If you go
Age aristocrats on a grand tour of Europe. Today, Capri is expensive and glitzy (taxis are white convertibles), and it can be a worldclass tourist trap.
But even with its crowds and commercialism, Capri is a flat-out gorgeous place. Chalky white limestone cliffs rocket boldly from the shimmering blue and green surf, and strategically positioned gardens, villas, and viewpoints provide stunning vistas of the Sorrentine peninsula, the Amalfi Coast and Mount Vesuvius.
To make the most of your visit, take an early hydrofoil from Sorrento. Legions of day-trippers on big-bus tours and cruise ship excursion groups create a midday rush hour that you’ll want to avoid.
For me, the best experience on Capri is to take the scenic boat trip around the island. It’s cheap, comes with good narration and lots of curiosities, and there are plenty of departures from the hydrofoil dock.
As you circle the dramatic island, you’ll hear stories of celebrity-owned villas, marvel at a nonstop parade of staggering cliffs and see quirky sights (a solar-powered lighthouse, tiny statues atop desolate rocks and holes in the cliffs with legends going back to the time of Emperor Tiberius). A bonus: You can combine the boat trip with a stop at the fabled Blue Grotto, with its otherworldly azure water.
The Blue Grotto experience is more than just a visit to a cave. Getting there, getting in and getting back are all part of the experience. Arriving at the mouth of the grotto, you’ll find a covey of dinghies waiting to row visitors inside. The entrance hole is small, and only these little rowboats can fit through.
If the water’s too rough, dinghies can’t get in, and visitors are turned back. But on most days the raffish rowers jostle their way to the tiny entry, tourists scrunch down below the Lodging: Dining: Getting around: gunwales (to avoid smashing their skulls on the rock) and the guide pulls hard and fast on a cable at the low point of the swells to squeeze into the grotto.
Inside, it takes your eyes a few minutes to adjust to the brilliant blue of the cave’s water (sun reflecting off the limestone bottom creates the effect). As your man rows you around, singing a little “O Sole Mio,” you’ll enjoy the magic of the moment and understand why Sorrento and Capri have been attracting holidaygoers for centuries.
All of Sorrento turns out for the evening passeggiata, the town’s ritual promenade, to enjoy the fresh air.