“There was a magical timelessness to Capri A special atmosphere, and a sense of history.”
― Kitty Pilgrim
Since Roman times, the island of Capri has been a popular destination for tourists. The island is small…not quite four miles long and less than two miles wide…a mere speck in the Gulf of Naples where the azure sky, turquoise water, white limestone cliffs, and brilliant flora collide. More than 20,000 tourists invade Capri daily during summer months, overtaking the island’s 13,000 permanent residents. About 80 percent of the tourists are there for the day only, though, so after all the ferries and boats leave, the island quiets down.
Many people believe that because Capri is an island, its year-round weather is the same. In reality, the island has four distinct seasons. The weather in spring is mild, and the flowers are blooming throughout the island. Summer brings hot weather which can, because of the humidity, be uncomfortable. While the temperatures drop a bit in autumn, it can still be hot enough to enjoy the island’s beaches. In winter, the temperatures drop even further, and winter winds can blow hard across the sea and island.
If Capri is calling to you and you want to visit, here are a few facts that you might want to know before you head there.
Capri Is One Big Rock
The limestone rock that is Capri dates to the Jurassic Age, making it 65-to-190 million years old. The island is rather rocky, and you can visit its highest point by hiking there or by taking a chairlift from Anacapri to the 1932-foot peak.
Side note: There are two towns on the island—Capri Town (east) and Anacapri (west).
the Faraglioni Rock Formations
The three rocky “stacks” that protrude from Capri are the Faraglioni and range in height from 262-feet to almost 500-feet above the sea. Each stack has a name: Stella is the one still attached to the island, and Scopolo is the one farthest away. Faraglione di Mezzo, the one in the middle, has a natural archway in the rock.
While you can view the faraglioni from beaches or from thee Gardens of Augustus above, the best way to see them is from the sea. Take a boat ride around the island and through Faraglione di Mezzo.
The Grottoes of Capri
While most people have heard of Capri’s Grotta Azzura (Blue Grotto), the island has two other huge grottoes—the Grotta Verde (Green Grotto) and the Grotta Bianca (White Grotto).
The Grotta Azzura was a favorite of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (He ruled from 14-37 AD), and he used it as his personal swimming “pool” when he was on the island. Tiberius had 10 statues placed in the grotto so he could enjoy them while swimming there, but they have all been removed.
When the sunlight passes through the small cave opening, it somehow filters out colors in the red spectrum making the waters inside the cave cobalt blue. You can visit the cave only by rowboat tour, and the cost is about 15 euro per person. You will be in the grotto for about five minutes; swimming is illegal.
The reflection of the light on the water around the Grotta Verde causes the water to give off a green cast. On sunny days, the water is so clear that you can see the flora and fauna on the seabed. You will also see a plethora of pink jellyfish in the grotto (above); be careful as their sting is painful.
Fun Fact: In the 16th century, pirates launched surprise attacks on passing ships from the Grotta Verde. It became a popular tourist site when boat tours around Capri became fashionable.
The Grotta Bianca, the least-known of the grottoes on the island, gets its name from the bright white limestone rocks that form it. Famous for the stalactites that hang from the mouth of the cave, the grotto actually has a lower level (accessible by boat) and an upper level (accessible via a steep staircase built in 1901).
Punta Carena Lighthouse
Located on the southwest coast of Capri, the Punta Carena Lighthouse is the second tallest in Italy (Genoa’s is the tallest.). The lighthouse has been in use since its completion in 1867, and the white light it emits every three seconds is visible 25 nautical miles away.
Locals name the rocky beach at Punta Carena as their favorite because the sun shines on the water there all day, and there are steps leading down to the sea, private sun decks, snack bars, and a romantic restaurant. The views from the lighthouse at sunset are spectacular.
Insalata Caprese—Caprese Salad—hails from Capri Island. There are many stories about its origin, but it seems the salad first appeared on restaurant menu of Hotel Quisisana on the island in 1920. By the 1950s, it was a popular appetizer on restaurant menus all over the island.
Its creation was meant not only to highlight the island’s fresh tomatoes, cheese, and basil, but also to pay homage to Italy by showcasing the flag’s three colors—red, white, and green. True insalata caprese uses minimal ingredients—tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pesto? No. Vinegar? No. Olives? Nope. Anchovies? Heaven’s no.
HOW TO GET TO CAPRI
The only way to get to Capri is by sea. You can catch a ferry from Naples or Sorrento year-round, and from Positano, Ischia, and Salerno during the summer. Hydrofoils, which cut the trip time in half, leave from Naples and Sorrento.
You can also take a private boat to Capri via one of the many different tour companies that operate from the mainland. As a warning, the sea between Italy and the island can be rough, and the smaller boats (above) will offer a wild ride…not that the ferries are much better in rough seas.
Note: Once you are on the island, you can take taxis or buses (or walk) to get around. There is also a funicular to take you from Marina Grande (where boats land) to Capri Town. You won’t need a car as only island residents are permitted to drive on Capri.