Capri 101

As one of those iconic resorts that’s been featured in books, films and gossip magazines so often, Capri is easy to write off as a destination that has become a caricature of itself, and to wax nostalgically about the days when the Italian island was still “undiscovered” And yet… in the 19th century, the visiting German poet Ferdinand Gregorovius likened it to a “dreaming sphinx,” and even today there’s something soulful and ethereal about Capri, especially its stunning, fragrant landscapes. Sure, for scenesters who want to be part of the action, Capri town is the kind of place where the party never stops, at least during the high season. But those who prefer a more laid-back vacation need walk only a few narrow streets from the cluster around the piazzetta (main square) to find quiet, flower-scented paths leading past huge silent villas with overgrown gardens and ceramic signs heralding names—Isabella, Sarah, Tosca—that sound like those of heroines in a novel.

Capri has two distinct faces: during the day it’s ruled by day-trippers, who arrive at the Marina Grande and pour into Capri town, Anacapri and main attractions like the Blue Grotto. Only after the last ferry has left (if you’re staying at gorgeous J.K. Place, you get a close-up view as it pulls out of the marina) do locals and visitors staying on the island emerge to partake in a charming nightly ritual. It begins at one of the bars on the piazzetta, where you gather for an aperitif and, more important, to people watch. Dinner, a lengthy affair including homemade pasta and simply prepared fresh seafood, is followed by more cocktails and, finally, dancing at one of town’s many bars. By the time the ferries, and the day-trippers, return the next morning, everyone is safely holed back up at a villa or hotel, ready to while away another day basking in the sun by a pool or at one of the island’s lidos. In some ways, one need only look to Capri’s past and present visitors to understand that the island is a place that’s at once deeply stylish (Maria Callas, Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn), a little moody (Rainer Maria Rilke, Claude Debussy), dreamy (John Singer Sargent) and brainy (Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, Shirley Hazzard), a touch flashy (Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mariah Carey) and, above all, deeply Italian (Rosina Ferrara, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida).

When to Go

During the off-season, November through March, Capri is basically shuttered, including most of its restaurants and shops. Like Sleeping Beauty, the island rouses every year around Easter but doesn’t kick into full swing until mid-May. July and August are hopelessly overrun, so your best bet is to plan a trip for late May and June. Or go in the early fall, especially September, when you can enjoy warm weather and waters as well as fewer tourists.

Getting There

There are daily ferries to Capri, leaving from several towns along the Amalfi coast. During the high season (May through September), ferries run from Naples, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Castellammare and Salerno, as well as between sister islands Ischia and Procida. Be warned that if the sea is rough or if there is fog, the first ferry to be canceled is the one from Positano’s small port. The ferries vary in size and length of crossing; the fastest is the hydrofoil (from Sorrento, it takes about thirty minutes).

Getting Around

Nonresidents cannot bring cars on the island, but the narrow streets and impossible parking make having a car a hindrance in any event. Depending on where you’re staying, upon arrival at the Marina Grande, visitors take the funicular up to the piazzetta and continue on foot to their hotel. If you’re booked at the Capri Palace Hotel & Spa or at J.K. Place, you can arrange for the hotels to pick you up with a car. There is a reliable—if pricey—taxi service on the island, as well as buses that run between Anacapri, Capri town, Marina Grande and Marina Piccola. (If you opt for the bus option, know that about twice as many people pile into them as can comfortably fit.) From Capri town, all of the shops, restaurants and sights are easily reached on foot. The short drive between Anacapri and Capri takes about ten minutes.

Indagare Tip: If you’re taking a bus to Capri from Anacapri, skip the always long tourist line at the Piazza Vittoria. Instead, walk up Viale Tommaso for about five minutes to the previous stop; mostly locals board here before the bus picks up passengers at Vittoria.


There are several factors to consider when deciding where to book on Capri, but the most important question is how close or far away you want to be from the Piazzetta Umberto I, the ever-bustling main square and the heart of Capri’s social scene, reached via funicular from the Marina Grande. The Grand Hotel Quisisana occupies several blocks in the center of town, and see-and-be-seen types will be happy based there. Those seeking more secluded retreats near town should consider La Scalinatella, Casa Morgano and Villa Brunella, or, to get away from the crowds entirely, book at the Capri Palace in Anacapri. The island’s most glamorous designer property is J.K. Place, in a serene spot overlooking the Marina Grande.

TIP: Unless you’re staying at J.K. Place, a short drive from the Marina Grande or at the Quisisana, right in the center of town, you have to take the funicular or a taxi up to the piazzetta and walk to the hotel of your choice. All hotels have porters that meet the ferries to collect your luggage, but be sure to clarify in advance if this is included in your room rate or if there’s an additional charge. Also, if there are certain items you will need upon arrival (toiletries, prescriptions, sunscreen, hat, change of clothes), be sure to carry them with you. Depending on the season and whether or not fellow guests are arriving on different ferries, it can take time for luggage to arrive at the hotel. Also, if you’re staying at La Scalinatella, the Casa Morgano or the Villa Brunella, be prepared to walk: the properties are fifteen to twenty minutes uphill from the main square. The good news is that the Via Tragara, where the three hotels are located, is one of the prettiest streets on the island. If you’re staying in Anacapri at the Capri Palace, you can take a taxi from the Marina Grande or ask the hotel to send a car.


As in many European resort towns, there’s an established ritual to dining on Capri. It starts as soon as the last day-trippers head back to the mainland, when locals and visitors based on Capri emerge from hiding. Evenings kick off with people watching over an aperitif at one of the outdoor bars in the piazzetta, like Al Piccolo, and continues with a late dinner, which is followed by drinks, dancing and serious partying. If you make a reservation for dinner before 9 P.M.—and during the high season, be sure to have a reservation—chances are you’ll be sitting in an empty restaurant. Many places shutter between November and April; there’s no official reopening date—this is Italy, after all—but after Easter you can generally count on the main restaurants’ being open.

Published onNovember 30, 2019

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