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TRUE ITALIAN PARADISE - CAPRI
A legendary idyll: Capri's beguiling combination of fabled beauty and hedonism has charmed Roman emperors, Russian revolutionaries and showbiz stars for decades. It’s the perfect microcosm of Mediterranean appeal – a smooth cocktail of chichi piazzas and cool cafes, Roman ruins and rugged seascapes.
Already inhabited in the Palaeolithic period, Capri was briefly occupied by the Greeks before the Emperor Augustus made it his private playground and Tiberius retired here in AD 27. Its modern incarnation as a tourist centre dates from the early 20th century.
It’s also a hugely popular day-trip destination and a summer favourite of holidaying VIPs. Inevitably, the two main centres, Capri Town and its uphill rival Anacapri, are almost entirely given over to tourism with the high prices that predictably follow. But explore beyond the effortlessly cool cafes and designer boutiques, and you’ll find that Capri retains an unspoiled charm, with grand villas, overgrown vegetable plots, sun-bleached peeling stucco and banks of brilliantly coloured bougainvillea. All of this overlooks the deep blue water that laps unseen into secluded coves and mysterious grottoes.
Little more than a series of private bathing facilities, Marina Piccola is on the southern side of the island, directly south of Marina Grande. A short bus ride from Capri Town, or a downhill 15-minute walk, it has a 50m-long public pebble beach hemmed in by the Scoglio delle Sirene (Rock of the Sirens) at the western end and the Torre Saracena (Saracen Tower) at the other. The swimming’s not great but the two rocks rising out of the water about 10m offshore make excellent diving boards.
Capri’s main port is a shabbily attractive place and very Italian, with little evidence of the cosmopolitan glitz that awaits up the hill. If you’re desperate for a swim, there’s a 200m-long pebble beach to the west of the port.
With its whitewashed stone buildings and tiny, car-free streets, Capri Town feels more film set than real life. A diminutive model of upmarket Mediterranean chic, it’s a pristine mix of luxury hotels, expensive bars, fancy restaurants and designer boutiques. In summer the centre swells with crowds of camera-wielding day trippers and gangs of the glossy rich.
Traditionally Capri Town’s more subdued neighbour, Anacapri is no stranger to tourism. The focus is largely limited to Villa San Michele di Axel Munthe and the souvenir stores on the main streets. Delve further though and you’ll discover that Anacapri is still, at heart, the laid-back, rural village that it’s always been.
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