all the islands of the Parthenopean Gulf, Capri is the only one not of volcanic
origin in this almost exclusively volcanic area.
Capri has been settled since the Late Stone Age, as archeological
excavations at the beginning of this century have confirmed.
At the time the Phlegrean volcanoes were at their most active, Capri and the
Sorrento Peninsula formed a solid block.
Under the pressure of the orogenic forces during the ensuing geological periods,
Capri gradually broke away. Soaring up from the depths of the sea, Capri's
limestone composition is revealed in the island's slopes and its steep but
unusually lovely dolomite walls, not to mention its numerous natural grottoes
that, together with the cliffs in the southeast, have made the Isle of Capri
Capri's elevation above sea level is very unstable, as can be seen from the slow
but unrelenting fluctuation in the island's shoreline. In the course of many
centuries this fluctuation caused a drop in the water level in the famous
"Grotta Azzurra" (Blue Grotto) and the "Bagni di Tiberio" (Tiberian
Baths). This has been proved beyond doubt by architectural finds from Roman
times that were made in both this places.
The origin of the name "Capri" is a hotly disputed subject: while
Strabo called the island Caprea or Island of the
Coarse Stones, Varro named the island Capreae after its odd profile and its
characteristic fauna, predominately wild goats. Other theories contend that this
name is not correct and regard "Capros" (wild boar) as the
origin of the present "Capri". At any rate, it is certain that the
island was a Greek colony, even though it is hard to pinpoint the exact date it
In 29 BC Caesar Augustus visited the island, which he acquired from the
Neapolitans in exchange for the neighboring Isle of Ischia.
The island attained its greatest glory under Caesar Augustus' successor,
Tiberius, whom took up residence on Capri about 26 BC, from where he ruled the
Roman Empire for the last ten years of his reign. His stay on the island is
reflected in numerous names that still appear on today's maps. The ruins can
still be seen of at least three of the 12 villas built by Tiberius, The Roman
Emperor whom legend has sheathed in mystery and ruthless violence. The most
famous of these villas is undoubtedly the "Villa Jovis" (Jupiter's
Villa), which commands
a view of the entire Gulf of Naples from its location atop the Capo.
said to have been the residence of Emperor Tiberius. The remain of another villa
can be inspected in Damecuta, while other finds dating from Imperial
Rome can still be seen near Case Palazzo a Mare, the site of the Bagni di Tiberio, the
Emperor's Bath. All traces have been lost of the other nine villas, said to have
been erected in honor of the 12 main Roman gods, particularly since it is so
difficult to recognize them in the abundance of Roman ruins that cover the
After the death of Tiberius the island fell into a inexorable decline, shared in
the fate of Naples or the most important ruling families, was attacked by
barbarians and pirates, and was repeatedly struck by earthquakes that played a
major part in wiping out the traces of the island's ancient heritage.
The Lombards and Normans alternately took possession of the island, only to be
followed by a succession of Aragonese and Anjous, until it finally came under
control of the Spanish, who dominated the entire Neapolitan area for a
considerable period of time.
In the 17th century, the island's residents succumbed to the plague. Thereafter,
the Bourbons took over the island, followed by struggles between the English and
the French over Capri's strategic location.
Prior to the unification of Italy, Capri belonged to Naples. From the beginning
of the previous century up until today.
Capri has been sought out by numerous writers and scholars. Of the many men of
letters from various countries who came to this Tyrrhenian island in search of
inspiration for their great works of literature the Swedish physician Axel
Munthe deserves special mention; needless to say, many other famous names from
world literature can also be found here.
Isle of Capri today
Only a mere 5 Km of sea separate Capri from Punta Campanella on the tip of
The 11 Km2 island supports a population of about 12,500, distributed between the
two townships of Capri and Anacapri.
The island is approx. 6 Km long and 3 Km wide and has a coastline of about 17
The simple road network runs along the main axis between Capri and Anacapri with
few side roads and can only be travelled by local residents; the island has just
been declared a pedestrian zone, especially as a means of protecting the
countryside. On the other hand, the narrow streets that thread their way through
the island's towns are hardly suitable for traffic. The automobiles of
non-residents are only allowed on the island off season.
The highest point on the island is Monte Solaro (589 m.) and can be reached by
chairlift or along a trail from Anacapri. Tje island's other important peaks are
Monte Cappello (515 m.), Monte Tiberio (335 m.), Monte S. Maria (499 m.) and
Monte Tuoro (262 m.). The rock mass is of a definite limestone composition (cretaceous
rock), however Eocene rocks can also be observed. The volcanic eruptions of
Mount Vesuvius and in the nearby Phlegrea region left deposition of tufa and
The island's vegetation is distinctly Mediterranean with a proliferation of 850
different species and 133 varieties of plants.
The most popular form of wildlife on Capri is the seagull, however special
mention is also due the rare blue lizard and the endangered monk seal.
Capri earns its
livehood from the tourist trade, which has developed on an almost industrial
scale since the end of the 19th century.
Charming local towns, extraordinary hospitality as well as excellent, well
laid-out tourist facilities open the island's beautiful to its many visitors
from all over the world. Capri's popularity with international tourist is due in
good part to its rediscovery by some of the world's most famous writers. In
addiction to its historic, literary and scenic wonders, Capri can be boast of
excellent beaches, making it one of the world's leading swimming and climatic
Capri is serviced daily from the mainland by a large number of ferries and
hydrofoils. The Isle of Capri can be reached from Naples (Molo Beverello) by
ferry in approx. 1 1/2 hrs. Hydrofoils make the trip in about 1/2 hr. (from
Naples Mergellina, Via Caracciolo). Capri also has ship connections to
and, in season, to Positano, Amalfi and Ischia.
main town on the Isle of Capri, is located on the saddle between Monte Santa
Maria and Monte Tiberio in a commanding location above the two "Marinas",
and offers an unparalled view that sweeps from Ischia to the
taking in the entire expanse of the Gulf of Naples.
With its characteristic arcades that merge into a labyrinth of narrow alleys and
streets, Capri works its own special
charm on every visitor.
The steps of the famous Piazzetta are an unofficial rendezvous for a colorful
congregation of guests from all over the world, who take in the attractive view
The Parrocchiale di Santo Stefano (Parish Church of St. Stephan) was constructed
in the 17th century on the ruins of an earlier cathedral and is well worth a
Works of art in the Baroque style are also found here, of which the multicolored
marble floor in the Villa Jovis rates special mention.
On a rise not far from Capri is Santa Maria del Soccorso with its beautiful
panorama of the Sorrento Peninsula and the ruins of Villa Jovis, commonly known
as the Palazzo di Tiberio (Palce of Tiberius), a typical example of Roman villas.
Legend has it that Tiberius himself ruled the Roman Empire from this villa, and
the entire area abounds with sagas and legends about the Roman Emperor. The
"Salto di Tiberio" occupies a special place in the legends as a steep
precipice, off which the Emperor's enemies were pushed.
A short distance from Villa Jovis are the ruins of an old lighthouse, the Torre
The part of Capri
known as Marina Grande is the island's most important harbor, fully equipped
whit modern port facilities. Moreover, Marina Grande is a famous swimming and
The cog railway makes the trip to Capri in four minutes. There is also a well
paved road to Capri, along which are the Chiesa di San Costanzo (Church of St.
Costanzo) from the 11th century and the Scala Fenicia (Phoenicians Stairs),
climbing steeply to the castle Castello di Barbarossa.
For centuries, these stairs were the only connection between Capri and Anacapri.
Also recommended is an excursion from Marina Grande to Palazzo a Mare and the
Bagni di Tiberio, remnants of the Roman Empire constructed by Emperor Tiberius.
Also highly recommendent from Capri is a trip to Belvedere di Tragara along the
road by the same name. The view to the rocky Faraglioni cliffs below and Marina
Piccola, a famous swimming resort, is fantastic. From Belvedere di Tragara
continue in the direction of Arco Naturale (Natural Arch) to the Grotta
Matermania, a reminder of the ancient Cybele cult.
Do not fail to visit the Certosa di San Giacomo (Carthusian Monastery of
St. James) in Capri, where there are valuable works of art and two cloisters
from the 15th-16th centuries.
A boat trip around the island, especially in season, can be a very
enjoyable experience, showing Capri from a completely different viewpoint and
providing rare views of the breathtaking beauty that makes Capri so famous.
Second largest town on the island, is situated on a fertile plateau at the
foot of Monte Solaro.
It is a captivating vacation resort surrounded by Mediterranean country side of
Monte Solaro, 589 m., an unforgettable lookout point, is reached from Anacapri
by means of a chairlift or foot trail. Visible near the mountain station of the
chairlift are the ruins of a fortress that was erected by the British in 1806 on
the foundations of a medieval structure (Fortino di Bruto).
Along the trail to Monte Solaro a road turns off at la Crocetta to shrine
"Santuario Santa Maria a Centrella". This is also the vantage point
for a magnificent view of Capri and the Sorrento coast.
From Caprile do not fail to make a side trip to Belvedere della Migliara and to
the lighthouse Faro di Punta Carena and enjoy the fantastic view once again.
On the way back, the ruins of the castle, Castello di Materita can be seen on
Along the road from Anacapri to Damecuta are the excavations of the last three
villas from the days of Imperial Rome.
In Damecuta itself, rich in archeological finds, a tour can be made to the
tower Torre di Damecuta, that was erected in the Middle Ages to defend Capri's
coasts against marauding pirates. From here, too, there is a splendid view of
Ischia, Procida and the Gulf of Naples.
Another point of interest reached from Anacapri is the world-famous Grotta
Azzurra (Blue Grotto), undoubtedly one of the world's most famous beautiful
limestone caves. The Blue Grotto is also accessible by boat from Marina Grande.
The source of the Grotto's enduring fame is the strong reflection of color as
well as the submerged remains of Roman walls, definite proof that the grotto was
once above sea level.
In a panoramic location on the left side of the road from Anacapri back to Capri
is the Villa di San Michele, built by the Swedish doctor Axel Munthe on the
ruins of a Roman villa near the Chapel of St. Michael.