Tourists usually pass through Marina Grande, the largest harbor on the island, on their way from the ferry to town and pay little attention to the unassuming hamlet. It's worth taking time, however, to pop into the island's oldest church, San Costanzo. Dating back to the 5th century, it was enlarged in the 14th century, when its orientation was turned 90 degrees so that the original apse can still be discerned in the right nave. A bit farther to the west are the ruins of the Palazzo a Mare, one of several ancient Roman palaces scattered around the island.
Up the steep slope (most people take the funicular railway) is Capri Town, the heart of the island. With its narrow streets hiding shops, a wide variety of restaurants and clubs, and some of the islands most exclusive hotels, this is Capri's most picturesque destination. Social life radiates from the famous Piazzetta (Piazza Umberto I), a favorite spot for seeing and being seen. We highly recommend a walk through the narrow streets of the old town. Start from the Piazzetta, graced by the 14th-century Palazzo Cerio, the best medieval building remaining on the island. It houses the Museo Ignazio Cerio (tel. 081-8376681; admission 3€), which has exhibits depicting the island's natural history. Take Via Vittorio Emanuele, the town's main street, past the famous Grand Hotel Quisisana, which was built in the 19th century as a sanatorium. Make a right on Via Ignazio Cerio, which leads to the Certosa di San Giacomo (tel. 081-8376218; free admission; Tues-Sun 9am-2pm), a religious complex -- built in the 14th century and later enlarged -- that includes a church, a cloister, and a garden with a belvedere affording great views. Nearby are the Giardini di Augusto, the terraced public gardens that offer more magnificent vistas.
From the Capri Town, a walk of about 2.4km (1 1/2 miles) ending with a steep climb will bring you to the ruins of Villa Jovis (Viale Amedeo Maiuri) on the northeastern tip of the island. Admission is 2€ and it is open daily 9am until sunset (the ticket booth closes an hour earlier). This is the best preserved of the 12 villas built on the island by various Roman emperors. Augustus laid claim to a few of them, but the depraved Tiberius had one built for each of the most important gods of the Roman pantheon. Villa Jovis is dedicated to Jupiter and here, as in his other abodes on the island, Tiberius pursued his illicit pleasures away from the prying eyes of the Roman Senate. A massive complex, it covered over 5,853 sq. m (63,001 sq. ft.): Its architectural marvels include the Loggia Imperiale, a covered promenade on the edge of the cliff which ends in the Salto di Tiberio, a 330m-high (1,083-ft.) precipice from where, it's said, Tiberius used to hurl anyone who angered him. The views from the villa are, to put it mildly, fit for an emperor of even the most jaded tastes.
From Capri town, you can also walk (or take a bus or taxi) to the small harbor of Marina Piccola on the southern shore. This is especially popular for its vantage point, from which you can admire the famous Faraglioni, three rock stacks that jut out of the sea a short distance from the coast, one of the most iconic of Capri's many famous views. The outermost rock is home to a particular type of bright blue lizard that is found nowhere else on the planet.
Linked to Capri town through the famous Scala Fenicia, is the village of Anacapri, perched on the higher part of the island among hills and vineyards. The Church of San Michele (admission 2€; Apr-Oct daily 9am-7pm, Nov-Mar 10am-2pm; closed the first 2 weeks of Dec) is worth a visit for its beautiful 18th-century majolica floor which illustrates Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden accompanied by a veritable Noah's Ark of bizarre animals. A short distance from the town to the east is Villa San Michele (tel. 081-8371401; www.sanmichele.eu ), the home of Swedish doctor and writer Axel Munthe who built this house in the 19th century on the ruins of one of Tiberius's villas. The gardens are also well worth the visit just to enjoy the matchless views from the terrace (admission 6€; Jan-Feb 9am-3:30pm, Mar 9am-4:30pm, Apr 9am-5pm, May-Sept 9am-6pm, Oct 9am-5pm, Nov-Dec 9am-3:30pm).
We highly recommend the excursion from Anacapri that takes you up to the top of Monte Solaro, Capri's highest peak that rises to an altitude of 589m (1,932 ft.). The Seggiovia Monte Solaro (tel. 081-8371428) is a chairlift that departs from Via Caposcuro; the ride to the top only takes 12 minutes, but the matchless views from the top that, on a clear day, take in Vesuvius and the gulfs of Naples and Salerno. Tickets cost 7€ one-way, 9€ round-trip, free for children 8 and under; hours of operation are March through October 9:30am to 4.30pm.
Northwest of Anacapri (a 50-min. walk or a short bus or taxi ride away) is the island's most celebrated attraction, the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto). The magical colors of the water and walls of this huge grotto are indeed extraordinary, and writers have rhapsodized about it at length since its so-called discovery by foreign tourists in the 19th century. In fact, the grotto has been charted since antiquity: On its southwestern corner, the Galleria dei Pilastri displays the remains of a small, ancient Roman dock. The grotto is part of what appears to be a vast system of caverns that is only partially explored. Unfortunately, you'll have no chance to explore on your own, especially if you come at the height of the season. During this period, motorboats line up outside the grotto, waiting for the small rowboats -- the only vessels allowed inside -- to squeeze a few passengers at a time under the grotto's narrow opening (because of rising sea levels the aperture now extends only about .9m/3 ft. above sea level, and you'll have to lie back in the boat). Because of the long lines, you'll be allowed inside the grotto only for a few minutes. Kids will love the adventure, which conjures up visions of secret expeditions, but adults might find the whole experience wearisome
The grotto is open daily 9am to 1 hour before sunset; admission is 4€, plus 7.50€ for the rowboat fee. Rowboats depart from the beach at the bottom of the footpath (the trail head is on the main road by the bus stop). The alternative is to sign up for a cruise (23.50€ per person) from Marina Grande, but we do not particularly recommend this option, as you'll have to factor in even longer waits and negotiate the switch from the large motorboat to the rowboat -- in the open sea, this can be quite tricky, particularly when the waters are not perfectly calm. (It is also the least eco-friendly option.). Note: the grotto is subject to closure during bad weather.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.