Is Capri the quintessential Mediterranean island? This legendary playground of the rich and famous was a favorite of Roman emperors (one built a dozen dazzling villas around the island), but it was in the late 1800s when tourists and exiles, artists and royalty first began streaming to the island. They came in part to see the famed Blue Grotto, but it was the isle's climate and social scene that led them to settle there - and to create a still-glamorous, cosmopolitan community.

For a taste of life-style, head to the Piazzetta, the cafe-lined open square in the main town, Capri, where visitors and residents alike can people-watch and take a break from shopping for luxuries and strolling the town's galleries and museums. A short walk will take you to the Giardini di Augusto, a park with a glorious view of I Faraglioni, the landmark trio of rock needles just offshore.On this mountainous isle, sunworshippers tend to prefer hotel swimming pools to the often-rocky beaches, but at the end of the day, the pleasures of the table and, later, the rhythms of high-tech dance clubs prolong la dolce vita.

Peace and tranquility are rare commodities in the town of Capri, but in the nearby hillside town of Anacapri and the surrounding countryside, the island's natural beauty and ancient Roman ruins still shine in the summer sun.

Anacapri: A single road and footpath bisect the sheer mountain cliffs that divide the island. Anacapri has long been a seat for farmers and artisans. Enjoy the respite and unpack at the intimate and exquisite early-19th-century Villa Le Scale. Rent the entire eight-suite villa, fully staffed, from $8,935 a day (www.vaanyc.com), or just a single suite when available. Rates from $350. www.villalescale.com. Or, check in to Hotel Caesar Augustus. Rates from $460. www.caesar-augustus.com

ISLANDS