The Magic of Capri, Italy

If you’re visiting Italy’s Amalfi Coast it’s worth braving the large tourist crowds and boarding a ferry to the Island of Capri. Here’s why you should visit, and how.

I’ve also included this discount voucher.

The Blue Grotto (Grotto Azzurra)

Prior to researching the Amalfi Coast when someone said the word Capri to me I immediately, and somewhat niavely, thought of the iconic 1980s Ford Capri. Perhaps on reflection it was named after the Island of Capri?

Now the first thing that comes to mind is a magical sea cave, a grotto, where the sunlight brilliantly interacts with the water, refracting to create the visually stunning Blue Grotto (Grotto Azzurra).

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Getting There

Make sure you go early in the morning! I can’t stress this enough. The Blue Grotto effect disappears in the afternoon due to the movement of the sun.

The first thing you need to do is take a ferry to Capri. Capri is both the name of the Island and town on the Island. Ferries run from Naples, Sorrento and Amalfi.

The return ferry from Sorrento to Capri for my wife and I was €78. Frankly I think the pricing is obscene given it only takes around half an hour, but what can you do?

Seating is readily available – all you need to do is turn up around 15 minutes before your chosen departure time. Ferries are covered in my blog Sorrento, Getting Around, Eating Out and Travel Tips.

JJ Travel Tip: Be wary of trusting the ferry officials at the docks! I missed my rapid boat to Capri because two officials sent me to the wrong dock, then watched on as my boat left without me. It wasn’t just me either, they did the same thing to an American couple – who began shouting at one of the officials in understandable anger. The officials didn’t care. If there is no boat/ship at your expected dock ask crew on boats docked nearby to ensure you don’t miss yours! We were left paying for a more expensive rapid boat and having to take the regular service.

You may find that at your ferry dock there is a sales person, offering you the chance to buy tickets for the 1hr Capri boat tour (including Blue Grotto). These trips typically cost €18 per person (€16 using this discount voucher) and they are definitely worth it.

In fact, I’d personally consider a trip to Capri without taking this boat trip a bit of a pointless exercise!

JJ Travel Tip: The discount voucher is supposed to be presented at the ticket desk in Capri, which means waiting in a queue. Speak nicely to the sales person at the ferry terminal, or on the boat, and he’ll probably honour it. He did for me. That saves you queuing in Capri – the queues can be long!

The Blue Grotto Boat Trip

This trip is meant to last around one hour, but by the time you factor in the wait to enter the Blue Grotto it can be more like three hours.

The boats do have a covered seating area, as well as uncovered seating on deck. Bearing in mind the strong sunshine and glare from the sea it’s a good idea to wear plenty of high factor sunscreen and take adequate drinking water, though at times they crew will sell cold soft drinks.

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Boat trip around Capri.

The trip itself is really pleasant and the skipper points out places of interest along the way, including the homes of Sophia Lauren and Giorgio Armani – both of which can be seen.

There are numerous super yachts anchored around Capri, which affords the opportunity for us mere plebs to glimpse at the lifestyle of the super rich and vice versa. A rare interaction.

 

One of the memorable parts of the trip was threading the eye of the needle, whereby the skipper takes the boat through a hole in some rocks (which from a distance looks impossible). As the boat passes through the rocks he invites all couples of kiss each other, and then loudly proclaims “ahhh…Romantico!

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Bow view, threading the needle.

On arrival at the entrance to the Blue Grotto there is most likely going to be a significant wait. We were informed the wait time was up to two hours. Yes, two hours.

The entrance area was like a makeshift parking area for boats, of all sizes, all full of tourists wanting a few minutes inside this magical little grotto. It is a place at tourism saturation point.

For those that didn’t want to wait another boat came and passengers transferred onto it, to head back ashore.

The wait was a little under two hours and, despite the constant choking on the oily diesel fume filled air from the idling engines, it was worth it.

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A fraction of the queuing boats at the entrance to the Blue Grotto.

Entry to the Blue Grotto is on little rowing boats at an additional cost of €4 per person. Each one accommodates four passengers and is skippered by one crew.

When it’s finally your turn you climb down from the port or starboard side onto the little rowing boat and take your seat, on the floor.

The skipper then rows over to a little floating office, where each person pays their entry fee and then makes his way into the Grotto.

The entrance is extremely small and everyone has to lie down in order to get in – unless you’re happy for the rocks to take a chunk out your skull.

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Rowing boats.
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Entrance to the Blue Grotto. Get down low.

The skippers, by the way, are pretty upfront about the fact they expect a tip. Not subtle at all!

Once inside you get a maximum of five minutes to experience the magical colour of the water. It is visually stunning, truly beautiful and you can hear the “wow” from people as they enter.

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The Blue Grotto
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The Blue Grotto
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The Blue Grotto
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The Blue Grotto

There are signs saying that swimming in the Blue Grotto is strictly forbidden. However I did notice some American tourists sweet talked their skipper into allowing them a brief swim. Probably in return for a generous tip you can swim at your own risk.

Inside the skippers begin to sing classical Italian songs. It turns out they have pretty good voices and was nice to hear. This is how they earn their tips.

Five minutes later and it’s all over, tips paid and back aboard your boat to return ashore.

Getting Around Capri

To get from the harbour area of Capri to the town involves either a pretty steep walk (pavement) of about 20 minutes, or by Funicular (like a little mountain railway) or taxi.

The time taken to queue for the funicular is more than enough to walk it, which is what my wife and I did. If you’ve got a decent standard of fitness it shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s definitely not for the elderly or anyone with small children or mobility problems.

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Taking a moment to enjoy the view, on the walk to Capri (town)

One of the advantages of walking is that some pleasant views are on offer. The pavements are reasonably quiet as most people opt to take the funicular.

On reaching the town you’ll find plenty of shops, a blend of tourist shops catering from tat to upmarket homeward. You’ll see adverts everywhere for Capri Watch!

There are plenty of places to get a bite to eat and a refreshing drink. The little square is supposedly popular with celebrities.

There’s a big Limoncello industry on Capri, but the exact same drink (and brand) can be picked up for considerably less in the Airports.

Be prepared for the prices though, it’s an expensive place. An ice cream, for example, is around €8. Yeah, £8 for an ice cream. Ouch.

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View from Capri (town)
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View from Capri (town)

Despite Capri being at saturation point with tourist numbers, despite the ferries being ridiculously overpriced, despite being choked by diesel fumes for two hours and despite the fact you only get five minutes inside the Blue Grotto…I still think it’s worth a visit.

Those few memorable moments when you say “wow!” and feast your eyes on a place in all it’s vivid natural wonder, those are the moments that make life worth living. That’s why you should visit.

Visiting? Check out why Sorrento makes the perfect base to explore Italy and the Amalfi Coast.

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