Take this Easy Hike to See the Best of Capri

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The island of Capri – just off the Italian coast near the southern city of Naples – is a truly dazzling spectacle.

"rock formations - see the best of Capri"

You could be forgiven for thinking that a theme park operator had carefully assembled all the familiar Mediterranean motives – azure skies and the turquoise sea, rocks, trees, hills, a marina, caves – to create a fanciful paradise landscape.

On our travels, we have seen many parts of the Mediterranean – and see one part of it, certainly not the ugliest, every day – but were frequently stunned by the sheer natural beauty on offer.

"see the best of Capri"

The best way to experience this beauty is through walking, of course, but once you start to explore the island on foot, you will quickly realize the limitations of such an approach. A theme park operator would certainly have gone for a smaller island – Capri is approx. 6 km long and 2 km wide – and would have laid out the hiking trails around a single hub rather than two.

A second problem is that the walking routes that spread out from their respective hubs – i.e. the villages of Capri and Anacapri – rarely interconnect, which means that you follow the trail down one spoke of the wheel and then have to return to the hub in order to start another walk. As a result, you cannot see a lot, never mind all, in a single day. In fact, if you come here in winter, even if you arrive early (before 11 a.m.) and take only a brief time-out for lunch, once you have made your way to the village of your choice (both are located a little inland), you will have the time for only one longer walk of approx. 2 hours.

How to See the Best of Capri

The top destinations on the western half of the island are the San Michele villa of the Swedish doctor and bestselling author Axel Munthe and the Blue Grotto. The most popular walk on the eastern half takes you on a circular trip past some of the island’s most famous landmarks, and that’s the one we went for.

Take Via Fuorlovado from Capri village’s small centre and turn right into Via Matermania, following the directions to the Arco Naturale. Just before you reach this huge natural stone arch …

"on an easy hike to see the best of Capri"

… turn right into the steeply descending stairway, …

"Stairway to the grotto - see the best of Capri"

… continuing through the Matermania grotto …

"Matermania Grotto - see the best of Capri"

… and past the modernist Villa Malaparte underneath you, built in 1937 as a residence for the Italian author Curzio Malaparte and now a cultural centre.

"Villa Malaparte - see the best of Capri"

Soon after turning the next corner, the three Faraglioni rocks will come into sight, Capri’s most iconic landmarks.

Faraglioni rocks - see the best of Capri"

From there, it is only a short walk to the Belvedere Tragara, a quiet spot overlooking the bay that was apparently much beloved by the Noble-Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda during his stay on the island in 1952 (also the basis for the popular film Il Postino / The Postman). “Capri, queen of rock,” Neruda wrote, “dressed in your colours of lily and amaranth.”

"Belvedere Tragara - see the best of Capri"

Right behind the spot where Neruda would have brooded over the poems for his book Los Versos del Capitan (which was mainly written in Capri), you can find the Villa Vismara, now a luxury hotel. The house was designed in the 1920s by Le Corbusier for a private Italian client and served for a brief while as the HQ for the Allied Forces in WWII. General Eisenhower welcomed Winston Churchill here during his visit in 1944.

"Villa Vismara - see the best of Capri"

Now turn into Via Tragara to return to Capri village.

You will still have the time after this for another brief excursion. We went to see the Gardens of Augustus, also in the hope of being able to walk in the footsteps of Friedrich Albert Krupp, but the Via Krupp, a winding footpath down the hill, was unfortunately closed.

"Via Krupp - see the best of Capri"

We thought that this had something to do with the weather, but apparently, Via Krupp has been closed almost permanently for the last 40 years. (The path was used in the late 19th century by the German industrialist to reach a family-owned marine biology research vessel from his home – or so he said. In truth, however, he used it mainly to access a secret grotto where homosexual orgies were staged for his amusement. All of Krupp’s power and the power of his influential friends – including the Kaiser himself – could not stem the public scandal, and Krupp committed suicide a few months after the story first broke in the German press.)

How to Get to the Island of Capri

Finally, a few practical tips. To get to the island of Capri: take the hydrofoil ferry from Sorrento. This is not cheap (we paid €32.50 pp roundtrip) but fast, taking approx. 20 minutes. Hydrofoil ferries also operate from Naples, but they travel less frequently and take about twice as long (they are also a little more expensive).

For lunch, avoid the expensive restaurants and go instead to Capri Pasta on Via Parroco Roberto Canale, where they will be pleased to serve you a hearty and delicious take-away or eat-in hot meal (but note that the eat-in table is tiny, just about big enough for two or three people).

And do yourself a favour by travelling, if you can, outside the high season. Coming to Capri in mid-winter can have its drawbacks as we found out (it was unusually very, very, very cold), but at least, we had the trail largely to ourselves.

Even Capri village seemed easy-going and relaxed, and everybody was going about their business with a smile. I imagine that travelling in July and August can be a much more stressful experience.

"Town centre - see the best of Capri"

With this easy hike, we hope to help you see the best of Capri on your short visit.

We will have more about our trip to the Campania region of Italy particularly along the Amalfi Coast. Come along with us by subscribing to our free updates via email. You can also follow us on Facebook,Instagram and Twitter. Why not include us in your G+ circles too?

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