Capri’s reputation as a celebrity ‘hangout’ with upmarket and extortionately-priced hotels and designer shops is well known but this island in Italy’s Bay of Naples is also a scenic gem. The name Capri comes from Kapros which is Greek for ‘wild boar’ as the Greeks occupied the island and hunted these animals centuries before the Romans took over.
In summer, Capri's dramatic, cove-studded coastline acts as a magnet for sailors and many vessels, from small sailing dinghies to luxury motor yachts, are drawn to its waters. Up until the 1800s the island was relatively unknown outside Italy, but two Germans, writer Augustus Kopisch and artist Ernst Fries, are credited with putting Capri on the holiday map. Since then it has grown to become one of Italy’s most popular destinations.
The island is easily reached by ferry From Sorrento`s Marina Piccola with a journey time of approximately 30 minutes. It took almost as long to queue for tickets and that was in October - July and August must be chaotic!
There is a lift off Piazza Tasso that takes passengers from street level to the waterfront as the stairs can be quite daunting to some, especially on the way back up at the end of a long day.
Marina Grande, Capri`s main port, is located on the northern side of the island. Before 1928, docking took place directly in the bay, but the location has since been developed not only as a port but a seaside resort with a notable beach which is the largest on the island. The multi-coloured houses and other buildings that line the waterfront are supplemented by well-spaced dwellings situated on terraces across the heavily wooded hillside directly above. A Corinthian capital stands on a high pedestal at the end of the western wharf, testament to the Roman presence in the area.
The main harbour is a hive of activity. As well as the local boats, ferries from other destinations including Naples disgorge their passengers and sailing boats and power craft, both commercial and private, come and go throughout the day.
The distinctive luxury yacht Altair III (right) is owned by Diego Della Valle whose net worth is thought to be in the region of US$ 1.6 billion, therefore the US$ 50 million cost of the vessel, which was built in 1974, is bordering on `pocket money`. He also has a Dassault Falcon 2000 private jet, and a Gulfstream G550.
Della Valle is the President and CEO of the Italian leather goods company Tod's and is one of the largest shareholders in the American department store Saks Fifth Avenue. He is also the owner of the Italian football club ACF Fiorentina which is based in Florence.
The Coastguard were keeping an eye on youngsters taking part in a dinghy sailing regatta.
The round-island excursion, which we took from Marina Grande, Capri`s main port, immediately on landing, was superb, especially given the prevailing calm and sunny conditions. The sea cliffs hosting natural arches and numerous caves are awe inspiring with individual houses seemingly precariously balanced on the skyline.
The island’s most impressive offshore geographical feature is a trio of rock stacks collectively known as the Faraglioni. Years of erosion has resulted in the bottom of one pillar deteriorating to form an impressive sea arch and a constant procession of craft position from either direction, emphasising the scale of the tower as they pass through.
Punta Carena Lighthouse, located on a headland at the southwest tip of the island, has been operational since 1867 having taken 5 years to construct. Its light, housed in a 28 metre-high (92 ft) octagonal tower, has a range of 25 nautical miles (about 46 km). The statue of a woman sitting on top of a huge boulder (below right) lies close to the island`s main port but the easiest way to see it is from the water.
A number of stone watchtowers area located in prominent positions around the coast, all of which are circular.
One of Capri’s best-known natural sites is the Grotta Azzura or Blue Grotto, a dark cavern once used by the Romans as a bathing place. The waters close to the cliff edge entrance here can become fairly congested as numerous private and tour boats gather and wait in turn until one of the Grotto guides paddles over in a tiny rowing boat to collect customers, one or two at a time. The entrance to the cave is so low that visitors have to lie flat on their back in the boat to avoid a sore head as they pass through!
This round-island excursion was without doubt the highlight of our trip to Capri and after a brief stroll along the waterfront with its busy restaurants and lots of passersby, many in groups trailing along behind ‘follow me’ brolly-brandishing guides, we decided to head back to Sorrento - checking out designer shops or trying a bit of George Clooney spotting (he has a villa on the island) didn’t appeal.
The chair-lift trip up to Capri’s high point, Monte Solaro at an elevation of 589 metres (1932ft) sounded good but there wasn`t enough time before we had to catch our allocated ferry back to Sorrento. At the top of the peak there`s a statue of Emperor Augustus and the remains of Fortino di Bruto, a military fort built during the Napoleonic Wars.
Unlike the outbound ferry in the morning, our high-speed craft on the return had some open-air seating which enabled me to get some shots of the western tip of the Sorrento peninsula. Unlike the circular watchtowers on Capri, some of the mainland structures, possibly dating from a different era, were square.
The cruise ship Silver Spirit had dropped anchor in the bay and left Sorrento later the same evening. Our hotel, the Admiral is pictured bottom left, below.