An impressive chunk of limestone soaring from the Tyrrhenian Sea, Capri has been attracting attention since Roman times: the notorious Tiberius ruled the empire from the cliff-top Villa Jovis, and in the mid-19th century the island became a magnet for artists, intellectuals, aesthetes and especially writers, drawn by the inspirational scenery, gentle climate and dreamy, liberal lifestyle: ‘Capri makes you forget everything,’.
Best season to visit Capri is late September or early October when the evenings are balmy, the water is still warm and there is a sense that things are calming down to a seductively easy pace. Also, you really need to go out of season because in high season an average of 20,000 day-trippers pile onto the island every day (day visitors all leave by late afternoon). However, Capri is stil nice in May, the carpets of wild flowers add glorious colours to the wild scenery, but the sea is chilly.
Most of Capri town is only accessible by foot. There are few roads and fewer cars, so for longer distances one must rely on the elongated, open-topped Fiat taxis (glam but expensive) or the fleet of Lilliputian orange buses (crowded but cheap).Capri’s wilder, more remote side can be explored through its network of footpaths, but to get a sense of the place, you need to get down to the sea. A gentle chug around the island reveals secret coves and sea caves, tiny scraps of beach you can’t get to by land, villas hidden among folds of the cliffs, and towering rock formations looming over inky-blue depths.
Capri is home to both rural farming and fishing communities, most obviously reflected in the island’s well-known culinary traditions, based on simple, fresh ingredients from land and sea and overflowing with the big, bold, sunny flavours of southern Italy. Dishes such as insalata caprese are transported to another planet when made with real buffalo mozzarella, sun-ripened tomatoes and the peppery basil that grows on the island’s steep, salty terraces. Fat, round ravioli caprese (stuffed with caciotta cheese and fresh marjoram, and served with tomato sauce) are delicious, as is torta caprese, a moist chocolate cake made with ground almonds. Vines have been cultivated here for nearly 3,000 years, and local wines (mostly whites made from Falanghina and Biancolella grapes) are a great match for the unfussy food. After dinner, an ice-cold limoncello, produced from the alcohol-infused zest of local lemons and often homemade to a family recipe, can’t be beaten.