For as far back as anyone can remember Capri has had a reputation for glamour,decadence and indulgence. But while it's true that for many years the island has been a favourite retreat of the international jet set,there is much,much more to it than row upon row of glitzy bars and boutiques.This may be a rich man's playground, but it's certainly no Monaco.
Despite the deluge of camera-totting tourists that hits the island each season (or the regular faces who wouldn't be seen dead with a even a Nikon in hand), Capri has steered thankfully clear of the commercial selling-out that strips many comparable destinations of their original character and beauty. The end result is an island whose appeal reaches out to both the budget-conscious, nature-loving holidaymaker and the spendthrift, society-seeking international traveller. This is certainly one of the most beautiful of the Sorrentine Islands off the South Western coast of Italy,and, like the mythical Sirens who tempted unsuspecting sailors onto its rocky shores, it has a seductive and slightly perilous mystique ((which in layman's terms means that if you've been once, you're very likely to visit again). The island's appeal lies as much in its rawness and legendary natural beauty as in the hustle and bustle of the towns of Capri and the smaller Anacapri. The choise is yours whether you indulge in Pimms and socil chit-chat in town or escape the crowds and walk into the wilderness - or have a little bit of both, of course.
At only four miles long and two miles wide, Capri is really best explored on foot. This is an island of gardens, panoramas and walks, largely unspoilt by the noise and pollution of the motorcar. From the moment one steps foot on the island the perfume of jasmine and bright colours of the bougainvillea assail the senses. Small pathways lead to quaint gardens where music and local voices escape from the whitewashed houses to drift amongst fragrant flowers and fruit-laden olive and lemon trees. And as these delightful Mediterranean gardens and their idyllic setting unfold, one is treated intermittently to spectacular panoramic views out over the island's rocky cliffs and startling turquoise and emerald seas to Naples, Sorrento and, through the haze, the mighty Vesuvius. It really is quite breathtaking.
And Capri also boasts some rather unique and stunning geological features. The Grotta Azzurra is a natural landmark of extraordinary beauty and one of the most potent symbols of the island. It takes its name from the eerie, iridescent blue light caused by sunlight passing through the water at its mouth. The grotto can be reached from Marina Grande by boat - a bit of a tourist trail, but worth enduring for the experience - and the tour may also take in another of Capri's natural wonders, the Faraglioni. These majestic rock formations feature a series of tunnels and hoops, worn through by thousands of years of lapping seas. They are just large enough to allow small boats to sail directly underneath to the bright sunshine on the other side.
But the Faraglioni can be just as easily admired from one of the island's many vantage points, and Capri boasts an amazing array of awe-inspiring view-spots. Via Krupp is one of the longest and most lauded. Financed by the German magnate - you've guessed it, Krupp - to connect the Quisisana and Marina Piccola, it has been called "the world's most beautiful road" thanks to the way it hugs the cliffs and the clever use of local construction materials. For a spot of fun why not hire one of the island's vintage open-topped taxi's from the 50s and 60s to travel the road.
Once you have taken in the views you'll surely crave new sport for the mind and body. Variety and choise is really the key to Capri's popularity, so you're sure to find an unending array of suave and luxurious entertainments to occupy your time (and burn a hole in your wallet). The island is in essence a chic and exclusive hangout teeming with expensive and trendy places to stay, eat, drink and party. Piazza Umberto I is the island's social centre. It is basically one large outdoor cafè that serves both Capri's ultra-hip visitors and nonchalant natives. This is where everybody goes in the morning to buy their newspaper and have coffee, stop for an aperitif before lunch and dinner, and while away the after-dinner hours sipping on
something cool and watching the pedestrian traffic saunter by. The shady terrace in front of Hotel Quisisana, just off the Piazzetta, is a great place for people watching, as it also commands a view of Capri's main shopping area. If you hope to make some purchases yourself then there are a wealth of tantalising boutiques to peruse along Via Camerelle and Via Vittorio Emanuele. As well as discovering many of the world's biggest luxury labels, you will find some too that are exclusive to Capri, such as Raffaele Faiella, Manrico Cashmere and La Campanina.
Capri by night is a different place again. As the midsummer moon rises big and close and the evening breezes bring wafting perfumes of myrtle and pine, flickering lights begin to sparkle across the island and the beautiful people come out to play.
From Roman times to the present day, Capri has attracted the rich and famous to its rocky shores. The Roman Emperor Tiberius made the island his home, Oscar Wilde enjoyed its charms, and today Capri continues to lure glamorous Hollywood stars, lesser royals and ultra-chic jetsetters. The towns of Capri and Anacapri both offer a whole range of delightfully chic restaurants and bars, but the emphasis in both places is definitely on understated elegance. And thankfully there's no need to fear showy exhibitions of wealth - this is an island that's too secure in its own charms to allow for such vulgar displays. So all that's left to do is sit back, take it easy and forget about the world beyond the island's enchanting shores.