the Castello di Barbarossa, the ruins of a castle destroyed by the pirate Khaireddin Barbarossa in 1535.
Villa San Michele
On the slopes of Capodimonte is the conspicuous Villa San Michele, home of the Swedish doctor and author Axel Munthe (1857-1949).
Belvedere di Migliara
Half an hour's walk southwest of Anacapri is the viewpoint of Belvedere di Migliara, about 300m/990ft above the sea.
From Anacapri a chair-lift (12 minutes) and a footpath (1 hour) lead up to the top of Monte Solaro (598m/1,973ft; restaurant), to the southeast, the highest point on the island, from which on clear days there are magnificent views extending as far as the Abruzzi.
About 3km/2mi northwest of Anacapri is one of Capri's great tourist attractions, the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra), which can be reached either by boat from Marina Grande or by the Via Pagliaro (3km/2mi) from Anacapri. This, the most famous of Capri's caves, was carved out of the rock in prehistoric times by the constant battering of the sea, and as a result of the sinking of the land is now half-filled with water. The entrance, only about 1m/39in. high, can be negotiated only by small boats when the sea is calm. The cave is 54m/178ft long, 30m/99ft wide and 15m/50ft high, with 14 to 22m/46 to 66ft depth of water. When the sun is shining it is filled with an extraordinary blue light (at its best from 11am to 1pm).
Boat Trip Round the Island
A very attractive excursion is a boat trip round the island of Capri (1.5-2 hours by motorboat, 3-4 hours by rowing-boat), which allows visitors to see the other caves around the coasts of Capri. The finest are the Grotta Bianca and the Grotta Meravigliosa above it (on the east coast near the Arco Naturale), the Grotta Verde at the foot of Monte Solara and the Grotta Rossa. A boat trip to the Faraglioni is also worthwhile.