Located to the south of the Gulf of Naples just off the Sorrentine Peninsula is the Italian island of Capri. In the 1950s Capri became a highly desirable destination for the international jet-set including many Hollywood stars such as Sophia Loren, Rita Hayworth, Audrey Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman. The island grew very wealthy on the back of its new-found fame resulting in significant investment in the tourism sector. Capri also became associated with the fashion industry as talented designers such as Emilio Pucci created fashion houses which would become recognised around the world.
Today the island remains a beautiful destination overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea but its air of exclusivity has long gone. Instead Capri has become a short excursion destination for thousands of daily visitors who arrive on ferries from Naples and Sorrento. Most cruise ship passengers who have docked at one of these mainland ports will be transferred to Marina Grande which is Capri’s main harbour. Only a few small cruise ships can anchor directly in the waters off Capri.
Highlights of the island include Capri Town which is highly regarded for its designer-shopping; the town of Anacapri from where visitors can reach the top of Mount Solaro, the island’s highest point; and the Blue Grotto which is a beautiful limestone cavern.
Port of Capri
Marina Grande on the island’s north coast is the main arrival point for ferries and tender boats from the mainland. The smaller Marina Piccola in the south mainly caters for leisure craft. There are no facilities for large cruise ships anywhere in Capri so visitors will most likely arrive on day trips from ships docked in Naples or Sorrento. A few smaller vessels occasionally moor off Marina Grande and tender passengers ashore.
Transfers from Naples Airport
The vast majority of cruise ship passengers who are joining up with their ship or ending their cruise in this part of Italy will travel through Naples Airport. The airport lies 10km north-east of the cruise terminal at Molo Beverello from where frequent ferries run across to Capri. There is an airport bus which runs to the port via Piazza Garibaldi in the city. However, for convenience’ sake, a private transfer from Naples Airport with Shuttledirect should get you to the port in about 20 minutes. Ferries from Naples to Capri then take about 80 minutes whilst hydrofoils get there in half that time. There is no airport on the island of Capri.
Getting Around in Capri
For most new arrivals at the port of Marina Grande first impressions are a far cry from the glamorous ‘dolce vita’ Capri of the 1950s. Instead passengers are met with a busy harbour lined with souvenir shops and and fairly basic bars and restaurants. Fear not as you aren’t far away from the glitzy side of the island that you’ve come to see. This lies in Capri Town which is only a few minutes away by funicular railway from the port. Unfortunately, excessive numbers of arrivals means that there are frequently long queues for this service so a bus or taxi may prove more convenient.
From Capri Town there are additional bus services to Anacapri, Marina Piccola and other destinations around the island. These leave from the bus stop on Piazza Umberto I. There are also limited bus services which go directly from Marina Grande to Anacapri.
Main Tourist Attractions
For most day trip visitors arriving on cruise ship tender transfers from Naples or Sorrento the main attraction is Capri Town itself. Lying just 3km inland from Marina Grande the town is best known for its stylish boutiques with designer labels. However, there’s more to the town than shopping. Central to the town is the Piazzetta (Piazza Umberto I) which is home to a number of attractive cafés where visitors can people-watch from open-air terraces. On the square is the 17th century Chiesa di Santo Stefano which is one of the island’s oldest churches.
A short walk to the south of town are the Gardens of Augustus. These beautiful botanical gardens stand on terraces overlooking the sea with stunning views which include the Faraglioni stacks which are Capri’s iconic rock formations.
Around the Island
Anacapri: Just 7km west of the Marina Grande harbour is the sleepy old town of Anacapri which is more traditional than Capri Town. Visitors can wander the tiny streets of its historic centre where life appears largely unaffected by the island’s tourist boom. However, most cruise ship passengers on shore excursions simply use Anacapri as a place from which to take the cable car to the peak of Mount Solaro which is the island’s highest point at 589m. Panoramic views from the top are simply sensational.
Another attraction with stunning views is Villa San Michele which lies between Marina Grande and Anacapri. It used to be the home of a Swedish doctor called Axel Munthe who developed the site out of the ruins of a Roman villa formerly built by Emperor Tiberius.
Blue Grotto: Probably the busiest (and most expensive) trip after landing at Marina Grande is to the limestone cavern known as the Blue Grotto. Visitors are transported by motorboat to the entrance to the Grotto then transfer to a rowing boat which takes them inside the cavern. Whilst there’s no doubting the beauty of this natural phenomenon the sheer number of daily visitors is enough to persuade many cruise ship passengers to consider alternative activities.
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