Joined: 28 Sep 2006
Location: Lancashire, UK
|Posted: Thu Sep 28, 2006 2:48 pm Post subject: Capri - sunshine, flowers and movie stars
|There's no doubt about it Capri is beautiful, but of all of the places that we've seen in this area, Capri is the one place where I have just one definite tip for you, one thing that you really, really should pay attention to -
When you go to Capri - do it by yourself or with friends. Do not do it as part of an organised tour - and this is why;
Capri is an immensely popular attraction, it's stunningly beautiful, it has wonderful weather, there are shops that sell things so expensive they could bankrupt a small country. Visitors include Michael Jackson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, everyone knows about Gracie Fields living there, and when you see it you'll understand why, but today, in my humble opinion, there's one problem with a guided tour.
Capri has become one big conveyor belt. The tours all follow the same itinerary; off the ferry at Marina Grande (there's a lot of Marina Grande's in Italy), get on a bus to drive to the very top of the island, Anacapri. There you get to look at the shops, maybe take in Villa San Michele (which is spectacular), then back to the bus.
If the guides don't time it right and the next tour arrives before yours leaves, it's too small and crowded, so they have to move you on quickly. Back on the bus, and you'll be taken to Capri Town, which is halfway up the island. After you've had a little wander around Capri Town, and maybe had a little bit of food somewhere, then you're back on the bus and taken back to the harbour to either browse the shops, cafes and restaurants until your ferry leaves, or go for a boat trip to the Blue Grotto.
The fact is that the population of Capri is about fifteen thousand people, and they bring that many tourists every day, so it really is a great big conveyor belt - but there's a better way to see the place, so this is how to do Capri - as far as I'm concerned.
Don't get me wrong about the tours, I think they take you to the right places; I just don't want to feel like a piece of meat being pushed from point to point.
Having ignored the tour guides, go down to Marina Piccola and get the ferry to Capri (in 2006 it's going to cost you around 12 euros), just enjoy the crossing - Capri looks good from the sea too.
Once you've got off the ferry at Marina Grande, just have a wander around - although the shops and cafe's will be busy, they won't be as busy as they're going to be later on, plus you won't have to fight for a bus or taxi.
I still think you'll want to see Anacapri, and Capri town, but rather than a tiny bus that takes some frightening roads to the top of the town, why not take a really cool looking taxi like the one above or better yet the funicular (cable car)? You'll get to see more of the island either way.
At the top of the island is Anacapri, which is a 10 minute drive from Marina Grande (or a 40 minute walk if you're feeling particularly energetic). It's a surprisingly busy place, but still manages to seem peaceful at the same time.
The Roman emperor Tiberius had Villa di Capo di Monte built in Anacapri, along with eleven other villas dotted around the island, because he loved the place so much. Villa di Capo di Monte no longer exists, it's ruins were built on by Axel Munthe in the nineteenth century, but looking from the spot where Tiberius' villa stood, you can see why he liked it.
Today you're more likely to find pop and movie stars instead of emperors and generals, but their reasons for going there are still apparent.
There are shops there that could definitely break the bank if you went wild, but there's also a good choice of more reasonably priced shops where you can buy the usual souvenirs as well as ceramics, clothes and the obligatory Limoncello.
Anacapri has its own share of hotels, bars, restaurants and nightclubs too, and if you're planning on staying there you can find plenty to do whether you're a culture vulture or a party animal!
One place that I'd say must rate as a 'must see', is the Villa San Michele, which I mentioned stands on the ruins of Tiberius' old villa.
It's now owned by the Swedish government and is classed as a 'cultural institution'. It's a museum with fabulous gardens, but the thing that sets San Michele apart, is the story of how it was built by Axel Munthe - in fact he wrote a book called The Story of San Michele.
I love to read, and I love history, so when I found out that there was a book that told how this incredible place came to be, I had to read - and if you're up for a challenge, I'd suggest you read it to.
Right from the outset, Munthe say that this book is not an autobiography, although it's his life story. He also says it's not entirely fact, and not really fiction. If you get the English translation, be prepared with and English to Italian dictionary to hand. And an English to French one too. And some headache tablets.
It's weird. But you also want to keep reading it, even though he describes going into dreams where animals talk to him, along with the Roman emperor Tiberius or he drifts into a different language, or goes from talking about Capri to treating plague victims in Naples.
I'd struggle to really describe the book properly, but after seeing San Michele I want to read it, and I'm glad I did. - I think.