The island of Capri is a must-see for Italophiles everywhere. Lying just south of Naples, off the coast of Sorrento, the island is famed for its cliff-side lemon groves and chic boutiques. Here’s how to explore:
Find your bearings
The island of Capri has two main towns perched atop its head-spinning heights: the buzzier enclave is simply known as Capri with a main square called La Piazzetta, and there is also the sleepier town called Anacapri. Both have their share of hilly, bougainvillea-draped streets and charming boutiques, but Anacapri has far fewer tourists.
With sky-high cliffs plunging down into teal seas, the whole island is rife with pathways and hiking trails that reward you with views along the way—not just at the top. For a singular experience, get up early and ascend Mount Solaro, which is about an hour’s walk uphill from Anacapri. Just do it before the rickety wooden chair lift starts running at around 9:30 a.m., so that you’ll have the summit—and the 360-degree island views—all to yourself.
There are plenty of little trails and stone paths to wander down in Capri town. To see the legendary Faraglioni rock formations rising up the waves like monolithic sea monsters, just take one of the many marked paths off La Piazzetta. There are also panoramic vistas of these ancient coastal rocks from the Gardens of Augustus, a botanical terraced garden.
Explore by boat
As Capri is an island, a boat trip to the famed blue grotto or to see the Faraglioni up close is another to-do at the top of the list. There is no shortage of boats for hire, but Bluride is one of the companies of choice for private rides, as their fleet includes romantic wooden gozzo boats. Though the unearthly blue grotto is the most popular sea caves to visit, the island also boasts a green grotto, white grotto, and red coral grotto, as well as the salmon-hued Punta Carena Lighthouse, which is best admired by boat. A boat excursion is also the best way to enjoy a swim in the sea, as Capri’s public beaches are restricted to tiny, hard-to-reach coves (though there are several beach clubs within reach like La Fontelina and Il Riccio).
If shopping is your bag, then Capri is your temptation island. Along Via Camerelle and Piazzetta Umberto there are shops dedicated to Italy’s painfully chic international brands like Pucci and Bottega Veneta, but the island’s true gems are its small boutiques. Stop by Canfora for handmade leather sandals prized by Jackie O. or the exquisite, centuries-old perfumery Carthusia for scents that utterly embody Capri’s magical heritage.
Pasta and Prosecco
The main hub of activity in Capri is La Piazzetta, a charming little square that soars above the port. There are plenty of pretty spots to stop for an espresso or a pre-dinner prosecco aperitivo. There’s also no shortage of fine dining around this glitzy square,making it the ideal place to push the boat out—so to speak, but there are tourists trap aplenty too.
Winning the approval of the Michelin guide, the one-starred Mammà tucked away on a side street is celebrated for its crispy white pizza with local sweet green peppers, as well as its paccheri pasta (large tubes) served with sweet, tender frutti di mare. For dessert, try the Neapolitan rum baba, which will have your moaning with delight. (The restaurant is actually part of the handsome Punta Tragarahotel, which has some of the best views over the Faraglioni.)
With its fairytale garden of olive trees and silver lanterns, the family owned Villa Margherita is another gorgeous little dinner stop. Go for the sea-fresh spaghetti alle vongole made with tiny Italian veraci clams, and the rack of lamb with orange-scented endive is quite simply one of the very best dishes on the whole island.
For a behind-the-scenes taste of the island, try the Capri Culinary Tourby Sauced & Found where you’ll sample specialties like crisp white wine full of minerality from a local vineyard of Falanghina grapes.
Where to stay
Do yourself a favor and choose a hotel outside of Capri’s main towns for some reprieve from the crowds. The most stylish address is without a doubt J.K. Place Capri, which overlooks the port. With only 22 rooms, this sun-bleached seaside villa feels more like the home of a distant relative (with impeccable taste) than a hotel. Expect high-ceilings and light-filled rooms draped in crisp linens, tiled baths with palatial soaking tubs, and elegant navy accents. There’s also a radiant emerald-cut pool and a smart brunch spread featuring local goodies like fior di latte cheese from the nearby town of Agerola and thick cuore di bue tomatoes from Sorrento, which you can use to build your own insalata Caprese. And for dessert (yes, you can have dessert after breakfast) there are homemade cakes like the torta Caprese, a traditional flourless cake made with chocolate and almonds.
One of the hotel’s best services is its free shuttle that ferries you on demand into the town of Capri or to the port. (Because of permitting laws, you’ll still need to book a taxi to get into Anacapri, but that makes for an excellent excuse to take a spin in one of the island’s fun convertible taxis.)
The season in Capri runs from late April until mid-October. Visit during the shoulder months to avoid the masses of high summer. If that’s not possible, try and at least stay the night, as the crowds thin once the last ferry departs. Ferries from the port of Naples take about 50 minutes to an hour and a half; see the schedule here.Also, take note that there are two separate ports, which are a 15-minute-walk apart from each other.
If you’re arriving at Naples airport, you can take a taxi to either port. It takes about 20 minutes and should cost €21, if you ask for the fixed price (“la tariffa predeterminta”).