Guide to Capri Italy: Capri travel guide

Guide to Capri Italy: Capri travel guide

Capri is an island measuring just 4 square miles and standing 1932 feet tall at its highest point. It sits approximately 30 km off mainland Italy in the Gulf of Naples, nestled between the mainland and the islands of Procida and Ischia. It’s a popular day trip from Sorrento.

How long should you stay in Capri Italy?

Certainly, it’s easily possible to see the top sights in Capri in a day. However, you may want to extend your stay to do everything justice. Booking a longer trip will also mean you can enjoy the island at a slower pace. We also think that it’s worth staying on the island overnight if you can. A lot of tourists will just come for the day. By staying that bit longer, you’ll be able to enjoy the island without the crowds.

However long you decide to stay, our Capri Italy travel guide will ensure you make the very most of your time on the island.

The history of Capri Italy

The history of Capri starts centuries ago. There is evidence of civilisation on the island as far back as the Stone Age, the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age. In 1882, for example, Neolithic remains were discovered in the Grotta delle Felci, a cave situated on the south coast of the island.

The Greeks settled on the island from the 8th century BC onwards. It then remained a Greek colony until the Roman Emperor Augustus exchanged it for Aenaria (modern day Ischia). Augustus went on to have numerous temples, villas and gardens built on the island. His successor Tiberius continued his building work, building 12 additional villas on Capri in his lifetime. Among these is Villa Jovis whose remains can still be seen today. He also spent the last decade of his life on Capri, creating his own private paradise here.

It’s really quite incredible to think of settlements on the island such a long time ago. After all, there are no natural springs on the island. It’s clear from ancient ruins that rainfall must have been used to provide residents with water. These days, there is an aqueduct that brings fresh water to Capri Italy from the mainland.

After the death of Tiberius, the island was rarely visited by subsequent Roman emperors. The only real time we hear of it again is when the wife and sister of Commodus were banished there.

Capri Italy

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Capri eventually returned under Neapolitan rule. There were a number of years where it suffered as a result of pirate attacks and raids. It then passed hands between the French and British until it returned to Bourbon ruling house of Naples in 1815.

As the 19th century progressed, Capri became a place of safety for a number of wealthy gay men and lesbians. It quickly gained a reputation as being rather a liberal place when it came to sexuality. European artists, writers and celebrities subsequently visited Capri in large numbers.

In the 20th century, its glamour seemed to just increase. Images of celebrities such as Jackie O in the 1950s and 1960s wandering Capri’s charming streets added to Capri’s appeal.

These days, it’s still a popular haunt for celebrities and the wealthy. Not to forget, its popularity with tourists who flock to its shores each year. For perspective, as many as 20,000 tourists a day have been known to head to the island each day in peak season.

What to do in Capri Italy

Most visits to Capri start at Marina Grande. This is actually our least favourite spot on the island, certainly in peak season. It’s always super crowded and filled with stalls selling souvenirs to tourists. If we’re brutally honest, our advice to you would be to head swiftly on. So, what do we suggest you do in Capri Italy instead?

1. Head to the beach

Well, actually, if you’re heading to Capri to spend time on the beach, you could stop at the beach at Marina Grande. The beach here is situated very close to the port but, don’t let this put you off. The sea is still crystal clear and it’s family friendly. It also has a free beach area. There is another free beach area near the Blue Grotto.

Capri Italy

However, we think that much nicer is the pebbled beach at Marina Piccola on the southern side of the island. You can actually quite easily catch a bus here from Marina Grande. The journey will take approximately 15 minutes. As its name suggests, it’s much smaller but it’s a great place to enjoy a swim in the sea and enjoy some time on the beach. There is a small free beach here. Or, opt to rent a sun bed at La Canzone del Mare beach club where you’ll even find a small bit of sand! The other beach clubs here are Da Gioia and Torre Saracena. The only downside to this beach is that the sun tends to set early here. In other words, if you’re wanting to spend a full day in the sunshine, arrive early.

A less child friendly option is the beach area at the base of the Faraglioni rock formations. It’s less child friendly as it’s a rocky promontory rather than a sandy stretch of coastline. And the sea can only be accessed by diving in or climbing down a ladder. However, there are a couple of beach clubs here – La Fontelina and Da Luigi ai Faraglioni. Book ahead to guarantee you’ll find a space here.

There are a number of other beaches we would recommend too. We’d highly recommend you head to Punta Carena. The Lido del Faro here is a beach nestled beneath this lighthouse. It’s our favourite beach on the island and is a popular spot with locals. It’s also a great spot if you stay until later in the day, as it enjoys some wonderful sunsets. As well as a small free beach area, there is a private beach club here with pool, restaurant and sunbathing area.

2. Visit Capri’s caves

Probably the most famous attraction to visit in Capri Italy is the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra). This is a cave whose water is a rather distinctive bright blue colour. This is all thanks to a hole in the rocks between the water’s surface and the fact that the red light entering the hole gets filtered out. Centuries ago, it was, in fact, the private swimming pool of the afore-mentioned Emperor Tiberius. These days it’s a popular tour to enjoy when visiting Capri. Hop on one of the many Blue Grotto tours that leave from Marina Grande or from Anacapri.

Capri Italy

If you’re on a budget, opt for a group tour to the Blue Grotto. Just be aware that you may need to be patient to enter the grotto. Whilst the roof of the cave is as high as 15 metres, the entrance to the grotto is just a metre high. Hence access is by little rowing boats. These small boats line up to take visitors in and you will need to wait for your turn. Once inside, you will only enjoy 5 minutes there. Also note that the grotto closes in rough seas. Incidentally, it is also possible to swim into the Blue Grotto from below Anacapri. But don’t do this until the boat trips have finished for the day.

However, if pockets allow, we highly recommend opting for a private boat tour of Capri which includes a visit to the Grotta Azzurra. After all, to really discover Capri, you need to have explored the rest of its incredible coastline. Take a boat around the island and you will discover beautiful coves and caves along with tiny beaches impossible to access by land.

You’ll also discover that, along with the Blue Grotto, Capri is also home to a Green Grotto where you will find the water a wonderful emerald green. Then there is a White Grotto too! The White Grotto is set midway up a rock face and is filled with stalagmites and stalactites. And let’s not forget Capri’s Red Grotto. This is so called due to the red corals that line the cave.

Plus, there is also the Grotta di Matermania to discover too. In the Roman times, this grotto was used as a shrine and was dedicated to the cult of Mithras. These days, it sits above the water line and visitors can easily wander inside it.

3. Discover Capri’s Roman remains

On dry land, there are a number of sites which owe their existence to the Romans and which are well worth a visit. The first is Villa Jovis. This was the villa built by Tiberius. The views from the villa are incredible. But the ruins themselves are fascinating too. It’s an easy walk from Capri town to Villa Jovis.

4. Visit the other villas on Capri

Another much more modern villa on Capri to discover is Villa San Michele. This villa once belonged to Axel Munthe who was a Swedish doctor. Once a ruined chapel, Munthe bought the property and created a house. This subsequently became almost a museum, home to his extensive collection of art. Munthe was also a keen gardener and the gardens at Villa San Michele, whilst not big, are worth seeing. The gardens are also home to the 3200 year old Sphinx which sits looking out over the coast.

Capri Italy

Villa Lysis is another villa on Capri which is open to the public. This was built by Jaques d’Adelsward Ferse in 1904. He was a Parisian count who lived here with his lover Nino Cesarini. It was also a popular place where other creative people regularly visited. And as such it became an important meeting point for poets, writers and artists.

5. Admire the Gardens

The Parco Astarita is a free park open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. It covers an area of 150,000 square metres. It was created by Mario Astarita. He was a banker and collector and a native of the Sorrento peninsula. He acquired all the land bordering the Villa Jovis. The gardens have a number of different viewing areas.  It’s also where he built his villa – Villa Falconetta. Like Villa Lysis, this was also a refuge for many artists and intellectuals back in the day.

The second set of gardens and another Roman site (and the site of more impressive gardens) are the Gardens of Augustus (Giardini di Augusto). These are situated just a short walk from the town of Capri itself. Visit in the Spring or early Summer if you can. This is when the flowers are at their best and brightest. That said, there will still be plenty of colour in the Auturm too. Plus, the views from the garden alone make it worth the visit whatever time of year you visit. Two terraces offer breath-taking views. Enjoy the vista over the crystal-clear sea and to the Faraglioni rocks.

6. See the Faraglioni Rocks

The Faraglioni rocks have become a symbol of Capri. This is a rock formation consisting of three rock stacks. That closest to Capri is Stella, Mezzo sits in the middle and then Scopolo is furthest away.

Capri Italy

Interestingly, Scopolo is also home to some unique inhabitants – blue lizards. Another great view of the rocks can be enjoyed if you take a walk along the Via Tragara. Or, of course, you can again admire them from the sea on a boat tour.

7. Admire the views from Capri Italy

From the Gardens of Augustus, you can also enjoy a view of the Via Krupp too. The Via Krupp is a 1 km long path. It consists of a series of twisting, hairpin bends that winds its way from the gardens down the cliffside to the Marina Piccola below. The road gets its name from a German industrialist – Friedrich Krupp. He created the path in order to get from his hotel to his research vessel. It had been closed for a number of years due to the risk of falling rocks. But the good news is that it re-opened in June 2023. As a result, visitors can now walk in the footsteps of Krupp himself.

If it’s views you’re after, then arguably, you’ll find even better views at Capri’s highest point on Monte Solaro. It sits 589 metres above sea level. Visitors can either opt to walk up to the summit by taking the hiking trail that leads from Anacapri. Alternatively, you can choose the less strenuous option of catching a ride on the single seat chairlift to the summit. This starts at the station on Via Caposcuro in Anacapri. The journey takes around 12 minutes. For those with a fear of heights, you may be reassured to hear that it actually runs quite close to the ground throughout the entire journey. Once at the top, not only can you once again admire the Faraglioni rocks, but you can also see Sorrento on the Italian mainland.

And yet more incredible views can be admired on the Phoenician Steps.

Capri Italy

This is a series of 921 steps connecting Marina Grande to Anacapri. Created by the Greeks, until 1874, this was the only way of getting to Anacapri. These days, you have other choices of getting between the two places, but if you do have the stamina for it, you will be able to enjoy some marvellous views over the sea en route.

8. Go hiking in Capri Italy

If you do enjoy walking, there are lots of other hiking trails on Capri that you can enjoy. One lovely walk is along the Via del Pizzolungo. This path is also called the Pizzolunog Coastal Trail. This stretches all the way from the Arco Naturale (Natural Arch) to the Faraglioni. Like the rocks, the Natural Arch is a product of nature and coastal erosion. It would once have been the roof of a cave, but when the grotto collapsed, only the arch was left standing. The walk should take between 1.5 and 2 hours. It is paved all the way but does involve a number of steps so it can be quite tiring in the peak of the Summer when it’s hot.

En route, keep an eye out for Casa Malaparte. It is easily spotted thanks to its deep red colour. Whilst the villa can’t be visited as it’s a private property, just seeing its position clinging to the rocks is an impressive sight in itself. The trail will also take you past the Grotta di Matermania. This is a cave where, in ancient times, the gods of the woods would have been celebrated.

And again, if you prefer, you can also opt to view the Arco Naturale from the water instead. According to the locals, it’s good luck if you kiss your partner under the arch as you pass through!

Another great walk is from Anacapri along the coast at Punta Carena.

Capri Italy

Incidentally, if you time your walk right, you can enjoy one of Capri’s most spectacular sunsets at this spot. This stretch of shore is also known for the Faro di Punta Carena. This is a lighthouse which has stood here since 1866.

9. Visit the towns on Capri Italy

Capri is known for its luxury lifestyle. As a result, it will come as no surprise that there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a spot of designer shopping in Capri town. The best place to go if you have money to burn is the Via Camerelle. Here you’ll find brands such as Louis Vuitton, Versace, Valentino and more. Even if you don’t have big enough pockets to afford to actually buy anything, it’s well worth a trip just to enjoy the people watching and to soak up the atmosphere.

Another great place to enjoy a spot of people watching is in the Piazza Umberto I. This sits in the very heart of Capri town. The piazza is lined with cafes and restaurants so sit back, enjoy a drink and just enjoy the plethora of people passing by. There is also a pretty belltower here and an ancient church.

Also in Capri town is the Chiesa di Santo Stefano. This church is charming, but easy to miss. It sits nestled between buildings just off the Piazza Umberto I and the Piazetta di Capri. The church dates back to the 17th century. Whilst in Capri town, you may also want to visit the Ignazio Cerio museum. This is home to a plethora of fossils, prehistoric and archaeological finds. It also educates visitors on the island’s flora and fauna.

Capri’s second main town is Anacapri which is well worth visiting. It’s arguably not as glamorous as Capri town but, we actually prefer it. It feels a little more ‘authentic’ with more locals in situ. It also boasts a number of attractions well worth visiting. These include the San Michele Church. Step inside to marvel at the incredible mosaic floor. Alternatively, head to the Casa Rossa museum to admire the artworks there. Or pop inside the Church of Saint Sophia.

Capri Italy

The shops in Anacapri are also much more affordable than in Capri town. So, if you’re looking to pick up a souvenir for your holidays, head here. The main shopping street in Anacapri is the Via Giuseppe Orlandi. One of the things you may want to buy is a pair of sandals. Capri is famous for its handmade leather sandals which can be custom fit to your feet.

10. Visit the Certosa di San Giacomo

Last but not least, we think that one of the loveliest spots to visit is the Certosa di San Giacomo. This was once a Carthisian monastery, home to an order of monks. Whilst the monks have now left, you can still gain an understanding of how they would have once lived here. The monastery is made up of three buildings. One was for monks and one for nuns whilst the third consists of a series of cells. Here monks chose to live a life of solitude and contemplation. These days, the buildings are used as a museum but the site is also used for events too.

11. Discover hidden Capri

There are a few less well known things to do in Capri too. If you’re a literary fan, then you may actually want to visit the non Catholic cemetary on the island. Here you will find the graves of John Keats and Percy Shelley. It’s also where you can admire the statue of a draped angel by William Story.

In addition, nearby there is the Cetrella hermitage. This is a rustic 17th-century religious refuge surrounded by wild-growing lemon-scented herbs. It is definitely worth a visit but this part of the island does often get overlooked.

If you want to find out some less well known facts and figures about Capri Italy, then taking a guided tour of Capri Italy is also a great option.

Where to stay in Capri Italy

Perhaps not expectedly, Capri accommodation is not cheap! This is a luxury destination and many hotel and B&B prices reflect this! If you’re only there for a night or two, we would recommend sticking to accommodation in Capri town. You’ll find it an easier base to explore the island from. However, if you are looking for a quieter pace of life and have an extended stay, we would recommend Anacapri instead.

If you’re only planning a day trip to Capri, then Sorrento is a great base from which to do so. This villa in Sorrento serves as the perfect base not just for trips to Capri but also the whole Amalfi Coast too.

How to get to Capri Italy

One of the easiest ways to get to Capri is from Naples. Regular boats go from the Molo Beverello port in Naples to Capri. The journey will take approximately 50 minutes.

You can also travel to Capri from Sorrento. Head to the Marina Piccola in Sorrento to catch a boat to Capri. The journey time is only between 20 and 30 minutes.

Or, you can also catch a boat from Positano to Capri. Like from Naples, the journey time is around 50 minutes. However, the frequency of boats is far less.

Booking ferries is easy using Ferry Hopper and you can even create a multistop trip between different islands and cities.

Capri Italy

Should you happen to have your own boat, you can of course arrive on your own steam. You will need to dock at the Marina di Capri. Book a slip in advance to ensure that there is a space for you to moor up. And, of course, if budgets allow, you can always get to Capri by helicopter too!

How to travel around Capri Italy

How to get around Capri on foot

Once on the island of Capri, there are few roads and much of the island is accessible on foot. Certainly, when the island is busy, walking is often the most enjoyable (and least stressful) way to explore. To give you an idea of timings, the walk from Capri to Marina Grande will take approximately 15 minutes. Just be aware that it’s downhill in this direction but a steep walk uphill if you’re heading in the other direction. Anacapri to Marina is 30 minutes if heading down the Phoenician Steps. And Capri to Marina Piccola is 20 minutes downhill.

How to get around Capri by taxi

Transport options include rather glamorous (but rather expensive) open-topped Fiat taxis. These can accommodate up to 7 passengers at a time. Fares are fixed and drivers will even offer a day rate so that you have a driver with you all the time. This 5 hour private tour of Capri is a great option for groups of up to 5 people. If you’re a larger group, it’s worth looking at taxis as prices may not be much more than if you all took the bus.

How to get around Capri by bus

Or there are the much less glamorous orange buses. These tend to be small, minibus style vehicles. You will find bus stations in Marina Grande, Capri town, Anacapri and Marina Piccola. There are also bus stops at the Punta Carena lighthouse and the Blue Grotto. Just be aware that if you’re coming to Capri to stay, there are luggage restrictions for passengers travelling by bus. Find out more here.

How to get around Capri by scooter

If you prefer to have more flexibility on travel, then you could also opt to rent a scooter. There are scooter hire agencies in Marina Grande as soon as you embark the boat. Scooter hire is also available in Capri town and Anacapri.

How to get around Capri by boat

And of course, being an island, you could also choose to explore by boat. You can rent a boat in Marina Grande. Choose between renting with or without a skipper.

Capri Italy

Alternatively, opt for a public boat tour or private boat tour. Or hop in a water taxi to get from A to B on the island.

Other transport options in Capri Italy

Finally, a 1907 funicolare also runs from Marina Grande up to the hill town of Capri itself. This runs every quarter of an hour from early morning to 10 at night. After this time, there is a substitute bus service. This can get busy, particularly in the afternoons. The trip only takes 4 minutes though.

When is the best time to visit Capri Italy

Capri is at its busiest between May and October. Crowds, temperatures (and prices!) all soar in the Summer months of July and August. Whilst not everyone is able to avoid visiting in peak season, if you do have the option, then we can highly recommend visiting in May and June. Or alternatively, head to Capri in September or even early October. Temperatures are still really pleasant without being too hot. Plus, there are noticeable fewer tourists.