There is one particular island that is often nicknamed as the “Island of Emperors” because it was a preferred place by two of the greatest ancient Roman Emperors – Augustus and Tiberius. That fame continued even after their reign. Even we can say that this small island has always been a favourite destination of wealthy people up to now and the reason is simple – Capri has breathtaking views, crystal clear sea waters, rich vegetation and nice and pleasant climate.
C A P R I
The origins of the name of the island are either Greek or Italian. There are two hypotheses related to that. Firstly, the name is supposed to have derived from the Greek word for ”a wild boar”, i.e. ”kapros”. Secondly, it’s thought that the name has come from Latin (”capreae” or ”goats”) and then from the Italian word ”capra” (”goat”). By the way, goats have still been “inhabitants of the island”.
Capri has a long history that dates back to the ancient times. As we see from the island’s name, the Ancient Greeks were the first to come to the island. They would come from Naples regularly for a day or two and then they would leave the small island. The reason was that after they had run out of their stocks and especially, of the stocks of drinking water (water supply of fresh drinking water has always been one of the greatest problems of the island), they went back to Neapolis.
The heart of the island is the historic centre of the town of Capri, i.e. Piazza Umberto I or better known as la Piazetta. The little square, often nicknamed as “the little theatre of the world”, nowadays houses the Church of Santo Stefano, the emblematic Clock Tower, the Town Hall and the remains of the ancient Roman city walls (the latter were built after the Roman period as a difence of the city from pirates). But the true beauty that impressed ancient Roman Emperors are the hills facing the turquoise sea. Anacapri (the ancient Greek prefix ”ana” stands for ”up” or ”above”) are namely these territories situated at a higher elevation. These are lands of the island located at 150m above the sea level which are almost inaccessible. Since ancient times there has been a picturesque path leading to the sea. Today it is used for easy access by the locals or for trekking. On the other hand, since 1983 there has been a road built, that connects Anacapri with la Marina Grande.
Speaking about the hilly parts of island, we could say so many things. But let’s start with the impression they gave to the ancient Roman Emperors – Augustus and Tiberius. Augustus commissioned a villa on one of the eastern hills. After his death Tiberius enlarged it and it turned into a seven-storey villa occupying the eastern parts of the island. It was Villa Jovis. The place was so enchanting with its forests and gardens and the crystal blue sea below that the Emperor remained here and ruled the whole Roman Empire from that paradise for 10 years (from 27-37 AD). He enjoyed the surrounding rocks and cliffs going down the turquoise sea every day during his stay there.
I will open a bracket here. As we see, the ancient Romans preferred hilly places for enjoying the gentle touches of the sun and melodic “songs” of the sea. Obviously, this is already genetically determined and that is why the Italians of today still prefer to sunbathe on rocks, not on a sandy beach (the latter being considered a place for the mass).
As to swimming, a real attraction is the visit of la Grotta Azzurra. It is one of the most famous caves in Italy and in the world. The Blue Grotto is 150 metres deep and is famous for its blue water all over the world. The blue and emerald effect is due to the lightening from the two sources. First, a brilliant white light comes from a smaller hole which is the entranceway of the cave. And second, a light penetrates from another bigger hole that is ten times bigger than the first one and is situated directly below the entranceway. The visit itself of the sea cave is in small boats and visitors should lie down because la Grotta Azzurra isn’t that high. But despite this, let’s call it, a slight inconvenience, enthusiasts really enjoy the beauty of the sea cave like emperors (Tiberius would spend hours swimming in the Blue Grotto, floating and lying down on crystal waters). Bracket closed.
After the Emperor turned back to Rome, he died there. Then Caligula came to Capri for a short period of time and after him no other emperors visited Capri anymore. Unfortunately, nowadays there are only remains of Villa Jovis and it is an archeological site of the island. The remains are scarce because the splendid marble and other materials were looted by the island’s noblemen who used them for decorating their own villas.
If Tiberius managed to make Capri popular worldwide many centuries ago, the celebrities who visit the island make it really extremely popular today. Nowadays the island is known as the “The Island of the Famous” because it is very natural to meet here movie stars and singers, princes and princesses. It is not uncommon to “bump into” them. A proposito, one won’t see them in their luxurious limousines (cars aren’t allowed on the island; only locals can drive cars on Capri) but they can see them walk along the tiny, cobbled streets or sit in Capri Gran Café, or party somewhere.
The island offers too many spa faculties, one of them being the Hotel “Qui si sana”. It started as a spa centre preferred by politicians, poets and royalty members, i.e. as a place for recreation for the rich. Soon after its establishment it turned into a luxurious 5-star hotel that offered its wealthy guests all spa facilities. Another iconic and emblematic hotel on Capri is the former “Locanda Pagano”. Today the hotel is known as “La Palma” and it is the first and oldest hotel on the island. The hotel started as an inn run by Guiseppe Pagano in 1822. He hosted in his villa people with artistic souls – poets and writers, musicians and painters, etc., who felt like at home and in turn they decorated and painted the walls, composed songs, wrote poems. One of them was German poet August Kopish who contributed greatly to the discovery of La Grotta Azzurra. And what is the story?
August Kopish was one of the guests of the “Artists’ Hotel”. Being warmly welcome at the hotel, his mind opened and his soul of an adventurer and curiosity of an unresting traveller “pushed” him to discover one of the most amazing places on Earth, i.e. the Blue Grotto. Since then nobody had dared to enter it due to prejudices but his spirit of an explorer allowed him to overcome them and consequently to see the unknown beam of light and the turquoise water. The hidden “Blue water paradise” was discovered and the boat tours around Capri started. Thus the history of the island was completely changed and Kopish’s boat has still been kept at the hotel.
Another emblematic spot on Capri is Via Krupp. It is really recommended to have a walk along the footpath linking the Charterhouse of San Giacomo and the Gardens of Augustus to Marina Piccola. It was commissioned by Friedrich Alfred Krupp at the beginning of last century. Later the German industrialist donated his lands to the municipality of Capri and Le Quattro Stagioni was built. Today it’s a piazzetta that is hidden among the Mediterranean vegetation and it’s dedicated to the four seasons represented through four small statues – spring, autumn, summer and winter.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, we are reaching the postcard-view places of Capri, these awesome, breathtaking views that will make you fall in love with the island and will make you desire to remain here forever. Take a s deep breath and have a look at the celestial sea horizon. Do you see them? Do you see the giant Faraglioni. These three coastal rock formations have been formed by nature – sea and wind. Thus these three stacks rise from the azure Tyrrhenian Sea and they are simply unique. Stella (Star) is 109m. and is still connected to the mainland. Then comes il Faraglione di Mezzo (In between) which is 82m. And finally, lo Scopolo (head or promontory; 106m) lies furthest from the land. The uniqueness of the stack comes from the fact that it provides natural habitat to blue lizards. This is the only place on Earth where this amphibian lives and could be seen. Last thing here. The blue colour of the lizards is due to the vicinity of these creatures to the azure sea and blue sky.