The Amalfi Coast, legendary in beauty, has found a home at the top of many a bucket list. Yet, you may want to consider taking a detour, avoiding the pressing crowds and still getting to enjoy the stunning Mediterranean landscape. If you are visiting Naples and have some extra time, a suitable alternative to the Amalfi Coast is Capri.
Easily accessible from Naples by boat, Capri is a small island near the Amalfi Coast and is home to quaint towns, water that defies description, lemons the size of a grapefruit, and a true wonder, the Blue Grotto. When you arrive in Capri you are walking into an experience, not just a destination. The colors, the sights, the sounds, the breeze and the sun confirm that you are in a unique location and the locals remind you that life is simple.
As you walk the quaint alleys of Capri you’ll notice on a blistering hot day that you are rather cool. The narrow alleys, bathed mostly in white or beige paint, make the blistering heat manageable during the hottest time of day. Along the alleyways of Marina Grande, Capri and Anacapri you can find countless boutiques full of anything from trinkets to great works of art to beautiful, island clothing.
Wandering off toward the docks in Marina Grande where you first disembark your ferry, you will stumble upon a small hut with countless tour pamphlets and treats lining its shelves. There you can secure a spot on any number of tours that will take you around the island. By far the most sought-after tour is one that includes a stop at the Blue Grotto.
The Blue Grotto is a dream, the kind that you want to stay in forever and never leave because it has an ethereal quality about it. Upon entering the cave, through a very narrow opening, you are immediately encapsulated in blue light. Through a second, underwater, opening red light is filtered through the water and what remains is a brilliant, intoxicating blue glow. Because the red light is filtered out, you can only see in blues and silvers which gives the Grotto an otherworldly feeling to it.
The Grotto has endured the test of time serving as a private bath and swimming pool to Roman Emperor, Tiberius around 27 A.D. He was captivated by the grotto’s beauty and eventually moved the Roman capital to the island of Capri until his death a short time later. Recently excavated from the sandy floor of the grotto, 500 feet down, were Roman statutes of Triton and Neptune, sea god’s in Greek and Roman mythology.
As you glide through the grotto imagine the walls lined with Roman statues of Neptune and Triton playing ethereal music on their seashell instruments. Nearby, Emperor Tiberius frolicking with his many muses and companions indulging in the pleasures of their day. Truly a blue paradise and a wonder.
Upon coming out of the grotto take a moment to readjust to earthly life and head back to Marina Grande. From there a small funicular or trolley will take you up a steep hill to the Piazzetta of Capri where shopping and eating are the main treats. If taking a small enclosed trolley isn’t your cup of tea, open-air taxis and public buses are available.
Capri is well known for its lemons that grow to an astoundingly large size and any lemon lover will be in paradise. Soaps, potpourri, candles, candies, and limoncello (for the 18 and older crowd) are in abundance and resisting the urge to purchase everything is useless. Do, however, resist the urge to take home the grapefruit-sized lemons you will find as you wander the island, they may smell divine, but packing them is another issue altogether.
If you have more time to explore, take a 10-minute bus ride from Capri to Anacapri and get off at the Piazza Vittoria stop for an unforgettable excursion to the top of Mount Solaro. There are two options to get to the top, take a chairlift or hike. Hiking will take about an hour for those who are accustomed to moderate activity during the day and have adequate shoes. But if time is your main concern, the chairlift offers a quick and quiet twelve-minute ascent to the top.
Once on top, the 360 degrees of breathtaking views will be sure to satisfy. Views of Capri’s shores with lush vegetation, sheer cliffs and the Faraglioni rock formations jutting from the Mediterranean sea make it easy to understand why Tiberius wanted to rule from the island. Take a moment to rest while at the top and imagine Roman ships approaching the island carrying anything that might be requested by the Emperor.
Heading back down to the bottom of Mount Solaro is easy enough, hiking or taking the chairlift are your two options. If you hike down, make sure to stop at the Cetrella Hermitage famous for the Church of Santa Maria. Dating back to the 16th century the small church is home to a depiction of the Virgin Mary that has been a source of comfort for local sailors for generations. Though the church may not always open to visitors, the area around is worth a wander. At the bottom of the mountain catching the bus to Anacapri or Capri is simple. If you keep walking along the mule path for another twenty minutes you will find yourself at Villa San Michele.
Villa San Michele was built in the early 1900’s by a Swedish physician and author who, like so many, was enchanted by the island. The Villa, perched on a cliff between Capri and Anacapri is a blend of the past and the present, decorated with remains from Roman palaces that once dotted Capri. Built on the ruins of one of Tiberius’ villas, Villa San Michele is a living museum and its garden has been named “The Best Garden in Italy.” Adorned with Roman relics and other items of antiquity places it on a list of the most important gardens in Italy not only for its beauty but also for its historical significance. A visit to the villa is an experience that will leave an impression on you for years to come.
Visiting Capri should be at the top of your bucket list and is a suitable alternative if you don’t have time to see the Amalfi coast. As an island commonly referred to as a paradise, a day trip to Capri will provide all the sights, sounds, and experiences that will leave an indelible mark.