Luxurious and Affordable Italy. Yep, it’s true!
By Rebecca Mayoll
The Isle of Capri, known in Greek mythology as the Isle of the Sirens, was a favored resort of the Roman Emperors. Most notoriously, the Emperor Tiberius owned a villa on the island which he retired to in 37CE after a relatively peaceful 23 years of ruling.
Nowadays Capri’s azure coastline sees less royalty but continues its status as a luxury holiday haven.
Wealthy Europeans escaping the hustle and bustle of the neighboring Almalfi coast flock here in summer but fear not, Capri can also be accessed by travelers on a budget… and not just for a day-trip.
With a little creativity and a keen desire for some outdoor hiking, a few luxurious days on Capri is affordable on any budget, you just need to know how.
Where is Capri?
The Isle of Capri is a 10-square kilometer mass of irregular limestone cliffs rising 589m from the ocean surface. Barely five km from Italy’s famous Almalfi coast, Capri overlooks a huge portion of the mainland that fronts the Bay of Naples, Sorrento and beyond.
Why should you visit Capri
The Isle of Capri is a great escape from Naples and another side to the fascinating Almalfi coastline. It delights in offering visitors 360 degrees of stunning coastline, cliffside lookouts and oozes a typical Italian charm.
With two quaint towns sculpted around its irregular landscape, an abundance of traditional Italian dishes tied to its name and an untouched rugged natural beauty, Capri is captivating.
The sheer quantity of highlights that Capri squeezed into its slender frame is exceptional and that is the main reason it draws so many day trippers each year.
When to go to Capri
Capri’s legendary status as a summer hot spot means that the island comes to life during Italy’s hottest months. The shops stay open well into the night and the bright blue Mediterranean is full of splashing tourists.
This is also the time when prices for accommodation soar so budget travelers should consider paying a visit to Capri in the off season. During spring or fall visitors have the wild coastlines and numerous highlights all to themselves.
It is true that several local restaurants close in the off season and rather than cooling in the oceans you would prefer to warm up by taking a coastal walk. But this is a time when Capri’s central square is hushed from tourists and the town comes to life with the banter of local Italians, plus the sunsets are still magnificent.
Getting there and around
The Isle of Capri is interrupted by an enormous limestone pinnacle which separates its two central areas. Capri sits to the east while the more placid Anacapri lies to the west.
Ferries land at Marina Grande, the southern edge of Capri. Boats run almost hourly from Sorrento (30 minutes) and Naples (40-80 minutes depending on their speed). For information on ferry departures and prices visit ok-ferry.com or you can use Capri’s official webpage. You can rent a car in Rome and easily drive down on the autostrada.
Numerous buses run the length and breadth of the island, the most common thoroughfare connects Capri and Anacapri via a winding coastal drive that boasts a spectacular cliffside view.
Connections from Capri can be taken to either of its marinas while connections from Anacapri can be taken to the fringes of the western coastline. Each bus journey is a fixed rate, €1.80 per trip irrelevant of your destination. Tickets can be purchased on the bus or from Capri bus station.
Bustling with walking trails, secluded beaches, gardens and scenic views it is easy to stay entertained in Capri for free. Most attractions that do have entrance fees are inexpensive. It is worth attaining a free map from the information centre in Capri town which has several maps and information boxes to help you discover all of Capri’s hot spots.
The old walk of the forts
Etched into the cliff’s edge this five kilometer path winds its way along the stunning west coast of Capri. You will pass the ruins of several forts built in 1806. These forts were originally manned by the British but came into French control after a brief battle only two years later.
Along this route are interpretative panels depicting Mediterranean flora with the end of the path reaching the lookout at Punta Carena Lighthouse, the optimum place to view sunset.
How to get to the old walk of the forts – Catch a local bus (1.80Euro) to Punta dell’Arcera (The Faro bus, heading towards Grotta Azzurra). Look for a small pathway and follow the red dots. When you’re done, there are public buses leaving to Anacapri every 40minutes for 1.80 Euro.
Duration: 3-4 hours at a slow pace.
Hike Capri’s eastern coastline
With highlights such as a large natural arch and the secluded Faraglioni Bay this scenic walk might only take you a few hours. Follow a pathway guiding you around the south-eastern tip of Capri.
Chair lift to Monte Solaro
You cannot come to Capri without taking the chairlift up to the highest point. The panoramic views over towards the Almalfi coast, Napoli peninsular, Vesuvius and Ischia are breathtaking. Plus there is the scenic and gentle ride to the top. Make sure it’s a clear day or, if you’re like us and the weather is overcast, be prepared to wait it out. It’s worth it, only 10 euros.
Blue Grotto (17 Euro p/p).
You have to time this right, calm seas and low tides are mandatory for tours to run.Be sure to check each morning at the information office at Marina Grande or Capri’s town centre to see if boat trips are operating. The meeting point for tour is at the Marina grande. The sea turns to silver inside this famous grotto.Certosa di San Giacomo (4 Euro).
A thirteenth century Carthusian monastery and garden perched on the edge of the cliffs edge overlooking the Faraglioni Rocks.
Villa San Michele (7 Euro).
Mountainside villa with stunning views of Marina Piccola, the bay that boasts one of Capri’s prettiest beaches.
Capri’s centre square
This is the heart of the community and is the most pleasant place to people watch or gaze at the sky as the sun sets behind the huge cliffs of central Capri.
Where to Stay in Capri
Capri’s cliffside villas, resorts and sumptuous B&B’s attract decadent holiday makers worldwide, therefore it is generally expensive. But for budget conscious travelers there is the option to stay at the family run “Villa Striano Capri,” feel secure knowing that Capri’s cheapest choice in accommodation is not far from the main town centre, is neatly set amongst a quaint orange grove and is incredibly clean and comfortable.
Via Marina Piccola, 26
Tel+39 081 8377850
Fax+39 081 0060336
http://www.capri.com/en/hotels provides a useful list of alternative villas and hotels found around Capri’s central town, just bear in mind that Capri becomes very busy in the high season and several options close during winter so booking ahead is a wise choice.
Finding how far your accommodation is from Capri centre is also useful as it will determine how far you have to walk with your luggage as vehicles are often restricted from entering the tiny cobbled alleyways.
Capri’s food culture has evolved from simple, locally grown ingredients which are still prevalent on the island today. It’s fresh summer salads and creative, resourceful use of abundant produce, Capri’s dishes continue to designate throughout Italy’s national cuisine. Visiting without tasting the origin of a few of Italy’s national dishes would be abominable. Here’s a little list to get your taste buds ticking.
Insalata Caprese – Caprese Salad. A refreshing starter of buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil. Red, green and white, the three colors of the Italian flag- very patriotic.
Caponata Caprese – A popular summer salad in Capri, traditionally made with dry bread, vegetables and basil. However leftover from the fridge are used to expand the flavors and boost the appeal.
Ravioli Caprese is the island’s signature dish through a recipe passed from generation to generation. Ravioli packed with buffalo cheese, parmesan and oregano is usually coated in a fresh tomato sauce or sits on a bed of melted butter and sage although it can even be fried and served as a starter.
Torta Caprese is Capri’s accidental but revered dessert, a traditional Italian chocolate and almond cake made without flour. This gluten free delight was predominantly sold to tourists and can be traced back to the 1920’s. There are many rumors about its origin but my favorite is that a baker once forgot to add flour to his mixture, when he allowed his colleagues to taste his failure they remarked on its unique and delicious taste.
Drink of choice: Lemoncello. The undulating topography and warm weather is a perfect environment for lemon trees to flourish. Capri produces it’s own organically grown Caprese Lemoncello liquor. It is only ever served in a chilled glass.
For budget conscious travelers, if you’re willing to be creative you can significantly reduce your meal costs. By gathering fresh, local ingredients from charcuteries, patisseries and corner stores dotted throughout Capri town it is possible to create a take-away italian banquet.
Also worthy of note is the coffee shops/bars bordering Capri’s main square. Alongside drinks they serve up a delicious range of pastries and cakes at all hours of the day but note that if you choose to sit instead of stand, your tab will be nearly three times the price.
Capri’s official website is written in English and is a useful tool for gathering information on Capri with regards to transportation options and its numerous attractions.
Rebecca Mayoll is a ‘just turned 30’ freelance writer from England and the co-founder of straightondetour.com, a travel website with the mantra ‘Find Your Own Adventure.’ Discussing adventurous destinations, independent travel and giving a humorous insight to the World of travel is what Becky does best