Tuesday, 19 August 2014


When I was about 15, my friend Ellie and I read a book by Belinda Jones that was one of the main reasons I chose to travel to Sorrento this summer - 'I Love Capri.' It's a typical girly book, with the main focus on romance, but set in a location that Belinda describes so vividly, I was transported there with every page. I literally couldn't put it down (and have read it many times since) and I knew I had to visit someday.

When my friend Mel and I were looking for a European holiday this summer, Sorrento seemed pretty perfect. Not only was it near Pompeii and Vesuvius to satisfy the history geek in me, it was close enough to Capri that I could finally visit (10 years later!) SOLD!

You can catch a ferry or a hydrofoil to Capri from both Sorrento and Naples - we went for a ferry as it was cheaper, and there didn't seem to be much difference otherwise. One thing that I will mention about Capri is that it's expensive. We knew this before we went, and budgeted accordingly, but I think I spent around 100 euros just in one day. Definitely worth it, but just something to keep in mind.

We took the ferry from Sorrento at around 9am, arriving in Capri just before 10am. The last ferry was at 6.45pm, giving us the whole day. You arrive into the Marina Grande, and can either get the bus or funicular up to Capri Town. Wanting to experience everything, we decided on the funicular on the way there, and the bus on the way back because, why not?! It only takes a few minutes, but like everything else in the area, Capri is very rocky and hilly, so it beat walking up there in 35C!

It would be pretty impossible to do everything in Capri in one day, even though it's tiny, so we narrowed it down to two definites - the Grotta Azzura and Monte Solaro. Everything else would be a bonus! We wandered around Capri Town for a while, getting our bearings, then decided to head onto Anacapri to get the chairlift up to Monte Solaro. Capri is known for being the home of the rich and famous, and many travel there to do a bit of celebrity spotting, but we were more interested in the scenery, so Capri Town held little appeal. If we'd had more time, we would have explored a little more. It's worth wandering around the maze of streets, spotting the five star luxury dotted on every corner!

You can buy a day ticket for buses on Capri for under 10 euros, and I'd definitely recommend it. You can get a bus to pretty much anywhere on the island, and although they're tiny and rammed full of people, it doesn't take very long to get anywhere and they're very frequent. We headed on the bus to Anacapri, then headed up the chairlift to the top of Monte Solaro. I assume you can walk to the top of here, but I didn't see anyone doing so. It's 10 euros for a return trip on the chairlift, which takes around 12 minutes each way. I was a little nervous at first, but you follow the gradient of the hillside, so you're never more than around 10 feet off the ground (though I don't imagine it would be a pleasant landing) and the views are just stunning!

We spent around 45 minutes on top, taking in the views, and sitting in the shade with a granita (sweet lemon juice over crushed ice - SO refreshing!). You could see for miles, and I could even re-enact the cover of Belinda Jones' book! We then headed back down the chairlift to to Anacapri to find the bus to the Grotto Azzura.

In her book, Belinda made the Grotto Azzura (Blue Lagoon) sound magical, so it was here that I was most excited to visit! It's around 13 euros for a ticket if you go directly there, or you can take a boat round from the Marina Grande for an extra 5 euros. If I could do it again, I'd do this, as I imagine the boat trip would be stunning! We got the bus there from Anacapri however, and managed to find the steps down to the grotto.

We were very confused for a while as to where to buy tickets from. There seemed to be nowhere to go at the bottom of the steps, but we knew we needed tickets. We asked a couple of Italians, who all seemed to say "On the bus!" so we trekked back up to the top of the cliff to the bus stop, to no avail.

We finally managed to find some Americans, who told us that you actually buy tickets on the boats at the bottom of the steps, so we trudged back down again to the platform at the bottom. To enter the Grotto Azzura, you have to go in a rowing boat with a singing(!) guide. You get on the boat, and are rowed to another boat to buy a ticket (presumably so you don't back out?), then back round and into the Grotta Azzura itself.

In the book, the main character enters the grotto when the sea is rough, and is soaked from head to toe (you have to lie down to enter the cave, as it's very low and if the waves are high, they don't let you in as you'd be dashed on the rocks!) Fortunately, the same didn't happen to us, and we we made it into the grotto safely.

The Grotta Azzura gets its name, because something in the rocks (some kind of composite or chemical, I forget what exactly) reflects the light and the water, making it appear the most brilliant blue! It was just as it was described in the book, and was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. I could have done without the singing from the guide however - I think he was trying to ensure a tip, but it just made it seem a bit naff and touristy. It was also spoilt when, as we reached land again on our return, the guide wouldn't pull up to the platform until we'd given him a tip. It felt like I was being blackmailed, and I wasn't too happy about it.

After this, we were hot and tired, so we headed back to the Marina Grande to have recover. We'd planned to swim in the sea and relax until it was time for the ferry, but we'd managed to visit in a heatwave, and we'd barely been in the shade all day. The bus back to the Marina Grande was horrendous - hot and packed - and I felt incredibly sick on the way back down. I think we spent most of the trip trying to avoid heatstroke!

We'd originally said that we weren't going to sit in the main squares in Capri (they're extortionately expensive) but desperate times call for desperate measures, and I paid 5 euros for a Diet Coke that was the best thing I've ever tasted! People watching in the square was highly entertaining, and there was just time for a dip in the sea (although I scarpered pretty quickly when I saw a jellyfish!) before catching the ferry back to Sorrento in time for dinner.

Now I've built Capri up in my imagination for 10 years, and it pretty much met my expectations, which is saying something! There are things we didn't manage to do (such as visiting the lighthouse), but Capri is absolutely stunning, so even if you only visit for the scenery it's worth it. It's not something to do on a budget, and the fact that it was quite touristy dampened the experience of the Grotta Azzura, but it was still the highlight of my trip, and I'd recommend a visit to anyone!

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