The Isle of Capri
Written by Marla Archer
Italy’s most romantic getaway, the
Island of Capri is one of the most scenic
islands in the world. Beautiful whitewashed luxury villas
draped in bougainvillea, rugged cliffs extending down to the
sea and ancient alleyways through medieval villas, Capri’s
blissful attributes are enchanting.
The Isle of Capri
is only accessible by boat. This
little island on the Bay of Naples near
the Amalfi Coast attracts glitzy jet setters that flock to
the Piazzetta, just as Jackie Onassis and
Audrey Hepburn did when they helped popularize the island in
the 1950’s and 60’s.
Many of you have heard of Capri Pants.
Capri Pants ("capris") are a style of pants usually worn in
Capri pants were first designed by European fashion
designer, Sonja de Lennart in 1948. Thanks to the
jetset crowd, they grew in popularity during the Fifties
throughout Europe. Capris became popular in the United
States during the 1960s, largely due to the influence of the
popular television series The Dick Van Dyke Show.
The character of Laura Petrie, the young housewife played by
Mary Tyler Moore, caused a fashion sensation – and some mild
controversy – by wearing snug-fitting capri pants during the
legendary Piazzetta opens out on to a fabulous
view of Monte Solaro. The Piazzetta is the center of the
island of Capri for tourists and locals alike. All those
arriving in Capri have to pass through the narrow passages
left between the tables outside of the various bars.
In the courtyard of the town hall there is the trunk of a
column and a fragment of a circular marble base, discovered
in the 1920’s during the construction of the port, and
probably belonging to the Villa Augustea of Palazzo a Mare.
The Piazzetta was the center of local life, where vegetable
and fish markets were held and, where, very infrequently
considering the rarity of the product in times past, meat
was sold. It was not until 1938, when the young Raffaele
Vuotto decided to place a few tables in the square, that the
Piazzetta began to take on a more fashionable appearance.
From that moment onwards the Piazzetta became the focal
point of island social life, which had previously been
carried out predominantly in the town’s hotels and in
Faraglioni Rock Formation
The island of Capri is also
home to mysterious natural wonders. and the massive
rock formations of Faraglioni.
Faraglioni are three blocks of rock that have survived
coastal landslides, erosion by the sea and all manner of
atmospheric corrosion. The rocks have each been given a
name: the first, still attached to the land, is called
Stella, the second, separated from the first block by a
stretch of sea; Faraglione di Mezzo and the third,
Faraglione di Fuori or Scopolo, in other words the head or
promontory stretching into the sea. The Faraglione di Fuori
is the habitat for a famous species of blue tinted lizard,
the Lacerta viridens faraglionensis, and is the only place
where it can be found. It is thought that, following the
separation from the mainland; a sort of protective chromatic
adaptation resulted in the lizards’ scales assuming the blue
tones of the sea and sky. The height of the Faraglioni is,
on average, 100 meters. The Faraglione di Mezzo is
characterized by a cavity, a natural tunnel that has become
famous throughout the world.
renowned Blue Grotto
is an incredible underground sea cave that continues
to amaze visitors with its brilliant almost iridescent
Blue Grotto is known throughout the world for its size, the
intense blue tones of its interior and the magical silvery
light that emanates from the objects immersed in its waters.
Visitors to the Grotta Azzurra can arrive either by bus or
taxi from Anacapri; or by boat from Marina Grande in one of
the tour boats that stop at the entrance of the cave during
the trip around the island. In order to enter the Grotta
Azzurra visitors climb aboard small rowing boats, with a
capacity for two, maximum three, passengers and, lying on
the bottom of the boat, enter the low and narrow mouth of
Entrance to the cave is not possible in the presence of
south westerly and mistral winds. A small natural opening
in the rocky wall forms the entrance to the Grotta Azzurra,
roughly 2 meters wide and 2 meters high. The roof of the
entrance is situated approximately 1 meter above the level
of the sea and, for this reason; passengers are obliged to
lie down in the boat whilst passing in to the cave. The
boatman sets down his rows and maneuvers the boat inside
with the aid of a chain attached to the vault of the
The Blue Grotto’s interior is effused with magnificent blue
tones. The vault, known as the Duomo Azzurro, has an average
height of 7 meters rising to 14 towards the back of cave.
The erosion cavity is approximately 60 meters long and up to
25 meters wide. The cave continues with the Galleria dei
Pilastri, three connecting branches which flow into the Sala
dei Nomi, the name of which was inspired by the numerous
signatures left by visitors on the walls of the cave. Then
there is the Passaggio della Corrosione, and the Sala della
Corrosione, the furthest accessible point. The blue
coloring of the Grotta Azzurra is created by the daylight,
which enters via an underwater opening located immediately
below the entrance to the cave.
The light is filtered by the water, which absorbs the red
tones, leaving only the blue ones to pass into the cave. A
second phenomenon creates the silver appearance of the
objects immersed in the water: given that the index of
refraction of the bubbles of air which adhere to the surface
of the objects is different to that of the water, the light
is allowed to egress. It is believed that, in the Roman
period, under the rule of Tiberius, the interior of the
Grotta Azzurra was used as a marine nymphaeum.
There have been those who imagined the cave as the habitat
of Nereidi or of Sirens or believed it to be the realm of
devils that bewitched all who dared to enter.
Great history, nature, and culture have made Capri one of
the most desirable tourist destinations of all times.
Capri has followed a really unique path, from Roman emperors
villas to soul-travelers, and intellectuals of ‘800 and
beginning of ‘900, up to the worldly holidays of the
international jet set during the Fifties (which made it
famous all over the world.) Capri is full of natural beauty
Tragara is the most famous and best liked walk in
Capri. Via Tragara is
a road of ancient origins built in Roman times, now a
favorite route along which tourists stroll and the address
of a number of luxurious villas.
There are many elegant villas scattered along the way. A
walk not to be missed is to the left, at the end of Via
Camerelle. There is a steep but short path that leads to
Via Tragara, a road that dates back to Roman times. The
road is flat and well kept, lined with hotels, high-class
restaurants, and magnificent villas, of which passers-by can
catch only a glimpse of the entrances amidst the lush
vegetation that screens the property from indiscreet eyes.
Buildings of particular note along Via Tragara include the
German Evangelical Church, built in typical transalpine
style and most unusual for Capri; Villa Discopoli, residence
of the writer Rainer Maria Rilke; Villa Lo Studio where the
poet Pablo Neruda stayed, and the Hotel Punta Tragara, said
to have been designed, if only in part, by the architect Le
Via Tragara ends with a panoramic terrace with a fabulous
view over the Faraglioni rocks. To the left you can see a
part of the Amalfi Coast and to the right, you can see
houses clinging to the slopes, the castle-topped Monte
Castiglione, Monte Solaro and the bay of Marina Piccola.
From Tragara belvedere, you can enjoy a wide view of the
island’s southern side. You will see Marina Piccola that
over hangs the steep face of Mount Solaro, including the big
opening of the Fern’s Grotto in the center.
Monte Solaro is the highest part of Capri, towering 589
meters above sea level, and boasting a 360° panorama of the
island of Capri. Monte
Solaro is also called “Acchiappanuvole” or “cloud catcher”
after the thick blanket of fog, which forms around the
summit, especially at dawn, when the thermal difference
between the sea and the rock is accentuated. The warmer,
damper sea air condenses in a dense mist on the ground, the
temperature of which has notably diminished during the
night. Where its path is obstructed, the vapors rise upwards
generating a characteristic crown of clouds. This phenomenon
also occurs in the evening, especially in the autumn. The
wind clears away parts of cloud, randomly revealing various
segments of the beautiful island landscape below.
The Tragara Hike takes you to the top of Monte
Solaro. The summit of Monte Solaro can be
reached by foot in approximately an hour and a half.
However, for the
footwork-challenged, as an alternative,
visitors can take the chair lift, thereby arriving at the
peak in just 12 minutes.
Here one finds the ruins of the Fortino di Bruto
built at the start of the 1800’s, in the period of the
battles between the English and the French. In the distance
one can identify the mountains of Calabria, the Pennines and
the Amalfi coast, the Sorrentine peninsula, the Gulf of
Naples, and the islands of Procida and Ischia.
Cape Massullo, the wildest area of the island, we find
Casa Malaparte. It was the residence of the
Tuscan writer Curzio Malaparte, who called it “Casa come
me”. Malaparte’s house is really a unique architectural
event in Capri context. It doesn’t follow any of the island
building manners, it doesn’t do anything to camouflage into
surroundings and nevertheless we can’t imagine any other
place where it could have been built. So much it had
entered into collective way of viewing that it is considered
an integral part of the landscape: in fact this area is
simply called “at Malaparte’s” by people from Capri.
On the northwestern
promontory of the island, overhanging two capes of Vertereto
and Arcera, we find another Roman imperial villa called ‘Damecuta’,
name of unknown provenance that also indicates the whole
headland’s area. For its outstanding, solitary and
defensive position, it recalls Villa Jovis and is probably
another Villa by Tiberius. From Damaecuta you can enjoy a
long range of vision towards the gulf especially Cape Miseno
and Phlegraean islands.
Visitors to Capri are often surprised by the quantity and
variety of walking routes on such a small island. Along
these pathways, tourists can choose to immerse themselves in
the authentic atmosphere of a coastal village, inhabited by
fishermen and sailors; explore the marine caves; walk
through masses of sheer rock and peer over precipices which
drop dramatically into the sea; saunter through the patches
of land cultivated by the country dwellers, planted with
olive groves and orchards of lemon and orange trees; or
stroll through the center of Capri with its ostentatiously
luxurious boutiques, elegant hotels, artists studios,
churches, and the remains of Roman villas.
One of the magical things about Capri is that, even in peak
season in August, when the roads are crowded with tourists,
one can always find a solitary spot in which to rest, or a
hidden bay where to take a romantic
swim in the crystal clear waters.
The enchanted Isle of Capri is indeed a magical place to
visit for a day because so much beauty can be seen wherever
your feet wish to take you!
(Rick and Marla's Note:
We hope you all will join us for the trip to Capri!
This sounds like a perfect adventure for people who get
tired of being dependent on guides. For once, we can
go where we want and bask in the sun on the most beautiful
island in the Mediterranean Sea!)