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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The nerve-wracking journey is truly worth it.
Taking a boat trip to the light fantastic: Capri’s enchanting Grotto Azzurra
Sassi, Sexy and Super(ga) … One of the most romantic cities in Italy, yet often overlooked by tourists. The beautiful Piedmont capital of Turin.