Capri: A how-to, far from the madding crowd
Pandemic fatigue got the better of you? We’ve got 12 reasons for you to make this Mediterranean island your first post-pandemic, off-season Italian holiday destination.
The thought of languid lunches in sun-drenched landscapes makes us as eager as the Italians to move beyond the catastrophic effects that Covid-19 has wreaked on their tourism industry. The vintage glamour, dramatic scenery and jet-set appeal of the Amalfi Coast’s Capri have always been firm favourites of ours. Just 40 minutes by ferry from Naples (an hour return by train from Rome) and heady escapism waits. Sure, you’re right to expect a mass influx of peak-season day visitors. But timed and planned correctly, and with a couple of nights, a holiday on Capri can be just the escape from the madding crowds that you need.
WHAT TO DO
1. Tour the Island by Sea
By far the most comprehensive way of taking in all of Capri’s landmarks (does Sophia Loren’s cliff-hugging villa count?); sailing around the island is entirely relaxing and allows you a couple of hours self-isolating with family or friends. With a variety of vessels to choose from, most with a crew of just one, all tours depart from Marina Grande. Have your camera ready for the Champagne and White Grottos, your Instagram feed ready for a ride through the Faraglioni (Capri’s iconic triple stack of rocks emerging from the ocean), your swimwear ready for a leisurely breaststroke through the Green Grotto, and your nerves steadied for the narrow entrance into the immortalised Blue Grotto. Insider tip: Plan your boat tour early in your stay to give you a better sense of the island’s geography.
2. Scale Mount Solaro
Second to images of the iconic Faraglioni, the most unforgettable snapshot of Capri is from its highest lookout point – the peak of Mount Solaro, which rises above the town of Anacapri. At almost 600 metres above sea level (that’s about half the height of Table Mountain), it offers views of the entire island as well as the Bay of Naples. It is most easily reached by chairlift, the chairs for which are single seats – meaning the 12-minute ride either way can be enjoyed without the need to socially distance.
3. Walk the Pizzolungo Coastal Path
Escape the anxious bustle of day-trippers with a quiet cliffside walk that takes in three of Capri’s most memorable architectural wonders, only one manmade. Begin at the Natural Arch that spans an impressive 12 metres. From here, follow the seemingly endless stairway down to Grotta di Matermania, after which the path hugs the cliffside, passes the manmade Casa Malaparte (often regarded as one of the world’s finest works of modern architecture and equally well viewed by boat), and offers an elevated, majestic view of the Faraglioni. Insider tip: Do the walk mid-morning, and head from the path’s end down to La Fontelina Beach Club for a seafood lunch.
4. Escape Reality at Villa Lysis
Life before both our current pandemic and the 1918 Spanish Flu is immortalised in this historic home that speaks of an age of the arts, and which was once an island escape for a controversial Parisian count. The building and its garden are about as Gatsby as can be and offer views both inwards and out that capture floral motifs, gold leaf Grecian columns, tiling to inspire even the most jaded of decorators and panoramic vistas across towards Naples and Marina Grande down below. Insider tip: The walk from town takes about 45 minutes, leads through the outer neighbourhoods of Capri and offers little opportunity for refreshments, so chill your San Pellegrino in advance.
WHERE TO STAY
5. Soak Up the Sun at Hotel Canasta
There’s no end to the number of hotels one can book on the island. The intimate, graceful and understated Hotel Canasta stands out from a crowded offering. Centrally located, yet removed enough from Capri’s town hub to avoid noise and tourist congestion, it is family-owned and operated. This translates into a much-welcome guest experience; personalised service being an invaluable asset in an era in which health and hygiene concerns prevail. With glamorous touches, covetable majolica-tiled floors and a killer pool deck, Canasta justifiably requires advance booking. canastahotelcapri.com
6. Feast Your Eyes at CapriSuite
Anacapri’s answer to escaping the throngs is the Instagram-worthy boutique escape CapriSuite. Comprising only two suites, both originally part of the adjacent seventeenth century San Michele Convent and with a shared courtyard, living and breakfast rooms, this colourful, design-rich getaway pays acute attention to detail and is perfect for shielding style lovers. Insider tip: Be sure to visit the adjacent Church of San Michele – it is renowned for its hand-painted, ceramic-tiled floor which beautifully depicts the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. caprisuite.it
WHERE TO SHOP
7. Scent Up at Carthusia
With 16 fragrances all created on the island, no collection of scents captures the inhalations of Capri quite like those of local perfumery Carthusia. With an intriguing history dating back to the 1380s, the brand’s quaint laboratory is positioned opposite the Gardens of Augustus and also sells artisanal soaps and hand washes ideal for a sanitary scrub down. carthusia.it
8. Indulge the Vintage in you at Laboratorio Capri
Longing for an escape to more carefree times? Laboratorio Capri is a sanctuary of a fashion boutique, intimate in size but with a surplus of confidence. Situated around the corner from the famous Grand Hotel Quisisana, its enticing window displays will lure you in. Inside, it celebrates – in both women’s and men’s collections as well as on home textiles – modern interpretations of vintage Capri imagery; think old postcards and retro island prints. Shop here for your passport to la dolce vita. laboratoriocapri.it
9. Fluff Up Your Nest at Eco Capri
With the post-pandemic ‘new normal’ meaning that we’re likely to spend far more time in our homes, homeware and accessories store Eco Capri is a no-brainer for quirky but ever-stylish retail therapy. Owned by the Cerio family, the store’s marine-inspired needlework cushions and patterned collectables draw inspiration from the artistic legacy of their grandmother, Letizia Cerio, once profiled in Vogue Italia. Her mid-century line drawings of Capri’s narrow lanes lend themselves to graphic homeware worth its weight in excess baggage. ecocapri.com
WHAT TO EAT
10. Splurge on Seafood at La Fontelina Restaurant and Beach Club
Private beach clubs and their restaurants abound on the island, from the cinematic Il Riccio with its dessert chamber to the more humble Torre Saracena off Marina Piccola. They’re the perfect way to spend an afternoon, first with a languid lunch and then with hours in their clear, warm waters. None more so than La Fontelina, positioned at the foot of the Faraglioni and dating back to 1949. Its history, seafood and iconic blue-and-white umbrellas make it a celebrity and influencer hotspot. Insider tip: Bookings and tan lines essential. fontelina-capri.com
11. Pamper Your Palate at Buonocore Gelateria
Open in the summer months into the early hours of the morning, there’s a queue outside this ice cream shop both night and day. Nowadays it’s a socially distanced queue; but nonetheless is testimony to the gelateria’s remarkable flavours and subsequent reputation. Expect a street-facing window, in which a tireless team prepares handmade waffle cones to order, the alluring aromas of which waft into neighbouring establishments. capri.gelateriabuonocore
12. Picnic Like a Local
Islander and chef Gianluca D’Esposito knows his way around Caprese cuisine. His masterly ways with pasta and pastry have earned his family restaurant, Michel’angelo, its popularity with both locals and visitors. If you want to eat al fresco like the locals do, and socially distance doing so, request one of his mouth-watering picnics. Each comes with a personalised map that leads you through quiet lanes to lesser-known hiking trails used mostly by locals. The only distraction from the solitude and sea views is the array of tasty dishes chilled inside your hamper. Insider tip: For unspoiled views of Vesuvius and the islands of Procida and Ischia, ask to picnic at Giardino di Capri, Gianluca’s soon-to-open food garden. caprimichelangelo.com