The journey to Capri starts inauspiciously on Naples quayside, where ferries and tourists jostle in equal measure, heads craned to see which of the islands the next ferry is heading to. Once aboard however, the ferry picks up speed into the Bay of Naples proper. The full panorama of the bay reveals itself in all its glory. Naples, seemingly draped around the slopes of Mount Vesuvius with its distinctive conical shape. Procida and Ischia outlined against the sun. The hydrofoil makes good time and before long Capri rises from the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean. Its sheer cliffs rising up menacingly. Up high, one can glimpse colourful buildings perched precariously on the very top. Entering into Marina Grande, one is greeted by a bustling harbour, with traditional fishing boats alongside gleaming superyachts, for this is Capri after all. The latest boat load of visitors is swiftly deposited onto the quayside, amongst the subsequent melee taxi drivers tout for business, their distinctive stretched convertibles lined up eagerly. The ride up to Capri town itself is a relatively short one, but no less dramatic, engineered via a series of hair pin bends that meander their way up the cliff side. A bus squeezes by, a scooter overtakes around a blind turn. Capri roads are decidedly for the bravest of drivers.
Capri town is idyllically situated directly overlooking Marina Grande. Its pastel shaded buildings and narrow streets are quintessentially Italian. However, this is not your run of the mill Italian town. Prada and Gucci compete for kerb appeal, the cruise ship tour groups and day trippers can make Piccadilly Circus or Time Square seem sparse. It is also remarkably well manicured and maintained to the point of sanitised perhaps. Notwithstanding the inevitable crowds, the Piazza Umberto I cannot fail to disappoint. This picture window out to sea is breathtaking, framed by the island’s natural amphitheatre setting. The distinctive clock tower chimes in the background, however one need not worry about such trivialities as time, unless of course one is booked on the last ferry to leave the island. Meandering the side streets, stopping at a restaurant for a late lunch, perhaps even stepping into one the many boutiques, is what makes this very walkable town such a pleasure to navigate. Once the last ferry leaves, the town returns to normality, the small proportion of visitors who stay on the island have free rein to saunter the streets, enjoy the sunset from the Piazza and perhaps experience Capri as it was during the golden Hollywood years when it was an exclusive retreat for the wealthy few.
Relatively few visitors stay the night on Capri, far fewer visit its second town of Anacapri. The efficient miniature buses that connect most points on the island are inexpensive and remarkably regular, making this the easiest transport mode. From the main terminus in Capri town, the bus ascends and descends with equal measure as it navigates the dramatic road to Anacapri, a window seat is a must, although perhaps avoid looking down over the edge, tantalisingly close as it is to the road side.
Anacapri is a more rustic and authentic experience. Here locals outnumber tourists which is a rarity on Capri. Whilst the town itself is somewhat unassuming, it makes a perfect base, both for visiting the nearby Axel Munthe museum, but also for the assent to Mount Solaro. The home of Axel Munthe, the Swedish philanthropist is a treasure trove of artefacts set in a dramatically positioned Cliffside home with sweeping vistas of the island and out to the Bay of Naples. It is not difficult to see why he made this spot his home. If such views are not enough, the chair lift provides a suitably novel way of reaching Mount Solaro, Capri’s highest point.
From behind the bus terminal of Anacapri, the unassuming Via Migliara (initially the Via Capuscuro), snakes its way to one of the finest and least discovered views on the island, the Belvedere della Migliara. This meandering path provides a unique insight into Capri life, with its terraced fields, sloped houses and eclectic modes of transport. The path delves into the shady Parco Filosofico before revealing its awe inspiring view in all its glory. The cliffs fall away, plunging into the azure blue waters far below, with the faraglioni rocks floating adrift as if anchored off shore. Despite being so close to Anacapri, this spot still feels like an undiscovered corner of Capri.
This sun drenched isle surrounded by azure waters and characterised by searing cliffs is an enigma. It may jostle with tour groups in the summer months and be lined with designer boutiques, however under the surface is an island with a real sense of community that lives in a stunningly beautiful place. One does not have to venture far to find the authentic Capri far from the madding crowd. Standing at the Belvedere Della Migliara, one would be forgiven for thinking they had the island to themselves.
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