When visiting the sunny shores of charismatic Sorrento in Italy in the Bay of Naples we decided to head over to the picturesque, majestic and oh so classy Isle of Capri to mix with the millionaires in the marina and explore the peaceful and magnificent cliffs and peaks of this mountainous rock… We also had quite the experience getting up there!
Capri is a small island not far from the Sorrentine Peninsula in the Tyrrhenian Sea which rises like a mirage in the misty panorama of the bay of Naples. It’s beautiful and mountains shores have been a resort since the time of the Romans, playing host to the rich and famous alongside hordes of tourists since well before the terrors of Pompeii.
The Russian author Maxim Gorky even had a house on the island and hosted none other than our old pal Vladimir Lenin back in 1908! There is even a monument on the island to this very visit… a quite random place to find such a thing still in existence! Later the island played host to the likes of Clark Gable, Sofia Loren and Jackie Kennedy, it has been the place to be seen for the worlds poets, artists, writers and socialites since Caesar was still kicking it!
More recently celebrities and world leaders alike can be spotted on this Romantic isle from the likes of Tom Cruise to the Obama’s; the Luxury shops and bustling marina cater to their eclectic tastes! So OK, maybe not the backpackers hangout we are usually spotted in, the the beauty of it is that you can easily come over for the day and experience the champagne lifestyle without blowing your entire budget!
It is said that at one point Capri was part of the main land of Italy, but now a days it’s rugged and romantic 17 Km coastline sits by itself, a world in its own! Often crowded with tourists in the summer it is possible to wander further a field and discover this islands quiet but no less reserved side whist enjoying a Caprese sunset over the glistening waters.
The sights and sounds of Capri!
The island is not only dotted with celebrities, beautiful women and filthy rich magnates, but it also features a wealth of sights worth exploring. The main and most recognisable feature has to be the Marina Grande and is most likely where you will first step foot on this glamorous island. It is awash with tourist’s boats and yachts alike and is nothing short of bustling!
Some of the other highlights many flock to see are the “Belvedere of Tragara”, which is a wonderful promenade lined with villas and offering a high panoramic view over the island, the “Garaglioni”, a series of limestone sea stacks which trail off into the turquoise waters and the town of Anacapri where most of the inhabitants of this beautiful island call home.
Other notable features include the infamous “Grotta Azzurra” or Blue lagoon which opens up from a small crack in the cliff face to reveal the stunning illuminated cobalt blue waters inside this magical grotto. The island also boasts notable Roman ruins including imperial villas where you can walk in the footsteps of Emperor Tiberius.
For such a small island Capri has so much to explore and experience and in many ways I wish we had much longer over here. Not only is the isle a social hub for the rich and famous, but it also has some of the most amazing natural landscapes, beaches and local wildlife on the quieter areas which gives it amazing diversity for a weekend trip from the main land.
When we arrived on Capri one of the main things we were keen to do was to explore the highest peak on the Island: Monte Solaro which stands at an elevation of 1,932ft. It offers jaw dropping views over the island, sheer drops to the incredible blue sea below and unforgettable vistas of the gulf of Naples. As we headed over on the Hydrofoil from Sorrento and towards to Marina the island came into view and all we could look at was the tall jagged and mountainous limestone peak, forget the celebrities and Armani shops… this is what we have come to do!
The marina and bay, a picturesque and idyllic Mediterranean scene… until you disembark and get pulled and pushed in all directions by the ever present stampede of tourists, massive cameras bouncing off your sweating brow as you squeeze through gasp fresh air at last! The marina is nothing short of chaos, tourists and touts everywhere… but this frantic introduction to this slice of old world paradise didn’t put us off… on we went!
As we made our way up higher and higher the crowds dispersed and Capri’s natural and peaceful beauty came into focus. We took the steep Funicular up to Capri Town which sits on a saddle like verdant plateau looking down to the sea and marina below. This is also quite a bustling area of the island and the centre of many tourists’ attentions with its piazza’s, cafes and restaurants overlooking the azure below. However it’s narrow winding streets and maze of traditional white washed buildings does make this a great place to explore.
However the shadow of the Monte Solaro loomed above and on we pushed to the smaller town of Anacapri, this time taking one of the main old fashioned buses that connect various points on this almost car free island. We wound our way up the narrow, zig zagging mountain side roads and arrived in the more peaceful and village like Anacapri which sits on a on a high plateau above Capri town.
Anacapri has a very tranquil feel to it and differs quite vastly from that of Capri town even with their close proximity. Historically these main two towns have been rivals and before the building of the road we took up here Anacapri’s only connection to the rest of the world was the steep Scala Fenicia (Phoenician Steps) down to the marina. Around that time many of the villagers from each town has never even visited their neighbours!
From Anacapri it was time for the main event, the famous seggiovia, which roughly translates as “well dodgy chair lift!” to the top of the island. The chairlift is basically just a wooden chair with a loose chain attaching from one arm to the other… the mountainous landscape undulates beneath you, at times you feel relatively safe, others the height below your swinging legs is dizzying!
Despite my mother (this was a family trip) screaming and having the odd panic attack on the way up the experience of floating up this glorious landscape was unforgettable, I for one could not wait for another go! Once at the summit you are greeted with an amazing panoramic view, the sea stacks can be seen over in one direction, the main land in another as well as fantastic views down to the historic centre of Capri, this one is most definitely worth the effort!
The summit felt quite wild and untamed when we explored its sheer cliffs. The visitors centre was no longer open and the modern ruins, combined with the feeling of the power of nature made this place feel much more isolated and monumental. The views were really quite overpowering and looking over to the water their seemed much potential for further more daring exploitations given more time!
We actually made this trip back in 2005 and it is something which has stayed with me ever since, it was one of the last family holidays we went on before we began exploring further a-field by ourselves and I have to thank my parents and grandparents for this amazing experience. This was one of the first times I had experienced the true spectacle of nature, the grandeur and power of this mountain stuck with me and years later influences me to get into rock climbing and mountaineering on a more serious level. I would love to return to this beautiful spot and explore further…
Getting from the Marina to Monte Solaro
It is actually possible to walk, and although it’s steep and often sweltering the hike isn’t considered too challenging, although in my opinion half of the fun of conquering this peak is to experience the different and unique transport methods on the way up and walk at least some of the way back down!
Funicular Marina Grande – Capri Town:
Departures: every 15 minutes (more frequently in rush hour and high season).
Journey time: 3 minutes.
Price (Single): €1.80
Bus from Capri to Anacapri:
Takes around 15 mins but the queue can be quite long,
Price: Single ticket: €1.80, Hourly Ticket €2.70, Daily Ticket: €8.60
Buses run every 15-20 mins and more frequently during the high season.
The bus terminal in Capri is situated in Piazza Martiri d’Ungheria.
Anacapri’s bus terminal is located in Piazza della Pace (Piazza Cimitaro).
Chairlift to Monte Solaro:
Opening hours: March to October: 9.30 – 17.30, November to February: 10:30 – 15:00.
Price: Single €7, Return €10.
Getting to Capri from the mainland:
The best way to arrive on Capri is either by Hydrofoil or Ferry… that is of course unless you are a millionaire and have either a yacht or a helicopter!
From Naples, the ferry takes 80 minutes, and the hydrofoil 40 minutes.
Naples is served by two ports, Mergellina and Molo Beverello. Molo Beverello is the larger of the two and more frequent crossings.
Cost: Single €18.00, slower ferry €13.00
From Sorrento (Marina Piccola port), the ferry takes about 40 minutes while the hydrofoil takes around 20 minutes.
During the high season the ferry crossings are very frequent and run from early morning to late at night. Tickets can be bought on the day but pay attention to which ticket you have and for which company or type of ferry!