OUR 5 MUST DO'S IN CAPRI, ITALY
If you are looking for a lush and luxurious island getaway, Capri is your answer. Nestled in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Italy's famous Amalfi Coast, Capri is just a 30 minute ferry ride from the town of Sorrento. You can also catch a ferry from the larger, neighboring city of Naples.
Capri, Italy is known for luxury - luxury boats, luxury shopping, and overall luxury experiences... so be prepared for luxury prices (you may even spot some A-list celebrities vacationing there). So, yes, it's true. Capri is not cheap, but if budgeted for ahead of time, it is well worth your money spent for the incredible experience of this unique island life. On a tighter budget? Explore Capri just for the day! Book a quick ferry from one of the nearby coastal towns to still get a taste of the island.
A quick pro tip for you all: Once you arrive and disembark the ferry, please take the funicular to the top of Central Capri. We did not. The funicular is quite centrally located and obvious at the ferry port, but for some God forsaken reason, this was not even on our radar (perhaps I was not thinking clearly having later discovered I was battling a raging fever and strep throat). I think I spotted the beginning of the arduous steps up to what would eventually lead us to the town center 45 minutes later, and thought whelp, we're not paying for another taxi on this "walkable" island. Let's just go.
So with my husband dragging a 50 lb suitcase, and me packing my 45L backpack (see picture for massive backpack reference), we hiked upwards in a steep ascent through private residences and back alleys. It was very quaint when I wasn't wiping sweat out from the inside of my sunglasses, but it was HOT. We encountered a handful of seemingly friendly locals who gave us smirky nods and a cheeky "ciao." What are these tourists doing?!
By the time we reached our hotel, my husband had completely sweat through his shirt. Like completely and thoroughly, royally, soaked through. I was also sweating profusely, probably from trying to break my strep fever (that I later needed antibiotics for). When we stumbled into the lobby, the hotel staff were understandably a little taken aback (and perhaps even concerned?). Our room wasn't quite ready yet, but they gently guided us to the bar, sat us down, and cracked open a fresh bottle of water in hopes that we wouldn't pass out. And there we sat, waiting for our room while sweating into their swanky velvet chairs.
So take the funicular up to Capri town.
We stayed at the Hotel Gatto Bianco (being the self-professed cat mom that I am, are you even surprised?). I couldn't resist, and it was located just around the corner of Capri's picturesque Piazzetta with bustling shops, restaurants, and of course, gelato. If you're into charming outdoor patio breakfasts with old rustic terra-cotta pots and overflowing olive trees, then this place is for you. As a bonus, you may catch the hotel's resident white cat meandering around the property. It was quite central to everything, and we had a great experience staying here!
I could spend weeks exploring Capri, and I probably still wouldn't discover all of its hidden treasures. From the few days we spent in Capri, here are our top five must do's (in no particular order).
1| HIKE TO VILLA JOVIS
Villa Jovis, a centuries-old, ancient Roman compound, was built in the first century BC for infamous Roman emperor Tiberius Caesar. As the tales of most ancient emperors go, Tiberius' life was surrounded by scandal and abuse of power. He was Rome's second emperor, coming to power in 14 AD after the death of his predecessor (and step father), Augustus.
The circumstances of the empire's rule being passed to Tiberius, however, were suspicious. He was not Augustus' first choice, but his biological heirs who had been prestigiously groomed for the throne had died in mysterious ways. Some myths point the finger to Tiberius' mother and Augustus' wife - perhaps paving the way for her son to be the rightful (or wrongful?) heir to the imperial throne.
While Tiberius excelled as a soldier in his earlier days, he was proven to be a poor politician. He became increasingly absent from running and maintaining the Roman Empire, often leaving important duties to other powerful men in the senate. He eventually self-exiled himself to the island of Capri where he would stay for the remainder of his life.
Perched on a cliff's edge from one of Capri's highest points, Villa Jovis was constructed to ensure both privacy and security for Tiberius. The Roman villa spanned an area of over 5,500 square meters with organized sections for various baths, cisterns, underground passageways, and of course, servant corridors to meet Tiberius' every need. And according to legend, there is an infamous "Tiberius' Leap" located over a daunting cliff's edge where unwelcome guests and disobedient servants would be hurled to their death.
We spent probably 45 minutes walking around and winding in and out of the crumbling walls and paths. It really is a stunning location - but you've got to earn it! Starting from the central Piazzetta in Capri, follow the signs along Via Longano, Via Sopramonte, and finally Via Tiberio. It is all uphill. All uphill. And will take you a solid 45 minutes to get there.
I found the hike lovely not only knowing that I was earning my pasta dinner for later, but that it was also an incredibly scenic trek. We passed along beautiful private properties with lush gardens and stellar views. It had major vibes of this is where generations of local families have lived.
Know Before You Go: There is a small fee to enter, and the villa usually opens to visitors at 10am. Check the details more specifically when you're there as times may change depending on the time of year.
2| TAKE A CHAIRLIFT TO THE TOP OF MOUNT SOLARO
Hop into a taxi or bus and take the quick 10 minute ride over to Anacapri (a neighboring region on the island of Capri) towards one of the island's coolest features. We reached the small piazza and were met with the Seggiovia Monte Solaro, or the Mount Solaro Chairlift. With 156 individual seats available, the chairlift briskly sweeps anxiously waiting passengers towards the top of Capri's highest point.
Round trip, the chairlift is supposed to take approximately 13 minutes round trip, so figure maybe seven minutes for one way. You do have the option to hike up to the top, but it looks to be pretty intense.
As you cling to your bag and endure the gentle sway of your seat, you can observe the beautiful surrounding Gulf of Naples, aerial views of the rest of Capri, and Mount Vesuvius looming in the distance.
Do note, the temperature tends to drop drastically as you continue to climb upward. We were there in late September and early October, so maybe that was just Fall making its entrance.
There's a small gift shop and a restaurant/cafe at the top, but be prepare for expensive prices to match the view. If you walk around the back side of the lookout plateau, you can see Capri's famous Faraglioni rocks jutting out of the sea below.
Know Before You Go: At the time of this article's publication, round trip on the chairlift costs 12 euros, or a one way ticket will cost you 9 euros. The seggiovia opens at 9:30am year round and will have varying closing times depending on the time of year.
3| RENT A PRIVATE BOAT IN MARINA PICCOLA
Capri is an island, obviously, so adventures on the sea are a must. We happened to be here on October 1st, my birthday, and I decided I wanted an epic "birthday boat." After some research, we decided to go with Capri Relax Boats that depart from Marina Piccola. They were great to work with and delivered a perfect, custom boat tour around the island.
Marina Piccola is situated on the sunny south side of the island. You'll find both locals and tourists alike lounging on the sandy shore here. It's uniquely sheltered from the wind due to towering rock formations surrounding this little cove, so even in the winter, the water is almost always calm and warm.
We first caught a bite to eat at one of the seaside restaurants to enjoy a fresh caprese salad before embarking on our private boat tour. It's a quick walk down to the launching point to hop on board, and once you do, you're essentially given the freedom to go wherever you want.
Our skipper had a few suggestions of great spots that he wanted to take us, and we openly encouraged all and any recommendations. Interestingly, he made sure to note that the "famous" blue grotto is more of a tourist hub, and isn't all that it is talked up to be.
"Let me take you to the green grotto," he smiled, "A little gem most tourists don't see."
We were able to jump off and dive into a handful of small lagoons, coves, and grottos throughout our afternoon cruise. The water was so clear and just perfect. Little did we know, that we were swimming among many unsuspecting jellyfish after reviewing some underwater photos!
We also passed through the iconic Faraglioni rock formations which continue to be an iconic landmark of Capri. It was just such a good afternoon to cruise around the island, sunbathe on the boat, and see a side of Capri that can only be experienced from the water.
4| PEER THROUGH THE ARCO NATURALE
The Natural Arch of Capri is a geological wonder by process of thousands of years of erosion. This is yet another view that you will have to earn. Be prepared for stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. But hey, just think of all the gelato you can eat later.
There are two ways to reach the arch. You can either leave from La Piazzetta in Capri and follow the signs, or walk from the Gardens of Augustus. It should take around 45 minutes to reach the arch, and you're bound to encounter stairs no matter which route you take.
The further from the town center you trek, the more peaceful and less traveled the trail becomes. I loved the way that Capri perfectly blended the bustling streets full of shops and restaurants with the lush, untouched nature of the island.
Once at the top, sit for a minute and take in the view that you've been rewarded with. You'll see boats below casually pull up to marvel at this natural landmark as well.
Try making the climb at sunrise or sunset to avoid the harsh heat, and to capture some great golden hour pictures.
5| SPOT THE VIA KRUPP SWITCHBACKS
Via Krupp is a century old famous switchback footpath that traverses Capri's rocky cliffside to connect Marina Piccola with the Charterhouse of San Giacomo and the Garden's of Augustus. The path was named after the German industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp who commissioned it in 1900. As with many powerful men in history, Krupp was involved with scandals that eventually lead to him having to abandon his luxury hotel, Hotel Quisisana, and the island altogether. He was later asked to leave Italy entirely.
Since 1976, Via Krupp has primarily remained closed to foot traffic due to ongoing danger of falling rocks. Its history is interesting, and it still makes for a cool picture as you peer over its staggering edge. Go check it out.
Capri is a dream. Charming streets, tasteful restaurants, jagged mountains, and the surrounding sea. It's one of those places that lives up to every unbelievable picture you see idolized online. If passing through the Amalfi region, be sure to add Capri to your itinerary. You won't be disappointed.