Things to see
Capri counts many influences to its art and culture: from the Byzantine and Islamic architectures of the 1st century to the churches, watchtowers and fortifications of the medieval era. Capri was also captured a number of times; it passed hands from the Kingdom of Naples to the invading Ottoman Empire to Napoleon’s French troops until finally being returned to Italian rule. By the 19th century, things had quieted down and Capri quickly became a popular resort visited by artists, intellectuals and many celebrities. Today, it is a thriving wedding and tourist destination.
When visiting Capri and Anacapri above it, there are some attractions which stand out from the rest; Grotta Azzura is one such attraction. The Grotta Azzura is a sea cave which is famous for its dazzling blue illumination that is a result of sunlight reflecting off the water onto the cave walls. Throughout history, this grotto has inspired artists and writers with its magical charm. On the other side of the island are the equally fascinating Faraglioni, a natural rock formation resulting from thousands of years’ worth of erosive forces.
Villa San Michele, located at the top of the ancient Phoenician Steps, was built in the early 1900s by the Swedish doctor and author Axel Munthe. Its location on a ledge between Anacapri and Capri grants it a beautiful view of the main harbor and surrounding bay. Incorporating Roman ruins as its base, the villa and surrounding gardens boast a large collection of sculptures and various relics from Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt and other classical ages. Nowadays, it has become a museum.
High above Capri, on the hills to the west, is Anacapri. To visit, one can either take the bus from Marina Grande (the main harbor) or brave the long and steep Phoenician Steps. Once there, many visitors take the chairlift ride to Monte Solaro, which offers breathtaking views of the southern coast. The French composer Claude Debussy is one of Anacapri’s most famous visitors.
Villa San Michele
Located in the town of Anacapri, on the island of Capri, is a surprisingly recent building: Villa San Michele. Built in the early 1900s by the Swedish doctor and author Axel Munthe, it takes its name from an ancient chapel that Munthe bought and renovated before building the villa. What is interesting about the construction of Villa San Michele is that its foundations are actually Roman ruins which were discovered and incorporated into the villa’s design.
The villa and surrounding gardens boast a large collection of sculptures and various relics from Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt and other classical ages. Its lovely portico offers a grand view of Capri and the clear blue waters around it; in the distance, Mount Vesuvius seems to rise like a giant from the sea.
After Munthe’s death in 1949, the property was bequeathed to the government of Sweden and was later turned into a museum. Today, it also hosts special cultural exhibits and concerts of classical chamber music.
Rising from the sea just off the south-eastern coast of the island are the imposing Faraglioni, a natural rock formation resulting from thousands of years’ worth of erosive forces. These rocky monoliths have been an inspiration to countless artists and writers, as well as the backdrop for innumerable holiday photos.
The Faraglioni are three individual rock formations called Stella, Faraglione di Mezzo and Scopolo. The Stella, the closest to Capri, is connected to the island via a natural rock extension. The Faraglione di Mezzo, the middle rock stack, is characterized a central cavity which is large enough to allow small boats to pass through it; this is a popular tour highlight for visitors exploring Capri from the sea. The third and final rock stack is the Scopolo, most famous for its native population of blue lizards that cannot be found in any other habitat in the world.
Probably Capri’s most famous natural wonder, the Grotta Azzurra is neatly tucked away in the north-western part of the island. The Grotta Azzurra, or Blue Grotto, is a sea cave renowned for its dazzling blue illumination that is a result of sunlight reflecting off the water onto the cave walls. Throughout history, this grotto has inspired artists and writers with its magical charm.
First discovered by the Romans who settled on the island, Emperor Tiberius is said to have used the cave as his private temple. Ancient sculptures depicting Neptune and Triton have been recovered from the grotto and are now on display in the museum of Capri. It was “rediscovered” by the German writer August Kopisch, who wrote about it in his book published in 1838, quickly turning the grotto into a popular tourist attraction the world over.
The only way for visitors to access this cave is via small rowboats operated by experienced guides. If the weather is good and the sun is shining, you will be able to see the stunning crystalline blue reflections which have given this grotto its name.