My First Impression of Europe: Isle of Capri

Marble Sphinx Gazing Yonder

Sphinx of Capri



Ninth day on the trip, we left Rome in the morning for Capri Island. Our traveling plan, taking the train to Napoli (or Naples) from Rome and then a boat ride to Capri from there, worked out pretty smoothly for the most part.

Stazione Termini (or Roma Termini), the main train station in Rome, is one of the largest train stations in Europe with 29 platforms and frequent daily services domestically and to Paris, Munich and Basel. I found the train station big but clean, easy to get around and not crowded at that time. We bought two second class intercity tickets for Napoli at about €17 each with no assigned seat. As soon as our train showed up on the schedule board, we went to the announced platform. The carts were open but there was not one crew member in sight. We walked by a couple of carts before we embarked on one, not wanting to drag our bags further. It was a cart with individual cabins of two rows of seats laid on opposite sides, each seating about 4 people. The seats were comfortable but we had to leave our bags outside on the narrow walkway because the overhead luggage racks were quite small and looked light weight. We settled down in our seats until an uniform wearing attendant walked over at some point, checked our tickets and, pointing to the ATM like machines on the platform, told us to have our tickets validated. We dashed to the machines, struggled a little before getting the tickets validated and dashed bask to our seats with just a few minutes to spare before the train started moving. Our cabin was filled up. Besides Cici and me, there was a thirty something lady by herself and a family: a young couple with two elementary school age kids, a boy and a girl. The lady was reading during the entire 2 hour trip; the kids and their parents smiled a lot and lively babbled along. I glanced and smiled at them now and then but couldn’t understand a word.

Outside the exit of Napoli’s central train station (Stazione Centrale), a line of taxis orderly awaited. We told our taxi driver to take us to the nearest ferry station for a boat to Capri and were taken to Molo Beverello dock , no more than 15 minutes away. There we waited with enough time to get ferry tickets from the ticket office and some Caprese sandwiches(Mozzarella cheese and Tomato) from a shop near by before our boat arrived.

As our boat departing Molo Beverello dock, leaving Gulf of Naples behind and moving deep into the Tyrrhenian Sea, we were surrounded by nothing but blue, soft sky blue overhead and intense ocean blue all about. It was the clearest day. Looking into the horizon where welkin and sea merged, I saw that image of Capri that had gripped my mind and first attracted me to Capri. It was an oil painting titled Isle of Capri. In the front, was the paved ground of a terrace bounded by Romanesque balustrade surmounted with classical garden urns of blooming red; on the mid left and right, sections of meandering cliffs could be seen soaring above the sea, giving hint to the landscape surrounding the location, and wave splashing at the corners of sea; arching over was the clearust blue sky; stretching out and blending into the sky at the horizon was a vast, calm blue ocean. It was the portrait of a paradisiacal view emanating at the same time serenity and mystery. What kind of villa was it, who lived there? I pictured myself setting foot on that terrace and immersing in the enchanting environ.

Approximately 50 minutes later, we sailed into the main port of Capri, Marina Grande north east of the island, and joined many other boats already there, commercial and private. Once setting foot on the bustling port, I felt instantly energized by the distinctive surrounding. Fresh air, clear sky, blue ocean, radiant sunlight, merry people, their very tanned persons, vigor and warmth, exotic white houses crowded on the hill side, brightly colored flowers, yawning and umbrellas, every thing, all amalgamated into the enchanting Mediterranean flair.

We hopped in a convertible taxi with a canopy and started our vacation on the island cruising through the town towards our hotel. The 3 days on Capri were beautiful. It couldn’t have been anything else but beautiful for it is the most beautiful island on earth.

Nature’s clever axe and marvelous ability had done wonder over millions of years, separating Capri from the Sorrento Peninsula of which it used to be a part and giving it its unsurpassed beauty today. With craggy limestone slopes, sheer dolmite walls, grottos, intense blue sea, soft blue sky, radiant sun, fresh air, Mediterranean climate and splendid flora, the island commands breathtaking views every where you turn. Mixing into that landscape, exotic and charming Mediterranean villas, labyrinth of narrow passages and streets, splendid Mediterranean cuisine, a fascinating history and beautiful local people with warm personalities, Isle of Capri boasts its unequaled appeal. In fact, it is so popular and so many wants to move there, it had maxed out its land capacity for building long ago. We were told by the locals that Italian government had banned construction of new buildings on the island.

It is a pleasure to go through the photos every single time. Here are some to share with you, enjoy!

Hotel Webber

Hotel Webber


We stayed at Hotel Webber in Capri. Built on the hillside south of the island, the hotel faces the vast ocean and famous Faraglioni rocks. It is just minutes above Marina Piccola and about 10 minutes to Marina Grande. The hotel offered free shuttle service to the town center (Piazza Umberto) and Marina Grande. There was also a bus running between Marina Piccola and the main bus station at Piazza Umberto. The breakfast buffet at the hotel was fantastic for summer time with abundant fresh fruits.

Hotel Webber Seen from a Boat Tour

Hotel Webber Seen from a Boat Tour

Faraglioni from Hotel Webber’s Zigzagged Ramp

Faraglioni from Hotel Webber’s Zigzagged Ramp

Faraglioni

Faraglioni


Faraglioni is one of the well known sites of Capri, comprising of 3 famous rocks situated on the south side of the island, Stella that is still attached to the island, Faraglione di Mezzo and Faraglione di Fuori (or Scopolo).

Faraglione di Mezzo

Faraglione di Mezzo


These rocks are the result of sea erosion and atmospheric corrosion over millions of years. Faraglione di Mezzo, the one in the middle, has been eroded partly in the center and became a marvelous natural arch.

Marina Piccola

Marina Piccola


There are two ports in Capri, main port Marina Grande located at north east of the island and a small port Marina Piccola located at a small bay steps down from Hotel Webber. The bay is naturally divided into two areas, on the east closer to the Faraglioni rocks is Marina Piccola, which is much smaller than Marina Grande and only local cruise and private boats could sail in there, on the west is a small beach. The red building is a restaurant. We went down there for some much needed fruit snack shortly after we arrived at the hotel.

Beach at Marina Piccola

Beach at Marina Piccola


There are only two public beaches in Capri, this one at Marina Piccola and another near by Marina Grande. It was a must to at least dabble in the Mediterranean Sea so we went in for a dip one day. To my surprise, the beaches here are not like those fine sand beaches back home, they are rocky.

I had read about Villa San Michele and wanted to see it the first afternoon we were there. The island of Capri is made of two towns: Capri on the east and Anacapri on the west. To get to Villa San Michele located in Anarcapri, we had to take a bus to the main bus station at Piazza Umberto then switch to a bus that would go into Anarcapri. While waiting at the bus stop right outside the main gate to our hotel, a medium sized passenger van jerked to a stop right by us and the driver beckoned us to get in. We did, recognizing it was the hotel’s shuttle. The driver, whom I remember as “Captain”, explained that he saw us checking in, knew we were guests staying at the hotel and was on his way to the town center. He turned out to be the manger of the hotel and maybe future owner of the hotel because his mother owned the hotel. After finding out I was from Guangzhou, China, he told us he had been a captain on sea almost all his life until the recent years and he had been to Guangzhou many times. Guangzhou City, as the third largest city in China and the capital of the special economic zone that harbingered China’s economic reform in the early 80s, was not well known by the world, therefore a captain from Capri of all places who knew about it and had sailed there many times made it an exciting encounter.

Captain dropped us off at the main bus station where we got on a bus to Anacapri. The bus ride was full of unexpected turns. Sometimes we were riding through crowded neighborhoods. Other times we came out on an open road with incredible views of the ocean to the right. At one point it got quite unnerving, the bus pressed so close to the edge of road that I had the sense of the bus tipping its side over the cliff and I could see the ocean underneath thousand of feet down. Interestingly every now and then the narrow roads of the island forced our bus, the smallest kind, to slow down to a crawl when there was another vehicle, especially another bus, coming from the opposite direction.

We got off the bus at Piazza Victorria, the main square in Anarcapri. Villa San Michele, occupying the east end of Viale Axel Munthe a few minutes away from the square, was already closed. Some of the many shops at the square and on Viale Axel Munthe were still open. After spending a little time at the shops and buying a few things, Venetian glassware and Lemon Cellos which I bought for the cute bottles(yellowish, slender in tapered square), we decided to leave our purchases at one of the shops, that would stay open for a while, and explored the western section of Viale Axel Munthe. That turned out to be a very interesting walk.

Piazza Victorria of Anacapri

Piazza Victorria of Anacapri


Starting from Piazza Victorria, going westwards on Viale Axel Munthe, we wandered through a dense residential neighborhood. It was a hilly neighborhood and all houses were built on tiered terrace of the hillside, while the left row of houses were one the same level of the paved path we trod, the row on the right were built on a lower tier with their roofs rising to the path we took. All the houses, parading Mediterranean architecture with the island’s own delightful twist and beautiful gardening, radiated irresistible charm.

A Glimpse into the Gate

A Glimpse into the Gate

Neighborhood Alley Way

Neighborhood Alley Way

Gate and Long Approach Way to Villa and/or Farm

Gate and Long Approach Way to Villa and/or Farm

Enchanting House with Terrace Looking Out to the Sweeping Ocean

Enchanting House with Terrace Looking Out to the Sweeping Ocean

Light House on the Western Tip of the Island

Light House on the Western Tip of the Island


The neighborhood was quiet at that time. A few cars were seen parked on a wider side street but there was no traffic besides the occasional pedestrians. At about 30 minutes into the walk, after passing some small fields of grape and olive trees on the lower, right hand side, the paved road ended on the verge of a forest. We took the path through the woods and continued on. A few minutes later, the path led us close to the edge of the cliff where the prospect suddenly opened up and western most promontory of the island, Punta Carena, loomed, crowned by the famous Fargo(Lighthouse) of the island. The path continued on and no end of the forest could be seen, we halted our excursion right there and turned around.

Bustling Piazza Umberto

Bustling Piazza Umberto


Piazza Umberto, located in the town of Capri, also known as Piazzette, is the town center of the entire island to locals and tourists alike, with main bus station and funicular railway nearby, Marina Grande a few minutes to the east and many shops and restaurants for unique shopping and dinning experience.

A restaurant at Piazza Umberto

A restaurant at Piazza Umberto


First night in town, we had dinner at Restaurant Pizzeria Longano on Via Longano, recommended by the young man at the front desk of our hotel. A large fish tank stood by the front door displaying live seafood as though to affirm what we were told, “it serves the best fresh seafood”. Both Cici and I grew up eating a lot of seafood but it did not disappoint us. For a staggering €150, we had fresh catch of the day steamed whole. The fish was delicious with grilled veggie, wine and house pizza bread. During our dinner, Captain came over to say hello. It turned out his family, the Tarantinos, owned restaurant.

Church of the Cross on a Hill Top Southwest of Piazza Umberto

Church of the Cross on a Hill Top Southwest of Piazza Umberto

Haute Center of Capri

Haute Center of Capri


Capri’s high end shopping center located on Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Camerelle is right by Piazza Umberto.

Faraglioni and Sorrento Peninsula from Mount Solaro

Faraglioni and Sorrento Peninsula from Mount Solaro


Mount Solaro, situated in Anacapri, is the highest point of the island at 1933 feet(586 meters). Hiking is available but we opted for the chair lift at Piazza Victorria. The chair lift was an interesting experience, gliding up and down along the hill side with changes of scenes. The lift is essentially an open chair attached to the cables and might be challenging for some. No matter how you get up there, it is definitely worthy the trip. The panoramic view from Mount Solaro is incredible. In this photo, Faraglioni rocks can be seen and also Sorrento Peninsula across the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Covered Terrace on Mount Solaro

Covered Terrace on Mount Solaro

Faraglioni from Mount Solaro

Faraglioni from Mount Solaro

View from the Lift

View from the Lift

Neighborhood Seen form the Lift Cramed with Houses

Neighborhood Seen form the Lift Cramed with Houses

A Garden Seen from the Lift

A Garden Seen from the Lift

Marble Sphinx Gazing Yonder

Marble Sphinx Gazing Yonder


Villa San Michele, on Viale Axel Munthe in Anacapri, was built in the late 19th century by a Sweden physician, Alex Munthe, who lived there most of his life. After his death, Swedish government inherited the villa and turned it into a museum. Located on a high spot north east of Anacapri, the villa enjoys a sensational view, overlooking the sweeping ocean, northeast of the island and across the Tyrrhenian Sea, Sorrento peninsula, Amalfi coast, the gulf of Naples and the island of Ischia.

One Corner of the Villa

One Corner of the Villa


Bedrooms were on the upper level of the house. On the ground level there were a study and a small chapel.

Statue Loggia at the Villa

Statue Loggia at the Villa

Enchanting Pergola

Enchanting Pergola


The villa was white in and out. A paradisiacal garden with lush green and beautiful flowers dominates most of the villa on the east end.

Fantastic Seafood Salad for Lunch

Fantastic Seafood Salad for Lunch


While having lunch at a restaurant a few doors from Villa San Michele, we chatted with the lady owner, a beautiful Italian woman. She revealed she did most of her business during the summer, less in spring and autumn, and she actually closed down during the winter due to the lack of customers.

Seafood Pizza for Lunch

Seafood Pizza for Lunch

Blue Grotto

Blue Grotto


Blue Grotto in Anacapri, also know as Grotto Azzurra, is a phenomenal marine cave. We went in on a small boat of five people including our boatman. The opening is so small that when entering we reclined almost all the way and our boatman couldn’t row, instead he got us in by pulling on a network of chain mounted to the rocky walls. The cave is quite large but dark inside. The only lighting was sunlight beaming from the opening. The best view of the cave came on the way out.

Waiting to Get in Blue Grotto

Waiting to Get in Blue Grotto


The line for Blue Grotto was long that day, a line waiting on boats while another long line waiting on land, but I am glad we waited for it because the grotto was closed the next day due to south westerly winds.

Villa 1

Villa 1


The only way to get to Villa Jovis in the town of Capri was by foot. We set off at Piazza Umberto and followed the well marked, narrow passage for about 45 minutes before we reached the villa. It is the most delightful path meandering through a crowded residential neighborhood adorned by enchanting villas, beautiful gardening and incredible views of the ocean and the island. The road is so narrow that only motor cycles and carts no bigger than golf carts can enter. Sharing the road with us were mostly locals carrying grocery or a bottle of wine, an activity reflecting their healthy daily routine. Occasionally, a motor cart was seen delivering goods to one of the few small stores in that neighborhood.

Villa 2

Villa 2


Passing by, I paused for a moment at the gate of this house and casually glanced in. An older lady, taking a cigarette break on the front porch, spotted me and beckoned me to come in before I could withdrew myself. She came over, opened the gate, invited us in and signaled to tell us that we could take photos. It was a surprise and I started wondering if we would get invited inside or not. We did not get invited inside and she wouldn’t want to show up in our photo either. Wish we could have communicated a little better but we did not understand each other much.

Entrance of Villa Lidia

Entrance of Villa Lidia

Beautiful sight on the way to Villa Jovis

Beautiful sight on the way to Villa Jovis

Tiberius’s Leap

Tiberius’s Leap


Villa Jovis is an imperial villa built for Roman emperor Tiberius who ruled Rome from this villa between 27AD to 37AD. The villa, located at the end of Viale Amedeo Maturi in the town of Capri, was built on Monte Teberio, which at 1102 feet is second highest peak of the island and occupies the whole north east tip of the Island. This secluded area above sheer cliffs and accessible only by foot was chosen by the emperor for privacy and security. Tiberius’s Leap is a spot atop a thousand feet high precipice where unfortunate servants and discarded lovers got hurled over if ordered by the emperor. A small admission fee is required to enter the archeological site.

Ruin of Villa Jovis

Ruin of Villa Jovis


The once 7000 square meter palace built on various levels to accommodate the hilly condition of the location is now a gaunt ruin but one can still find the traces of the intricate water system collecting rain water and cisterns supplying water to the extensive bath system, amazing engineering from those days.

Santa Maria del Soccorso

Santa Maria del Soccorso


On the highest point of the villa, is the heavily restored church, Santa Maria del Soccorso. In front of the church, is a statue of Madonna and Child.

Statue of Madonna and Child

Statue of Madonna and Child

Island’s Ambassador

Island’s Ambassador


Different kind of boat tours are offered by various companies at Marina Grande. Our 2 hour tour circling around the island clockwise was the grand finale of our visit to Capri. It revealed many prospects that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen. This statue set close to Marina Grande waves welcome to all island’s guests.

Good Day to Be Out on the Boat

Good Day to Be Out on the Boat

Aerie 1

Aerie 1

Aerie 2

Aerie 2

Natural Design

Natural Design

Play Ground for the Rich and the Famous

Play Ground for the Rich and the Famous

Do forget the island is also famous for Capri pants. Get yourself a pair from LA PARISIENNE at Piazza Umberto if you have time to custom made one or one of the local shops. I got myself one from a store near Marina Grande.

For more info on Capri, see: http://www.capritourism.com/en/home

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