Capri: island of rare beauty and charm
Capri is one of those unusual places which has an instant, and positive, resonance for everyone who hears its name. It immediately invokes glittering celebrities, the height of Italian chic, extraordinary history as a holiday retreat of emperors, and scenic beauty.
It would be easy to believe that Capri is hard to reach without a private yacht, but it is actually a very easy, pleasant and good value journey from either Naples or Sorrento. The latter in particular offers an extremely speedy transit across calm blue seas. Little can prepare for the first sight of Capri, surprisingly small and twinkling invitingly in the sunny Tyrrhenian Sea.
La Conchiglia Villa offers a place from which to savour every aspect of this celebrated pleasure island. It has five en suite bedrooms and benefits from a private solarium, swimming pool, BBQ and wood oven and beautifully landscaped grounds. Sunbathing offers vantage points over quintessentially Caprese white rooftops and blue waters.
The villa’s location is extraordinary, a few moments from the famous Piazzetta di Capri, and with views of the spectacular Faraglioni. Much like the dramatic Pitons of St Lucia, the jutting rock formations of the Faraglioni are an iconic backdrop to the island’s lush scenery. The very fortunate might even spot the rare blue lizard which calls the Faraglioni home.
The Piazzetta provides the chance of world class celebrity-spotting, as well as the more prosaic amenities of the tourist office, newsagent and cafes. It is the logical starting point from which to explore the narrow warren of pretty streets, occasionally opening out into a lovely vista.
Capri offers shopping for many of the designer brands you might expect, but also some fascinating artisan options. One of the very best is Carthusia: I Profumi di Capri. This cult perfumery, offering blissful fragrances of exceptional purity and quality, has its roots in ancient legend, as does so much on Capri. The story goes that in 1380 the Prior of the St. Giacomo Carthusian Monastery made a floral tribute with Capri’s most lovely flowers for the surprise visit of Queen Giovanna d’Angio. When the Prior changed the water a few days later, he noticed a unique scent, the Garofilum silvestre caprese, who forms the base of traditional Capri perfumes. Today the shop is perfect for a unique souvenir of the island.
It is no shock, given the clientele, that Capri has a plethora of wonderful restaurants. There are plenty of informal snack bars and pizzerias, the base of a scale that runs all the way up to incredibly high end establishments, such as the two Michelin starred Restaurant L’Olivo. Crafted by the architect Frezza, the restaurant’s interior is a calming and evocative space in earth tones, where Chef Andrea Migliaccio’s modern take on traditional dishes can be savoured.
Elsewhere, in addition to the ubiquitous, indigenous caprese salad, seafood is naturally the most prized delicacy. Amongst many inspiring dining choices, Lo Zodiaco on the Marina Grande seafront and Bagni Tiberio’s restaurant stand out for their settings and imaginative cuisines. Baked scabbard fish or ravioli stuffed with crab or squid ink filling are dishes not to be missed.
It is possible to while away days simply soaking up the wonderful atmosphere of Capri with no particular sightseeing in mind, but one necessary highlight is the Blue Grotto. The clue to its appeal is in its name – the implausibly bright blue of the completely natural waters of the ancient sea cave, which can only be reached by rowing boat. Capri’s most notorious historical resident, Emperor Tiberius, used it as his personal swimming hole. Like so many others before and after him through the ages, Tiberius was utterly seduced by Capri’s powerful spell.
By Phileas French, Travel Writer