Capri … heavenly creatures and a helluva way to get up a mountain from the island’s charming town of Anacapri

Where Capri Town is effortlessly chic and glamorous, the smaller town of Anacapri high up in the eastern side of the island is not nearly as sexy but arguably has a lot more charm.

On arrival to the island (and I would suggest staying a few nights if your budget will stretch to it) there are two ways to get to Anacapri: the easy way (by road) and the avoid-at-all-costs way (by foot). If you want to walk in the footsteps of the locals who had no choice but to reach Anacapri by foot in centuries gone by, don’t do it literally. Have a limoncello in their honour instead. Don’t be lured by the stairway’s highly maintained appearance and amazing views across the Bay of Naples. The pathway to Anacapri is a very long, winding, stamina-enduring stairway of over eight hundred steps up along the cliff edge from the harbour under the full glare of the Mediterranean sun (and in case you’re wondering why I know all this, I took the route on my way back down from Anacapri – which was actually rather pleasant if a little hard on the knees – and saw the state of a handful of tourists who were attempting the journey up).

Only take the pedestrian route up to Anacapri if you are training to climb steep stairways for charity, or if you are completely mad (the red line here has been Photoshopped in to indicate the route of the path and is not a piece of string left out to help stop climbers from losing their way)

Only take the pedestrian route up to Anacapri if you are training to climb steep stairways for charity, or if you are completely mad (the red line here has been Photoshopped in to indicate the route of the path and is not a piece of string left out to help stop climbers from losing their way)

If you don’t want to take an expensive top-down taxi to Anacapri, there is a regular bus service available from Capri Town. Buses run every 20-30 minutes but the vehicles themselves are terribly small with a seating capacity of only around twenty passengers. This can result in long queues at the bus station, but the station is laid out well to accommodate the crowds, and the staff keep a firm reign on the queues so that it is always first come first served, avoiding a low-cost-airline style scrum to get on board when the bus finally does arrive. Being British I felt rather at home waiting around for the best part of an hour before three little people-carriers turned up all at once.

Although there a few motor vehicles in Capri (only permanent residents are allowed to bring cars onto the island), that doesn’t stop the only main highway on the island doubling up as a constant high speed motor-racing track. Caprian drivers – bus drivers included – appear to have a death-defying taste for speed particularly around the cliff-skirting road. So, it is probably wise not to take a window seat behind the bus driver if you are of a nervous disposition.

Also, although the destination on the bus reads ‘Anacapri’, it is not actually the last stop on its route. It doesn’t drive through the town but only stops on the outskirts of it before heading on further up the mountain. As Caprian bus drivers tend not to make any destination announcements, I would suggest doing what I did and befriending a local old dear that’s riding on the bus with you who will hopefully let you know the right time to get off.

The view of Capri harbour and the Bay of Naples from the bus (yes I took this from inside the bus) as it drove a bit too fast along the mountain road and a little too close to the edge of the road for comfort on its way up to Anacapri (thoughts of how the film The Italian Job ended kept coming to mind on every turn in the road)

The view of Capri harbour and the Bay of Naples from the bus (yes I took this from inside the bus) as it drove a bit too fast along the mountain road and a little too close to the edge of the road for comfort on its way up to Anacapri (thoughts of how the film The Italian Job ended kept coming to mind on every turn in the road)

Anacapri is an absolutely charming town: warm, inviting and modest with a more authentic and rural air about it compared to its image-conscious counterpart in the west.

One of Anacapri's delightful baroque-style churches

One of Anacapri’s delightful baroque-style churches

A public bench in the town's square, typical of public street furniture across the whole of the island

A public bench in the town’s square, typical of public street furniture across the whole of the island

They may have been plastic, but the vines dangling over Viale De Tommaso were still charming

They may have been plastic, but the vines dangling over Viale De Tommaso were still charming

Walking inside the Ciesa di San Michele is restricted to narrow wooden planks around the perimeter of the little church that will test one’s balance especially when manoeuvring around the pillars. The reason being is the floor of the church displays a stunning depiction – if a little more fantastical than in the book of Genesis with the presence of a unicorn amongst other creatures – of the garden of Eden in beautifully preserved eighteenth century majolica tiles. It is a stunning piece of art which thankfully can also be viewed from a less restrictive first floor platform.

Watch your balance when walking the planks around the Ciesa di San Michele. But don't worry, alarms and flashing lights won't go off if you accidentally step on the floor (but incurring the wrath of the attendant in the foyer as a result of your mistake is probably embarrassing enough)

Watch your balance when walking the planks around the Ciesa di San Michele. But don’t worry, alarms and flashing lights won’t go off if you accidentally step on the floor (but incurring the wrath of the attendant in the foyer as a result of your mistake is probably embarrassing enough)

Going by the presence of that unicorn, I guess this illustration is 'loosely' based on Genesis

Going by the presence of that unicorn, I guess this illustration is ‘loosely’ based on Genesis

Adam looks rather like delightful adventurer Ben Fogle

Adam looks rather like delightful adventurer Ben Fogle

He looks like he's choking on an apple

He looks like he’s choking on an apple

Named after the vibrant colour of its walls, the charming Casa Rossa has admittedly little else to offer a visitor other than access to its … er … red interior walls.

Inside the Casa Rossa, or is it a scene from a Dulux paint catalogue?

Inside the Casa Rossa, or is it a scene from a Dulux paint catalogue?

I'm being unfair: the Casa Rossa also contains some lovely architectural touches, a permanent exhibition of nineteenth and twentieth century landscapes of Capri island, and isn't entirely red

I’m being unfair: the Casa Rossa also contains some lovely architectural touches, a permanent exhibition of nineteenth and twentieth century landscapes of Capri island, and isn’t entirely red

The far-from-red domed roof of the Casa Rossa

The far-from-red domed roof of the Casa Rossa

A much more worth-while visit is to the stunning Villa San Michele di Axel Munthe just outside the town. Built on the cliff-top site of a Roman villa in the early twentieth century, this was once the home of Swedish doctor Axel Munthe who came to Capri as a young man, fell in love with the island (and who wouldn’t), and dedicated the rest of his life providing healthcare to the locals whilst turning his home into the tranquil oasis that it remains today. In the summertime classical concerts are performed in the gardens of the villa. Utter bliss.

The beautiful courtyard inside the Villa San Michele di Axle Munthe. Doctor Munthe's salary must have been very healthy indeed (hawh-hawh) to afford all this

The beautiful courtyard inside the Villa San Michele di Axle Munthe. Doctor Munthe’s salary must have been very healthy indeed (hawh-hawh) to afford all this

The villa's charming bedroom

The villa’s charming bedroom

From the bedroom to the courtyard

From the bedroom to the courtyard

Capri Anacapri inside Villa San Michele statues leading out into the garden

Beautiful views from the courtyard

Beautiful views from the courtyard

A Caprian gnome. Although it can't be seen in this photo (it was difficult to photograph it without threat of falling over the edge of the cliff), the nose of the villa's sphinx has worn away from erosion and superstitious visitors rubbing it for luck

A Caprian gnome. Although it can’t be seen in this photo (it was difficult to photograph it without threat of falling over the edge of the cliff), the nose of the villa’s sphinx has worn away from erosion and superstitious visitors rubbing it for luck

The sphinx sits right on the edge of the villa grounds and cliff top looking across the bay of Naples, and although appears not to be indigenous to the island, the creature is an enduring symbol of Capri

The sphinx sits right on the edge of the villa grounds and cliff top looking across the bay of Naples, and although appears not to be indigenous to the island, the creature is an enduring symbol of Capri

Another must-do when in town is to travel up to the top of Monte Solaro, the island’s highest peak, not just for the most breath-taking views across the bay, but also for the unique way you can reach it: the Seggiovia Monte Solaro is a chair-lift – yes, a chair-lift – that whisks passengers up to the top of the 589m mountain and is probably the most bizarre form of transport I have taken to date on my travels.

Chair-way to heaven (hawh-hawh!)

Chair-way to heaven (hawh-hawh!)

That is clearly a look of fear on her face. She's not waving, she's signalling for help

That is clearly a look of fear on her face. She’s not waving, she’s signalling for help

The constantly moving mechanism whizzes seats around fairly quickly and scoop passengers up on the way. The attendants advise passengers to stand on the square (pictured) and squat as though preparing to sit down on a loo. Charming

The constantly moving mechanism whizzes seats around fairly quickly and scoop passengers up on the way. The attendants advise passengers to stand on the square (pictured) and squat as though preparing to sit down on a loo. Charming

A very odd sight indeed ... none of us are wearing skis for a start

A very odd sight indeed … none of us are wearing skis for a start

Daggling over roads ...

Daggling over roads …

... and, er ...

… and, er …

All that was keeping me from a fall to my death was a dodgy fairground-ride style bar across my lap that had no locking device on it whatsoever

All that was keeping me from a fall to my death was a dodgy fairground-ride style bar across my lap that had no locking device on it whatsoever

At one point the chair lift suddenly stopped and we were all left daggling in mid air for several minutes without any explanation. One fellow British wit shouted "this is like that scene from The Spy who Loved Me!" Quite, only I think he was referring to the cable car scene in Moonraker

At one point the chair lift suddenly stopped and we were all left daggling in mid air for several minutes without any explanation. One fellow British wit shouted “this is like that scene from The Spy who Loved Me!” Quite, only I think he was referring to the cable car scene in Moonraker

The nerve-wracking journey is truly worth it.

The Isole Faraglioni from the top of Monte Solaro

The Isole Faraglioni from the top of Monte Solaro

Capri Town and the coast of the Italian mainland in the distance

Capri Town and the coast of the Italian mainland in the distance

Not the safest angle to take a photo of the gorgeous Marina Piccolo below

Not the safest angle to take a photo of the gorgeous Marina Piccolo below

TLT x

 

Taking a boat trip to the light fantastic: Capri’s enchanting Grotto Azzurra

Capri entering Grotto Azzurra close up

Sassi, Sexy and Super(ga) … Turin tram on Ponte Vittorio Emanuele I and Chiesa di Gran Madre di Dio in background   One of the most romantic cities in Italy, yet often overlooked by tourists. The beautiful Piedmont capital of Turin.

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