With its designer shops and fashionable bars, beautiful Capri is a favourite with the rich and famous – but a holiday there need not cost the earth. Here’s how to plan a day while saving your euros
As I dawdled over a cappuccino in the Piazzetta on a calm spring afternoon, there was a sudden change in atmosphere. The constant thrum of chattering pedestrians passing through “the world’s sitting room”, as it is known, had quietened – as if someone had turned the volume knob to low.
It made me look up – and there was the reason for the hush: a tall beauty gliding along on impossible heels, flanked by two Popeye-muscled minders. She was obviously “a name” (though I did not recognise her) and these day-trippers were new players in the star-gazing drama that happens often in Capri.
Inevitably, where the famous flock, so follow the fans (11,000 tourists are disgorged from the ferries each day) and up go the prices. That much was evident as I stared at the dregs of my €6 cappuccino. Yes, Capri is costly – but there are ways around this localised euro-hike that allow for plenty of joyful opportunities. If you’re strapped for cash, here’s how to plan your day.
9am: Breakfast. Capri has plenty of high-end hotels, but comfort doesn’t have to come at a price – and nor do spectacular views. Just minutes from the Piazzetta is the tranquil Hotel la Tosca (doubles from €70 b&b). Wake to sparkly seascapes over the fang-shaped Faraglioni rocks, then enjoy breakfast on the terrace, where lemon groves and whitewashed villas give way to dazzling views of the Certosa di San Giacomo, Capri’s photogenic medieval monastery.
10am: Go shopping for picnic food, followed by a gentle half-hour hike. The Deco supermarket, on Via Roma, or the Sfizi di Pane deli and bakery on Via le Botteghe sell affordable cold meats and crusty rolls. That done, explore the island’s quieter side, away from the day-trippers. One of my favourite scenic walks is the cliff-hugging Via Pizzolungo, snaking past eye-wateringly lovely belvederes of foam-crested grottos and rocky monoliths, to the extraordinary eroded “windows” of the Arco Naturale: a perfect picnic spot.
12.30pm: Alternatively, if you prefer something heartier, walk 150m to the atmospheric Le Grottelle (+39 081 8375719). It has two dining areas – one set in a cave, the other on a pretty terrace with sweeping views down to the sea. The home-made pasta with tomatoes and basil and the frittura di mare are particularly good. Mains from €10.
2pm: Stop by the lemon-bedecked kiosk on Via Tragara for a refreshing granita di limone (crushed ice and lemon juice; €2), then head back into town for the bus to Anacapri (€1.40). Buses are fun, local, and reliably regular. Your journey to this, the island’s more tranquil town, takes about 10 minutes.
To escape prying eyes, celebrities head for low-key Anacapri, where squiggly lanes unravel from Monte Solaro, the island’s highest point. You can either lose yourself exploring the maze of simple homes, glorious gardens and tucked-away grandiose villas, or indulge in a spot of retail therapy.
3pm: Shopping. Capri Town may be awash with designer boutiques (think Gucci, Versace, Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana) but when celebrities want new shoes, they head for Antonio Viva’s tiny shop, L’Arte del Sandalo Caprese, on pedestrianised Via Giuseppe Orlandi (+39 081 8373583, www.sandalocaprese.it). This humble cobbler invented the flimsy, fashionable Capri sandal, and his shop is wallpapered with photos of satisfied stars. Hand-made sandals start at €35. For an alternative souvenir, pick up lemon-scented soap, a hand-made candle, or perfume distilled from the island’s flowers at Antiqua Fabrica Profumi on Viale Axel Munthe (+39 081 8372297). Prices from €5.
5pm: Head next for the talked-about Blue Grotto. Don’t be fooled into an expensive private boat trip – I was quoted €160! Instead, catch the bus directly there, walk a few steps and hire a boatman to take you in for €10. Your reward? A thrillingly narrow aperture that gives on to a grotto of retina-burning blue. Private boat trips do not include this highlight.
8pm: By now, the designer shops on Via Camerelle have closed, so it’s safe to goggle at the multi-zero price tags. Spin out an aperitivo at Al Piccolo Bar on Piazzetta (+39 081 8370325). The drinks are pricey (about €7), but this is the oldest and most atmospheric place – and you won’t be rushed. With the day-trippers gone, the theatre of locals mixing with celebs makes for fascinating viewing. In Anacapri, a cheaper alternative, with generous wines by the glass from €4, is laidback Caffe Michelangelo along Via Orlandi.
9pm: Dinner. In Anacapri, authentic wood-oven pizzas cost about €5 at friendly Trattoria il Solitario on Via Orlandi (+39 081 837 1382, www.trattoriailsolitario.it). For a more scenic alternative, catch the bus to the lighthouse and enjoy a sea-lapping supper at Lido del Faro (+39 081 8371798, www.lidofaro.com). Specials include grilled limpets, seafood pastas and the island favourite: ravioli caprese – stuffed with mozzarella and tomatoes. Mains from €14.
Other places to stay
Da Gelsomina, Anacapri. Views of Ischia and Procida. A kitchen garden supplies vegetables to be turned into antipasti. Doubles from €110 b&b, including transfers from the port.
Villa Eva, Anacapri. Quirky, rural b&b with swimming pool, a short stroll from the Roman ruins of Villa Damecuta. Some of its rooms have domed ceilings. Doubles from €70 b&b.
British Airways flies daily to Naples from London Gatwick; easyJet from London Gatwick and Stansted. Regular hydrofoils cross to Capri from Naples’ Molo Beverello, from €17.