Hannah Drake

Capri Travel Guide

TravelHannah DrakeComment

When we first started planning, we thought about spending an evening on Capri, but I am so glad we didn’t. It would have been exhausting to lug our bags to the island and then to the hotel (or you can pay someone to drive them up from the hotel for something like €20). The ferry takes you to the marina, obviously, but the island is quite hilly, so it’s a hike to get just about anywhere. Also, Capri was one of the most expensive places we visited, including on the Amalfi Coast and it receives up to 15,000 tourists a day in the height of summer. (The island is at risk of sinking because of the volume of people who visit every year, which has caused the mayor to ask people to spend at least one night there if they visit to take pressure off Capri Town, just off Marina Grande where you disembark.)

We took the ferry from Naples to Marina Grande, which was about €80 total for both of us round trip. Even though we booked it online in advance, we still had to go to the ticket office to turn our email confirmation into actual tickets. The inside of the ferry looked almost like an airplane with rows of seats. It was unlike any ferry I’ve ever been on!

EXPLORE THE BLUE GROTTO

Okay, I have some thoughts on this. Seeing the Blue Grotto was awesome. The water was electric blue. It felt magical! But I wouldn’t recommend doing it the way we did it.

The Blue Grotto, or Grotta Azzurra, is a cave 60 metres long and 25 metres wide. The cave mouth is two metres wide and roughly one metre high, so entrance into the grotto can only be achieved when tides are low and the sea is calm. During Roman times, the grotto was used as the personal swimming hole of Emperor Tiberius as well as a marine temple. During Tiberius' reign, he moved the Roman capital to the island of Capri (in 27AD) and decorated the grotto with several statues as well as resting areas around the edge of the cave. Three statues of the Roman sea gods Neptune and Triton were recovered from the floor of the grotto in 1964 and are now on display at a museum in Anacapri. Seven bases of statues were also recovered from the grotto floor in 2009. This suggests that there are at least four more statues lying on the cave's bottom. The cave was described by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder (more on him tomorrow) as being populated with Triton "playing on a shell". The now missing arms on the recovered Triton statue – usually depicted with a conch shell, suggest that the statues recovered in 1964 are the same statues Pliny the Elder saw in the 1st century AD. At the back of the main cave of the Blue Grotto, three connecting passageways lead to the Sala dei Nomi, or "Room of Names", named for the graffiti signatures left by visitors over the centuries. Two more passages lead deeper into the cliffs on the side of island. It was thought that these passages were ancient stairways that led to Emperor Tiberius' palace. However, the passages are natural passages that narrow and then end further along.

The grotto is accessible by boat or you can walk down to the entrance from the top of the cliff. (Just remember you have to hike back up the stairs.) We opted for a boat from Marina Grande. We bought tickets as soon as we got off the ferry and killed time until our boat by getting a drink and our first gelato of the trip. The boat ride was short, as it’s just along the coast from the marina, but the day was beautiful. Once we were at the entrance, we came to a bit of a boat traffic jam. There were dozens of boats floating around the entrance waiting to go into the cave. Some were private boats, some were tourist boats like ours, some were even bigger. We waited about an hour to go in. (Rumour has it there are shorter wait times in the morning before the private boats and day visitors come in.)

Men with rowboats would approach the bigger boats and up to four people could get into each rowboat. (You make the switch between boats over the water, just so you know.) You then pay the cash-only entrance fee and the boat tax, totalling €14 per person, and lie down in the boat to go through the narrow entrance. Afterwards, the men take you to your boat and expect a tip. (They recommend €10 per person, but c’mon.)

You’re inside the cave for probably five minutes, along with a handful of other boats, but it’s truly breathtaking. I am really glad we saw it, but there was probably a smarter way to do it…

TAKE A BOAT TOUR AROUND THE ISLAND

Like I mentioned, we did a short boat trip, costing €15 per person just to the Blue Grotto, meaning we paid €56 plus I think €2 in a tip for both of us to see the grotto for five minutes after waiting on the ocean for an hour. Not the best €58 we’ve ever spent.

Instead, I would recommend doing a full tour of the island, which I believe is €30 per person (or thereabout) from Marina Grande. You go all the way around the island and see so much more, like The Statue of the Scugnizzo, The Grotta del Corallo, The Grotta Bianca, The Natural Arch, Villa Malaparte, The Faraglioni, The Bay of Marina Piccola, The Grotta Verde, The Lighthouse at Punta Carena, The Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra). You’re definitely going to get more bang for your buck. You’ll still pay €14 per person at the entrance of the cave and you’ll still have to wait your boat’s turn to go in, but you’ll take in more of the island and hopefully you won’t feel like you fell into a tourist trap.

TAKE THE MONTE SOLARO CHAIRLIFT

The only other thing on our can’t-miss list on Capri was to do the chairlift. The island of Capri is made up of the town of Capri and the neighbouring town of Anacapri, high in the hills. Because it was a bit of a hike to the Anacapri, we opted to take the bus for €2 per person each way instead. It was a crazy ride, but the views were to die for!

The bus dropped us off right at the bottom of the chair lift, so we didn’t have to go very far. For a round trip, it’s €11 (or one way for €8) and it only takes about 13 minutes. However, the ride is not for the faint of heart. If you’re afraid of heights, definitely take the long way up—hike it. Still, it was absolutely worth it. The ride itself is really quiet and peaceful. You’re sat on a single seat chair dangling above the ground, slowly riding up the back side of the island. You can see the town of Anacapri below you and the sea stretches out to the horizon. It’s amazing!

At the top, it’s even better. You have the best vantage point on the island. You don’t have to go very far to get incredible views of Capri on the other part of the island and even the tip of mainland Italy. There’s a little bar at the top where you can get a drink or some ice cream. We kicked back for a couple of games of Hanabi with a view. It was a great way to relax. My friend had recommended watching the sunset from the top, but the lift closed early and we had to be sure to catch it back down before it closed. On the way down, we only passed a handful of people going up, the last two I saw again the next day in Pompeii. (I remembered because one of them had bubblegum pink hair and the other had bright red.)

RELAX ON THE BEACH

At the end of the day, we kicked back on the rocky beach and watched the waves roll in. I read a little of my book (Crazy Rich Asians) and Luke stacked some rocks. It wasn’t the most comfortable beach, but the noise the water made when the tide went out over the rocks was so cool! We started to watch the sunset over the water until it was time to catch our ferry back.

GET OUT OF TOWN

Like I mentioned above, the mayor of Capri wants tourists to explore more of the island instead of just staying around the main town of Capri and the Marina Grande. Because we were only there for a short time and wanted to make sure we did the Blue Grotto and the chairlift, we didn’t go outside the town. There’s more to the island than just the expensive shops and restaurants and it sounds like it’s worth seeing!

WHERE WE ATE

We got drinks and gelato before our boat tour at Bar Grotta Azzurra. It’s just off the Marina Grande so it was quite busy, but the outdoor seating was covered and there was free wifi. Luke ordered a beer, I ordered an Aperol Spritz (€12!), and we split a bottle of still water. They had an gelato cart around the corner where we got our first gelato of the trip! Luke had mint chocolate chip and I had pistachio. Luke ranked this gelato 6 out of 7. I ranked this gelato 5 out of 7.

We had lunch, again just off the marina, at Lo Smeraldo. I had attempted to do some research about good seafood on the island while we were on the ferry and recognised the name when we came off our ferry. The restaurant was gorgeous and in a great spot, but it was extremely pricey and was the most expensive meal we had on the trip.

We split a pistachio gelato from outside Capri Palace at the bottom of the chairlift, but we forgot to rank it!

Truthfully, we didn’t explore much of the island and now that I’ve seen what the mayor has asked of tourists, I do feel bad for not venturing outside the main tourist areas. I know Capri has more to offer, but it’s also a very expensive place. Our day on the island was easily the most expensive day the whole trip!

I do recommend visiting Capri if you’re able, but I think the best way to do it is with a boat tour of more of the Amalfi Coast. On our boat tour day, we went by the island between Sorrento and Positano. There were other tours that included a few hours on Capri, as well as a stop at the Blue Grotto, which would have been more than enough time to ride the chairlift and see the island.

WHAT TO WEAR ON CAPRI

I decided to include this section for any ladies planning a trip to Italy in the late summer or early autumn. You probably would wear something different on an island than you would exploring a city, but keep in mind that Capri isn’t some tropical island with crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches. Capri has hills and they will kick your butt.

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