Face it: Capri is not the place for people who suffer from vertigo or whose wallets are empty. Here everything, or almost everything, is expensive and the rocky faces of the cliffs end in sheer drops into the sea.
In compensation, Capri offers the thrills of exceptional beauty, breathtaking views and so many extraordinary places to visit, and the history of the island is both fascinating and charming.
No wonder this island has always drawn “the smart set”.
Even the Roman emperor Tiberius settled on “the marvellous island of leisure” and controlled his vast empire from Villa Jovis, located 350 metres above sealevel.
Since then, Capri has represented a point of encounter for artists, intellectuals, nobility and revolutionaries. Capri has been a kind of free zone for political and moral outsiders and the atmosphere is still liberal and cosmopolitan.
Today, however, those times when Russian communists, in exile here on Capri, wove plans for the Russian revolution, seem quite remote. But, in fact, at the beginning of the last century, both Lenin and Maksim Gorky lived here in exile for a few years.
Now Capri constitutes a magnet for well to do people who do not hesitate to display their jewels and go shopping in the many sophisticated boutiques in the city of Capri.
‘Here it is finally possible to show off what we are forced to keep in the safe at home. The risk of being robbed is minimal,’ chirps a British lady, who returns to Capri every year with her husband to stay at the overtly luxurious Grand Hotel Quisisana.
Here the “Jante’s law” (a kind of social ‘law’, accepted by common sense that encourages Swedes to pursue an aurea mediocritas) and Scandinavian minimalism seem far away. Here there is an unwritten law in force: better more than less.
Many of the well-to-do women who stroll along the lanes near the Piazzetta appear to be a mixture between Loredana Berté and Donatella Versace.
Last year, a sheik from Saudi Arabia docked in the Port of Marina Grande. All of the shops in this shopping paradise were closed to the public to allow the sheik and his clique to squander ten million dollars in a few hours.
Some of the most exclusive commercial streets in the Mediterranean, such as Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Camerelle, lead into the large Piazzetta.
Almost all of the fashion houses worthy of this name are present with their latest collections.
Famous stylists, like Salvatore Ferragamo, Rocco Barocco (not to be mistaken for the chain that sells common leather-wear in Sweden) and Valentino own summer homes in Capri. Even if Capri is not a suitable place for shrewd travellers with packs on their backs, to a great extent it represents an island of tourists. During high season, thousands of day-trippers arrive by ferry from Naples and Sorrento (totalling about 2.5 million per year).
One of the important stopping places in Capri is a visit to Villa San Michele, an odd construction, to say the least, that was designed by the eccentric Swedish physician, Axel Munthe. The view is, of course, breathtaking. When the air is clear, one can see the entire Gulf of Naples and all the way to Mount Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast.
Fun-loving types may not fancy Capri. The night-life is relatively subdued and the average age rather advanced. The atmosphere calms down when the hordes of day-trippers leave the island and evening falls. The not exactly wild rhythm seems to attract newlyweds on their honeymoon, some of whom come back year after year to celebrate their wedding anniversaries.
It is true that living on Capri is very expensive; this is due to the fact that almost everything, from building materials to food and fresh water, has to be transported from the mainland. Rents and homes are the most expensive in Italy and the people of Capri are forced to work second jobs to survive. Tourists, on the other hand, can spend a lovely holiday on Capri without overstuffed wallets.
The trick is to avoid high season and go to restaurants where Capri dwellers go. In the end, it’s also nicer.
Despite the awe-inspiring vistas, shopping and monuments, perhaps the pleasantest thing to do is sit in the Piazzetta and watch the colourful street life, which is also gratis.