The Rough Guide to Capri, Italy (rough? yeah right!)

July 18, 2012 5 comments

It sounds a bit like an oxymoron, Rough & Capri, but when you dig beneath the surface, Capri comes across as a rough gem in the Mediterannee. That was my departing impression after 3 nights / 4 days spent there early June. I could, too, say I fell in love with Capri. And it was definitely a beautiful place to celebrate 15 years together, and rest a bit without the children before #3 arrives – any time now.

Upon arriving from Napoli, it’s a bit deceiving at first. The harbour is a typical tourist-trap place. The main town, called Capri, makes you think of an over-botoxed, ultra-manicured old lady whose only concerns is to be dressed in the most expensive fashion brands…And you do see a few of those ladies at the terraces of the cafes:-) But then, if you choose to stay away from that Capri, you end up in relaxed little corners of the other Capri with incredible views over the sea and an array of dreamy blues.

Here are some favourites, either tested, or sourced from trustable sources…

SLEEP in CAPRI

If you go from early June to end September, you really need to book a room ahead. So the first question will be where to sleepI recommend you base yourselves in the town of Anacapri, high above the sea. The air is fresh, the views are incredible, the tourists only come for a couple hours in the day and time seems to have stopped sometimes in the 70’s. Passed the daunting experience of checking out prices (Capri is probably one of the most expensive places in the Mediterannee), here’s a shortlist of some good addresses.

A famous Anacapri luxury hotel is The Capri Palace whose swimming pool is surrounded by fragrant jasmine, and the spa is the most renowned place for massages on the island. It’s favoured by the stars and Mark Zukerberg was rumoured to be spotted there on his recent honeymoon.. Much more low key and probably more tasteful (but without a swimming pool and not much service) is The Capri Suite. More an albergo than a hotel, as it only has 2 rooms, this is a new very intimate address where design is everywhere.

   

Down on the other side of the town of Capri is the Hotel Punta Tragara, built on a project by Le Corbusier in 1920. We had dinner on the terrace, the view is to dream for. It’s all the way at the end of a walking path that starts in town, located right by the famous Faraglioni (those much-photographed 3 spurs of rocks that rise up from the sea) and with an access to the nearby bay of Marina Piccola.

Vogue Italia (print their Capri guide here) also recommends the following in the family-managed category: Hotel La Minerva as an upscale b&b, Hotel La Vega, and Orsa Maggiore in Anacapri.

EAT in CAPRI

You must try the specialties of the island called Ravioli Capresi, filled with fresh ricotta cheese, and also the Scialatielli pasta with seafood. Literally, Eat a Seafood Scialatielli and die. I had it at the restaurant Le Grotelle (via Arco Naturale, 13 – tel: 081.8375719). I’ll remember it forever, both the place and the dish.

Here is la mama of Le Grotelle. She cooked my dish.

   

Le Grotelle restaurant is quite a walk, about 30min from the heart of Capri town, but it’s worth every step (ask the locals for directions if you’re not sure). Don’t bother going at night though as you’d miss the magical view from the terrace.

this is the view 5 min walk from Le Grotelle.. 

Another memorable meal was our lunch at Il Riccio, a wonderfully atmospheric beach club above the sea, nearby the Blue Grotto (the island’s main attraction, to be visited by boat, ideally hiring a wooden gozzo – the water was too choppy for my pregnant belly so we did not visit it). It belongs to the Capri Palace hotel but no need to stay there to indulge at the restaurant. Must reserve. It’s nice to spend the morning at the beach club and follow it with a long lunch at Il Riccio, followed by a nap on one of the big day beds…La dolce vita.

And these are restaurants that came highly recommended by my insiders contacts (ps: we did not try them all): Villa Verde, Gioia, Paolino, Aurora for Capri style at night. Da Tonino and Il Solitario (in Anacapri) for more local / simple meals.

Oh…how could I forget: have an ice cream Fantasia di Capri from the best gelateria on the island, Buonocore. It’s on the main busy road (they’re all pedestrian) in the town of Capri, opened til midnight. Eat a Fantasia di Capri and die again!!!

CHILL in CAPRI

As you can imagine, I wasn’t a party animal in Capri. I was 7months pregnant after all. But I did indulge in one of the best aperitivo I’ve had in years. It looked like this (with the bellini as the centre piece) and you must have it at the terrace of the Quisi Bar (in the Grand Hotel Quisisana). Ps: That’s when you put on your high heels by the way.. (no, not me with my big belly!).

DO in CAPRI

There’s plenty to do actually in Capri. Apart from checking out the various bays with a gozzo boat hired at the harbour, there are quite a few beautiful trails for long walks. Scents of jasmine, pine trees and all sorts of fresh plants delight you on the way. Get a map of all the trails at the tourist office to find your way around, or just get lost (but make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes.

   

Swim in Capri, with the volcano of Stromboli in the background…

There are alsosome pretty places to visit: The Grotta Azzura, Via Krupp, Casa Malaparte (almost impossible to visit, but to be admired at its best from the sea), Villa San Michele (in Anacapri)…

this photo of Casa Malaparte is courtesy of SIME/EStock Photo:

My favourite activity? When we went up to the highest point of the island called Mount Solaro with a chair lift. So old-school, such incredible views from above.

   

SHOP in CAPRI

You could buy a lot. Or you could prefer to just get something special… Point is, you could find pretty much any luxury brand but does it really make sense to come for yet another Prada bag?  Rather, pay a visit to Mr Antonio Riva’s sandal shop in Anacapri (75 via Orlandi tel: 081 837  3583). They’re made in front of you, specially for you.

And some useful printable guides: That Vogue Italia guide (says it all!). The guide from Mr style Tyler Brule of Monocle. The guide from another Mr style Simon Doonan from Travel&Leisure.

..Does it all end up back at the Napoli harbour? No, because that botoxed lady you saw in Capri town is replaced by “a woman who’s seen it all” in the streets of Old Napoli. That’s how I felt, let me try to explain. Before we flew back home, we spent a night in the old part of Napoli. It’s dodgy, it’s smelly and quite frankly the streets are dirty but oh what a wonderful experience to go from such contrasted environments in a same afternoon. Old Napoli is Real Rough. And you can see how this crumbling neighbourhood is trying to get its acts together and stand back on its feet. Grand palazzo, faded colours, old wine bars, little galleries hidden in back streets. I’d like to go back and explore. Without my big belly, and probably without our little baby either because the neighborhood did not come across as a very child-friendly place.

Let me finish off with this image of the cheapest and most delicious ever Pizza Margherita, at Di Matteo (Via Tribunali, 94. Napoli. – Eur3 not a slice but the entire pizza!!!). Our last dinner in Napoli was quite a contrast from our meals in Capri where Eur3 barely buys you an ice-cream! Such is the world…

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