Its modern symbols are the Piazzetta, the Blue Grotto, the music, the celebrated sandals and the VIPs who, in the summer, become the chosen target of the paparazzi who arrive on the island certain of finding a treasure. But the treasure is discovered by everyone, the well-known personalities and the common people, who can enjoy a luxurious and discreet environment, but one that is also rich in magic and the typical Parthenopean atmosphere made up of a combination of sun, sea and food that has no need of an introduction.
Since ever and for ever in this case means a not too distant past, Capri has been a top class destination, frequented by politicians, artists, industrialists, writers and intellectuals, but also by Hollywood, by the international jet set, and by that unreachable elite that includes the names of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Jackie Kennedy, Agnelli, Onassis, Rothschild and Krupp.
If we tried to suspend the idea of the Capri “Dolce vita” for a minute and imagine the island without its vociferous gaiety, what impression would we have? Perhaps that of a place accessible to few, characterised by brilliant brush strokes of the blue of the sky and of the sea, and by the silence all around, interrupted by the cries of seagulls.
Its true soul we would imagine to be made up of breezes, of light, and of a smell of the sea, impalpable but visible. More or less the classical ‘corner of paradise’.
But even in ancient times Capri was loved and desired forcefully. Inhabited from Palaeolithic times, it was occupied by the Phoenicians and by the Greeks, who reached it between the 7th and 6th centuries BC. Then, in 326 BC it fell under the dominion of Naples and was Romanised. A few centuries later, in 29 BC, the emperor Augustus built a villa there and Tiberius chose to live there for the last decade of his life. Tiberius ran his empire from Villa Jovis, the best known, because the greatest, of the Roman residences built on Capri, However, the island’s history tells of bloody raids by corsairs and Moslems. Actions almost inconceivable if one looks at the astonishing beauty it presents to us today, as inconceivable as the outbreak of plague in 1656 that decimated the population of Capri and Anacapri, the village above, whose name means exactly that “above Capri”. It is strange to think that an island so close to the mainland and to Naples, and which thus lent itself to a role as refuge and a place of peace, has had such an intense history. But perhaps we would not appreciate its present so much if its past had not been such.

A NATURAL ARTISTIC HERITAGE
Geologically and palaeontologically, the richness of Capri is infinite, starting from its traces of the life of primitive man and its fossils of animals that disappeared thousands of years ago. But the flora, among the richest in Italy, and the fauna, especially the marine fauna, are also varied and important. The very name of Capri is said to derive from its shape, which recalls that of a goat lying down. Furthermore, the presence of goats and wild boar (the name given to the island by the Greeks) is proved by some ancient texts.
When one thinks of the island, the things that come to mind, apart from its famous sea caves, are the Faraglioni, the huge fragments of rock that rise from the sea to the sky and have become almost a trademark for the recognition of Capri. Then there is its Nature in general, and also the population of celebrities that at certain seasons of the year meets on the Piazzetta, a sort fashionable salon, seated at little tables or at a bar.
Particularly fascinating is the Natural Arch, a rock that rises from the sea and is what remains today of a great sea cave that penetrated into the mountain. To admire the Faraglioni, on the other hand, one has to follow the Tragara, the scenic road that leads to the belvedere from which one can admire these famous Capri rocks.
One can also admire the natural architecture of the island in the sea caves that surround Capri and have made it famous. Among these, we would mention the Matermania Grotto, which one reaches by a flight of steps in front of the Natural Arch and which in Roman times had the function of a luxurious nymphaeum. In the Matermania grotto traces of mosaics remain for us. But the most famous sea cave always remains the Blue Grotto, which takes its name from colour given it by the reflection of the sea water on its walls, In the past, it was used by the Romans, as is proved by the discovery on the seabed of some finds and some marble statues. This wonder of nature must obviously form part of any projected itinerary in search of Capri, which could take Marina Grande as its starting point, then proceeding to Tiberius’ baths and thence to the Grotto. On leaving the Blue Grotto, the trip around Capri, which one makes in a motorboat, continues via the coves of Orrico, Mesola and Rio to reach Punta Carena and the lighthouse, the second biggest after the one at Genoa.
Having left the Blue Grotto, one goes to visit the Green one, which also takes its name from the colour of its water. The boat finally reaches Marina Piccola, the Arsenal Grotto and the much sung Faraglioni, to conclude with a visit to the White Grotto. A tour of this kind naturally takes a certain amount of time, and it is best to take it slowly to enjoy fully the unforgettable spectacle offered by Nature.

BETWEEN MYTH AND LEGEND
It is said that .... There are many old stories, naturally fantastic ones, linked to the island of Capri that have crystallised the myth of the island, making it immune to the unjust and impious passage of time.
Many of the legends that have come down to us relate to Tiberius, but let us begin with Augustus, who arrived on Capri in 29 BC and witnessed a miracle. On landing on the island, the future emperor of Rome (Octavian became Augustus in 27 BC, two years later), saw a holm oak that seemed to have died suddenly turn green again, a vision that inspired him to take possession of Capri.
The legends about the life on Capri of Tiberius, who lived there surrounded by body guards, astrologers and fortune tellers, are impregnated with cruelty. One of them is that he used to throw young men off a rock that today bears the name “Salto di Tiberio” – Tiberius’ Leap.
Other stories date from more recent periods, to a few centuries ago, and are found in literary texts that tell the story of lovers and their torments. One example is “Posilecheata” by Pompeo Sarnelli, which tells the story of the love of a Neapolitan gentleman for a noblewoman from the “House of Capra”. This is the story of an obstructed love that ended with the death of the woman who, deciding to throw herself into the sea off Naples, was transformed into the island of Capri.
Stories and legends are one of the best ways of getting to know places and retain a strong impression of them in one’s mind. There is nowhere in the world where there is not some old story recounted by the old people who have perhaps spent their entire lives there. For example Punta dello Sbruffo is associated with the history of two fishermen, father and son, who were caught in a terrible storm off Capri. In desperation, the father prayed to the spirits of the sea to save at least his son. His prayers were accepted and a sudden light drove away the night and revealed a beautiful woman who reassured the old man, who soon afterwards woke up in his own home, surrounded by his family, naturally including his son. According to the old folk of the ‘island of the sirens’ as Capri was called, the beautiful woman was the last of the sirens to live here.

THE CAPRI OF THE VIPs
Gigi Proietti says Capri should be visited at least once a year, even though he admits he prefers Anacapri “because it is further from the clamour of the world of fashion”. Like Monica Guerritore, who, in spite of having been a regular visitor for many years, links her love for Capri and Anacapri chiefly to memories of her youth. Another connoisseur of the island is Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, who goes to Capri “just as soon as work leaves a weekend free”.
The well-known personalities who love the island are uncountable, as are the actors and directors, often of great calibre, who have made Capri the set for unforgettable films. One example is “Il disprezzo”, a 1963 film inspired by a book by Alberto Moravia and directed by Jean Luc Godard. The cast included Michel Piccoli, Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance and Fritz Lang.
Another great film shot on Capri was “La pelle”, directed by Liliana Cavani, with a cast including the unforgettable Marcello Mastroianni, the beautiful Claudia Cardinale, and Burt Lancaster. But there have been a great many other stars of the Italian and foreign cinema who have made the island their little Hollywood, like Sophia Loren, De Sica (the elder) and Clark Gable. Naturally these are only a few of the great dynasty of VIPs and artists who have followed each other in rendering homage to one of Italy’s most beautiful islands.

ROMANTIC HOTELS AND CONGRESS FACILITIES
It would be hard to find an unromantic part of Capri, and so every hotel has is own particular touch of class that makes every visit unforgettable. But some of the luxury hotels succeed in making the surrounding atmosphere still more magical. Among these we cannot but cite the Morgano family’s Grand Hotel Quisisana. Several times the winner of awards from the Condè Nast Traveller magazine, in 2001 it was included among the best 10 hotels in Europe. And we shall now explain why.
The hotel started life as a place in which “health is restored”, as its very name indicates, having been founded by a Scots doctor in the late 1800s. Some years later, it became a small hotel, which was later enlarged and became one of the symbols of the island. In addition to its elegant and beautiful rooms, the Quisisana offers its guests 7 suites, with terrace and view of the sea and the Faraglioni. Naturally it also has bars, restaurants, a swimming pool, gymnasium, tennis court and a spa. Open from March to November, it also organises meetings and congresses; it has hosted the congress of young entrepreneurs on several occasions. Its eight meeting rooms can accommodate from 10 to six hundred people, and technological support is also provided.
The Capri Palace Hotel is classified as 5 star deluxe, like the Quisisana, and has 82 bedrooms, of which six are suites with garden and private swimming pool. The hotel, at Anacapri, is a jewel loved by many personalities from the world of cinema and the performing arts (to the point of being called “the hotel of the stars”), who appreciate its style and discretion. There are three restaurants and a beauty spa available to guests, and a helicopter tour of the island can be organised for the most spoilt. The Palace, too, has facilities for congresses. A large hall, which can be divided into two, has space for up to 200 people, while a smaller meeting room can accommodate up to 15 delegates. Like the Quisisana, the Hotel Palace is open from March (from Easter) until early November.
Right on the famous Piazzetta one finds the Hotel La Pazziella, a small 4-star one, in the heart of Capri, from which one can enjoy a fascinating view of the Faraglioni. The 20 bedrooms, furnished in neoclassical style and provided with every comfort, are spread over two floors. For guests’ relaxation, there is a beautiful planted garden and an open-air swimming pool.
Another Capri jewel is the Calypso, a 4-star hotel with only 7 bedrooms, but rich in atmosphere.
A hotel that distinguishes itself by its refinement is the Casa Morgano, which has the advantage of being situated on the scenic Tragara road, looking directly onto the Faraglioni and the Marina Piccola. It has four stars, and its elegant bedrooms are furnished with warm sunny colours in full harmony with outside environment. The guests of Casa Morgano have a beautiful open-air swimming pool and tennis court available, and also the option of using the spa at the Quisisana, as also do the guests of the Hotel Flora, which has 23 rooms and suites in Mediterranean style, with vaulted and arched ceilings. This is another hotel, only a few minutes from the Piazzetta, that offers a marvellous view of the Faraglioni and the sea.
Also around the Piazzetta is the Hotel La Palma, given that perhaps not overly original name because in the 19th century there was a hostelry on the site that had a huge and beautiful palm in front of it. The hotel’s 74 bedrooms and suites are very elegant, with meticulous attention given to detail. Some junior suites also have a hydro-massage pool on the viewing terrace, and some bedrooms have bathrooms and ceilings with trompe-l’oeil frescoes. For receptions, banquets and meetings, the La Palma offers three rooms with technological equipment for events and receptions; These facilities can seat from 10 to 70 people, while the Roof Garden can accommodate 360.
The Hotel La Residenza, recently modernised and expanded, is one of those with most space for congresses. The hall can take up to 300 delegates and is provided with the most modern equipment. For guests’ relaxation, there is a swimming pool and solarium terraces where they can sun themselves. Many of the 98 rooms have a balcony with sea view, and the restaurant offers a panoramic view to accompany its typical Capri dishes.
La Scalinatella, an associate of the Casa Morgano and the Flora, is a five star hotel in one of the most exclusive parts of Capri and offers spacious, refined and romantic facilities. The rooms are enriched by a distinctive floor of local ceramic. For guests, there is a swimming pool, bar and tennis court, and those who want a fitness centre can use that at the Hotel Quisisana.
Those who want to spend a holiday in a simple but tasteful environment might opt for the four star Hotel Luna, in the centre of Capri. It has a covered swimming pool, and lunch can be served close by, between one dip and another, in complete relaxation.
One very discreet hotel is the Mamela, built in typical Capri style with arches, vaults and ceramics. Recently restructured, it started life as the historic Hotel Pagano which welcomed guests from Northern Europe in the 19th century. Its style today is the result of a search that aimed to make each environment, bedrooms, garden and swimming pool, a corner in which to find harmony and relaxation. Architecturally, the Mamela blends well into the surrounding nature, and the colours are resplendent with a marvellous white that emphasises still more the green of the garden and the blue of the sky and sea.
The Hotel Palatium enjoys a regal position, perched on a point overlooking the Bay of Naples with Vesuvius beyond, the same point where Tiberius liked to spend his holidays. The atmosphere of this 4-star hotel is discreet and fascinating, thanks to a restaurant, “La Scogliera”, where one can dine by candle light, and an American bar on the terrace from which one can admire the view and the sea. Guests can relax on the solarium terrace or in a sea water swimming pool. For businessmen, the Palatium has fully equipped meeting rooms. The 43 rooms comprise 10 standard rooms, 16 junior suites and 17 deluxe suites, all with terrace and sea view.
A view one ought not to miss is also offered by the Punta Tragara, a hotel on that scenic Capri road, that offers the luxury and refinement of former times, with period furniture and tapestries. A swimming pool right above the shore offers an exclusive view, while thalassotherapy and the treatments offered by a massage centre make it possible to organise a holiday centred on wellness. The guests have a restaurant, reception hall, night club and American bar available to them.
The Hotel Regina Cristina, on the other hand, is near the Piazzetta, on the path that leads to the Gardens of Augustus and the San Giacomo abbey. Open all year, it offers its guests discretion in an elegant building.
The Villa Brunella is decidedly unusual, characterised by a distinctive terraced architecture that descends from a height, facing the Bay. The hotel’s rooms are in Capri style, tastefully furnished in retro style, and the sunniness created by the pale colours rules everywhere. The suites have small lounges and private terraces overlooking the sea, while the restaurant, which overlooks the Marina Piccola, offers romantic, candle-lit evenings. The swimming pool and solarium with panoramic views are near an American bar.
At Marina Piccola one finds the Hotel Weber Ambassador, from which one can reach the sea by descending 32 steps, This 4-star hotel, which boasts a peaceful location, far from the always crowded Piazzetta, allows guests to use the shuttle bus that connects the hotel to the heart of Capri every 8 minutes, all day long and until late at night. Its location is truly enviable, close to the sea which one can gaze at from the terraces and from the roof garden. The hotel organises various sporting activities, excursions and meetings for its guests.
300 metres from the sea, at Anacapri, one finds the four star Hotel Caesar Augustus, with 47 rooms located right above the shore. From its breathtaking location one can see the Bay of Naples, Vesuvius, Ischia and the Sorrento coast. The hotel has congress rooms, restaurant-bar, fitness centre and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. A shuttle bus service connects the Caesar Augustus with the centre of Capri and the mythical Piazzetta.

THAT WHITE SAIL THAT LOOKS OUT TO THE FARAGLIONI
A house that sprouts from the rock, the house desired by Curzio Malaparte and built at Punta del Massullo. The house the writer called “a house like me”, to emphasise his desire to make it a portrait of himself, seems as if it were a real extension of the rock, from which it literally seems to emerge through the flight of steps, even if it at the same time it seems to rebel against the laws of nature, which it challenges with the red colour of its facades. Following his purchase of the land in January 1938, and thanks in part to his good relations with the fascist regime, the writer obtained a building licence on the very day he submitted his application to the municipal committee, the 31st of March that same year. Speedily obtaining all the other permits required, Malaparte entrusted the design to the architect Adalberto Libera, who had become famous in the fascist period for his work in the EUR development in Rome. The house has neither balconies nor loggias, which would have broken up its geometry, and is open to the exterior only by “picture windows”, so-called by the writer because, almost like a trompe-l’oeuil in reverse, they seem like real pictures hung on the wall to depict the marvellous Capri panorama.