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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Idyllic Islands: Capri

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By Alice Lawlor

This impossibly beautiful island off the western coast of Italy has been a celebrity hangout for decades. Anyone who’s anyone has vacationed here, from Brigitte Bardot and Jackie Onassis to Tom Cruise and Taylor Swift. It’s not difficult to see why: Capri is picture perfect with pretty whitewashed buildings and crystal clear waters. Plus, there’s no shortage of luxury boutiques, hotels and restaurants.

Sail Away

Although there are plenty of upscale hotels in Capri, the island is an easy day trip from Naples — the ferry takes 80 minutes, the hydrofoil just 40 — or Sorrento, a 40-minute ferry or 20-minute hydrofoil ride away (there are also boats from Positano and Amalfi). You’ll dock at Marina Grande, then take the funicular up to Capri Town. Head to the main square, Piazza Umberto I, for a cappuccino, some people watching and a caprese salad — perhaps Capri’s most famous culinary export.

Next, hit the shops. Located right in the main piazza, La Parisienne is more than just a boutique, it’s an institution. Audrey Hepburn purchased her capri pants here to create her signature look. Forgot to pack your own capris? They can make you a custom pair in a day. Then treat yourself to a bottle of “Fiori di Capri,” the island-themed perfume from famous fragrance company Carthusia. There are five locations around the island.

National History

Capri is known to historians as the “palace-island” of Emperor Tiberius — a notorious 1st-century Roman emperor who lived here in self-imposed exile. You can visit the ruins of his main home, Villa Jovis, by walking 45 minutes east of Capri Town along Via Tiberio. The 60,000-square-foot property is the most impressive of the 12 villas he commissioned on the island, and includes an extensive system of baths. Don’t miss the Salto di Tiberio (Tiberius’ Leap). According to local legend, Tiberius would have out-of-favor subjects thrown into the sea from this terrifyingly steep cliff.

Into the Blue

The island’s most popular attraction is the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto), a stunning sea cave with an ethereal blue glow. Entry to the cave is via a small rowboat manned by guides who sing Neapolitan classics as you enter the cave (they expect a tip for their serenading). Visit between noon and 2 p.m. for the best chance of a good sun-to-sea reflection, and don’t bother on overcast days. It gets packed in the summer season so come prepared for crowds.

For a less busy option, head to Villa Lysis, a splendid art nouveau gem. Situated high on a cliff at the northeast tip of the island, this luxurious stately home belonged to French poet Jacques d’Adelsward-Fersen, who moved to Capri to escape scandal back home. The mix of architectural styles makes the interiors truly unique, and there’s even an opium den in the basement. Leave plenty of time to explore the beautiful gardens, which have incredible views of the bustling Marina Grande bay.

(Traveler Spring 2020)

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