BY DEBORAH STOKES
in Capri, Italy

It is impossible to keep up with this 40something mountain goat in heels. Her name is Lorena, she's wearing an Italian leather coat and boots, an elegant purse slung over her shoulder, and despite what might seem to be inappropriate apparel for scaling the face of Mount Tiberio, a rocky ridge that overlooks the Gulf of Naples, she seems to know exactly what she is doing.
"We go this way:' she says. "It is much faster." I now better appreciate why Capri is said to have inherited its name from capre, the Italian word for goat. They were once a main resident of this rocky outcrop that millennia ago joined Italy's mainland.
From my rocky perch I can see Naples and the Amalfi coast. Some 300 metres straight down the sea is an indigo blue. Behind us are the ruins of Villa Jovis, the main residence of Emperor Tiberius and the most sumptuous of the 12 villas he built on Capri. From 26 to 37 AD, the last 11 years of his life, Tiberius ruled the Roman Empire from his beloved island.
It was here, at Villa Jovis, that the colourful legends about Capri took seed, sprouting a rich crop of myths and whispers that have gripped tourists' imaginations and lured them to the island. At the edge of a sheer rock face, Salto di Tiberio, the emperor disposed of young boys and others he had wearied of, tossing them onto the rocks and crashing waves below. No matter that the chronicler of this gruesome tale was the historian Tacitus, who opposed Tiberius' choice of Capri well hidden from Rome as the capital of the empire. Tacitus also reported on Tiberius' various nyphaeums in the grottos around the island. In Roman times, nyphaeums were revered sanctuaries and meeting places, but Tacitus gave the ones on Capri a decidedly lustful tinge.
For almost 2,000 years since, Capri's noir status has been its main draw.
Halfway down Mount Tiberio, we emerge from a scrubby forest at Villa Lysis, built in 1905 by French poet and writer Jacques Fersen, who had retreated to Capri after six months imprisonment for corrupting male minors. Made of marble, with every angle and window designed to take advantage of stunning views of the island and sea, Fersen wiled away his days here with his young male lover. In 1923, in the Chinese Room, also called the Opium Room, he committed suicide after drinking Champagne and cocaine from his silver glass. The villa, is still empty, although a local historical society is restoring it as a venue for classical music concerts.
Fersen was not the only homosexual author of his day to retreat to the island haven. Oscar Wilde also headed for Capri upon being released from jail in England and was unceremoniously turfed from the Grand Hotel Quisisana once his identity was revealed.
Next on the dirtylaundry list is Alfred Krupp, the German industrialist who built the famous Via Krupp considered one of the most beautiful roads in the world out of the rock cliffs on the edge of the island. Krupp also found himself at the centre of a homosexual scandal involving the sons of local Capri fishermen. In 1902, when the scandal broke in the German papers, Krupp was forced to leave the island and he, too, took his life.
Lorena and other Capri residents delight in the telling of these sordid tales, perhaps because life is less eventful these days. Capri boasts two towns Capri and Anacapri located at opposite sides of the island. Microbuses, electric cars and scooters ferry people between the two. Visitors arrive at Marina Grande, the island's main port, and take the funicular to the heart of the island, Piazza Umberto in central Capri.

ISLANDERS WILL TELL YOU LENIN PLOTTED THERE

Cafés, hotels and designer boutiques Prada, Hermes, Versace and the like line the narrow ancient streets that branch off from the main square.
A short stroll from the fashionable plaza even on this day in October, the end of the tourist season, it is crowded takes you to its philosophical opposite, a red house that belonged to Maxim Gorky. One of his guests between 1907 and 1910 was Vladimir Lenin. Islanders will tell you Gorky and Lenin planned the Russian revolution from this red house.
Capri's legendary status continued to grow in modern times, thanks to such regular visitors as Jackie Onassis, Liz Taylor, Grace Kelly and other jetsetters. Current Hollywood royalty Michael Douglas and Catherine ZetaJones vacationed on the island last summer. Jackie 0's love of a certain style of pant tailored on the island, at a shop off the square called Le Parisienne, spread throughout the fashion world, and Capri pants remain a soughtafter item at the place where they were invented.
The island's reputation as a playground for the rich and famous kept the hoi polloi away for a time, but that is changing. Today, the biggest scandal on the island is the hordes of daytrippers who disembark from the ferries at daybreak, descend on the shops and restaurants, the ancient ruins, private and public beaches, and then vanish at nightfall back from whence they came.
After their departure, under the stars, with the scents from the sea, the lemon groves, cafés and restaurants all mingling together in a sensuous perfume, one wonders why they left before one of the best parts begin.
When we say goodbye, Lorena wants to know if I was seduced by Capri. I certainly wouldn't be the first, but I'll keep that secret to myself.

IF YOU GO
Getting there Air Canada and Alitalia provide service to Naples from Canada. Hydrofoil ferries run frequently between Naples and Capri and take about an hour to make the 12 nautical mile crossing. Ferries also provide service between Capri and Sorrento, where you can catch a train to visit Pompeii, the ancient city. For more information on Capri, go to www. capritourism.com Things not to missI Upon entering the celebrated Blue Grotto, said to have been one of Tiberius' nyphaeums, you are greeted with its brilliant blue waters, which no camera has been able to accurately record. The colour is due to a phenomenon of light refracting off the sea. From the main marina, local fishermen take visitors into the Blue Grotto by boat. I Villa Jovis is a long uphill climb through the narrow streets of Capri to the top of Mount Tiberio. But the walk is worth it to get a glimpse of the sophistication that went into these ancient Roman buildings. I Via Krupp was built in 1900 and unites upper Capri with Marina Piccola on the waterfront, a fashionable swimming area. The panoramic path was cut out of the rock and offers stunning views at every turn. The entire road takes about 20 minutes to walk. I Anacapri is situated on the high part of the island and is connected to Capri by a panoramic road (40 minutes on foot, 10 minutes by auto) that offers a great view of the Gulf of Naples from the Sorrentine Peninsula to the island of Ischia. While there, take the chairlift to the highest point of the island, Mount Solaro. (1,932 feet).