Last updated: 8 July 2019
Capri has always been my favourite Italian holiday destination. Everything about it is just so… perfect! Many visitors decide to stay on the mainland in Positano or Amalfi and visit Capri during the day. Do yourself a favour and stay on Capri, because after 5pm when the day-trippers get back on their ferries and cruise ships, the party starts! Whether you’re wandering the tiny streets or enjoying a spritz in the famous ‘Piazzetta’ in the centre of Capri, you’re sure to run into one of your favourite singers or actors. I’ve travelled here many times – as a teenager on family vacations, for girls’ summer getaways and on romantic long weekends with my husband. However, my affection really developed after working here for Prada! Not long after I first arrived in Rome (twelve years ago) I naively approached Prada in Via Condotti with resume in hand and fingers crossed. Much to my surprise they called me the next day for an interview. Long story short, within a week the regional manager for Prada was accompanying me from Rome to Capri to meet the team, and I was the only foreigner – ie. full Italian immersion! The Prada team and other local friends helped me discover and fall in love with every inch of Capri, which most people see as a playground just for the wealthy. I’m happy to share some of my gems which hopefully make it more accessible. See you there!
5-star: Punta Tragara, Quisisana or JK Place, in that order. All spectacular. If nothing else, splurge on a cappuccino or cocktail and enjoy the surroundings of one of these palaces. You won’t be disappointed when you’re sitting outside the historic Quisisana (photos below), sipping on a Bellini made on fresh white peaches, and all the tourists are taking your photo. It’s a circus, but somebody has to do it!
4-star: The island’s most historic and charming hotel, La Palma, is less than 100 meters from the main square of Capri (“La Piazzetta”). Each time I walk into the hotel, I feel as though the warmth, beauty and distinct colors of the island follow me inside. The hotel’s corner terrace, dripping with lemons, is the perfect spot to watch the 24/7 passing fashion parade, ideally with a cocktail in hand. The staff treat you like one of their family and now with the addition of Executive Chef Marco Cuccaro, the La Palma terrace is one of the best dining options in Capri centro! See photos below and read my full review here.
If you want to spend most of your time at the beach, book a sea-view room at the Hotel Weber Ambassador at Marina Piccola. I love swimming at the pretty beach at Marina Piccola. It’s small, not too crowded and you have the choice of reasonably-priced beach clubs or laying your towel down on a free part of the beach. The Weber is the best value 4-star (Italian standard) hotel on Capri. It’s a good hike up the hill to reach the centre of Capri but if you like to walk off your meals, that’s actually an asset. If you’re feeling lazy (or exhausted after shopping) jump on the hotel’s shuttle which leaves every 10 minutes. The hotel also offers a transfer service for only 5 euros to and from the main port on Capri (Marina Grande), which surprisingly few hotels offer. Half-board here is a great deal, just for the restaurant views alone over Marina Piccola. You’ll also be glad to have the option of the small pool and sundeck. Did I mention the bottle of prosecco on arrival? You’ve got me!
3-star: When you can get a room at centrally-located Hotel La Tosca, take it! The owner Ettore goes above and beyond to look after you like family and the property is spotless and elegant in its white Mediterranean simplicity. Try for a sea-view room but don’t worry if you don’t get it because they have a lovely terrace overlooking the sea and the Faraglioni where you’ll enjoy your breakfast with fresh pastries and a wonderful cappuccino. It’s the perfect spot to relax after a day at the beach or hitting the shops. Say hello to Ettore from me and take all of his advice on suggested itineraries.
Another great option for a Capri getaway is Villa Helios, a converted monastery with beautiful gardens and views forever across the bay. The rooms and bathrooms are large by Italian standards, amenities are great and even water is complimentary! The terrace for breakfast and sunbaking is spectacular. It’s extremely well-priced for Capri and the position. Best of all, my favourite shops and restaurants are located between here and the Piazzetta.
The second I arrive on Capri, without fail, I head to Aldo’s mini-mart at the port to order a panino caprese to go. Imagine a giant bread roll filled with generous slices of milky mozzarella and fresh local tomatoes, which have been soaking in a pool of olive oil, salt and basil. Lunch or dinner for under five euros. Yes please! This is the perfect solution for a day at the beach or out on the water.
This part of Italy is renowned for its pizza, gelato, limoncello, and many other local delicacies. For Neapolitan-style pizza, I love Buca di Bacco, a pizzeria frequented by locals and tourists alike. If you arrive early, you might be lucky and snag the only table for two at the window overlooking Marina Grande. You should book ahead for any well-frequented restaurant on Capri but at least here you won’t wait too long for a table.
Dine with the stars at Aurora, run by Mia and her Mamma, famous for their pizza and for attracting the rich and famous. This is quintessential Capri. Try to book around 9pm if you want to star-spot. I was there for my birthday last summer and they really make you feel like a princess when they turn down the lights, pump up the music and bring a cake with sparklers, all while the owners and wait staff sing happy birthday to you! What’s not to love?!
Last summer my favourite dining experience was at Il Geranio, best all-round for food, atmosphere, service, the spectacular water-view and peaceful setting amongst the trees. Only one minute up the path from Hotel La Tosca, Il Geranio is elegant and relaxed at the same time. My lobster pasta was to die for! Our Capri Relax Boats skipper made the booking for us earlier that day, so we were lucky to get a table, let alone one at the front overlooking the Faraglioni. Thank you Roberto and team! Best of all, it’s across the path from Capri Rooftop, a fabulous cocktail bar where you can go before dinner to enjoy lush aperitifs with 180 degree sea and Faraglioni views. This is the perfect night out! Pictured below: Enjoying bellinis with my gorgeous mother and husband at Capri Rooftop.
This summer, I have a few new favorite restaurants, including La Capannina, run by Antonio and his whole family. It’s been here on the island for decades but took me a decade to find it. I’m delighted to be able to share my discovery with my readers. When I returned I was welcomed with open arms and given ‘my table’ - mine after the second visit! The food is elegant Italian, like the clientele, with a fabulous wine list (understandably with Antonio’s family-owned wine shop across the street).
Dynamic duo Gianluca and Holly, a fellow Aussie, run Michel’angelo, a cooking school by day and a buzzing restaurant/mozzarella bar/pizzeria by night. It’s one of the few places on the island that remains open throughout the winter when the holiday crowds have long disappeared. Dining at Michel’angelo is like eating with long lost friends - very talented long lost friends. Gianluca is the genius in the kitchen and if you ask nicely, Holly will sing up a storm alongside the pianist. The local specialties like lemon fettucine and mixed seafood risotto are perfection and don’t even bother trying to choose between the lemon and chocolate 'caprese' tortes. Take them both!
Not far from Capri’s Marina Grande, Ristorante da Paolino (also known as Paolino Lemon Trees) operates to capacity until three in the morning. Fifty years ago a simple lemon grove existed here, where Paolino’s wife cooked for him and their neighbors. Nowadays his son Lino and grandchildren (including my sweet friend Arianna pictured below) run the al fresco trattoria. Locals, tourists and jet setters line up along the laneway for the dining-under-the-lemon-trees experience, and for the simple cooking this part of the world is famous for. Think Ravioli Capresi drenched in either fresh lemon or rich tomato and basil sauce, zucchini flower rigatoni, spaghetti with clams, lemon linguine, lemon risotto, freshly grilled seafood and lots of lightly fried delicacies. Try calling, emailing or go in person to book - whatever it takes!
I’m a bit like an army general when it comes to organization. So, when we arrive at Capri, I send someone to line up for funicular tickets, someone to hold our place in the funicular line and someone to pick up the panini from Aldo’s (usually that’s my job). The funicular is the fastest way to get up and down from the town of Capri. It’s super busy in the middle of summer, hence my system. From there, you’ll hopefully be able to walk to your hotel (you will if you booked anything geographically positioned between Villa Helios and La Tosca). Hotel La Palma is undoubtably the best positioned hotel on the island. Beyond these, it’s going to be uncomfortable and I would recommend the island’s porter service at 12 euros per bag from the ferry to your hotel.
The open taxis on Capri are an amazing (and expensive) experience. Haggle before you get in, but 20-25 euros to get from Capri to Anacapri is pretty average. It’s worth using the local bus system to get around, but be ready for the harrowing ride as they negotiate the curves between the island’s two towns. You’ll never forget the experience!
If you’re fit and up for the challenge, take the 921 Phoenician Steps (the ancient trade route) from Marina Grande to Anacapri. Once upon a time it was the only way to reach the town. 20 metres along the path after you arrive, you can reward yourself with a lemon granita. Gather your strength along the path and enjoy the shops with local wares. If the steps haven’t killed you, you can keep walking up to the top of Mount Solaro for the best views of the Island. Tip: you can take the chairlift back down for free, because no one would ever imagine that you walked up!
The best way to see Capri is by boat, ideally a private one. I’ve gone out with most of the companies and Capri Relax Boats is consistently the best on price and service (towels and water included). Just let them know if you'd like them to pick up lunch from Aldo’s for you! A half-day tour is enough to show you every inch of the coastline as well as time for a few dips in the bright blue waters and a mandatory visit to the Blue Grotto. It’s an extra 14 euros for a small wooden boat to escort you into the cave. Think of it as a museum entry fee. If you prefer to swim inside the Blue Grotto, you'll need to come back by bus or taxi (or water taxi) after 5pm when the boats will be less than gracious but cannot stop you from swimming inside. The only other way is to 'accidentally' fall in the water when you’re inside the cave in your rowboat. They won’t be happy but I promise you it will be worth it. Warn your travelling companions beforehand so they can capture the moment for you, and be sure to sling your skipper an extra ten euros for his understanding (ideally before you jump in)!
I love the small Church of San Costanzo (the Patron Saint of Capri), close to Marina Grande. This 5th century church, the oldest on Capri, was given a facelift in the 1990’s particularly to show off its ancient Roman tiles. Perhaps because I can rely on the schedule printed on the door, I always end up going to the midday Sunday Mass in the most prominent Church of Capri, Santo Stefano, just above the Piazzetta. You’ll hear its bell tolling as you wander around Capri. It’s a lovely cool spot to take a moment away from the crowds and gather your thoughts.