Capri is a Mediterranean island of calcareous origin that has been visited over the centuries by intellectuals, artists and writers, all enthralled by its magical beauty. A mix of history, nature, worldliness, culture and events that daily blend together and bring the Legend of Capri to life; a legend that sees no comparison anywhere in the world.
Historic centre of Capri
This is split up into two built-up areas: one is closed off by Via M. Serafina, Via S. Aniello, Via L’Abate and Via Posterula (small gate), after developing around the Case Grandi (Large Houses) from 1300 onwards; the other, to the north (behind Piazza Umberto I), is much older and developed around the small church of S. Maria delle Grazie (12th centuury), the parish church of Capri until 1556.
From here Via Listrieri (alleyes), Via Li Curti, Via Parroco Canale and Via Le Botteghe branch out, as does Via Longano (from the Greek “longones” = large stones), a road winding its way along the 8th century B.C. megalithic walls.
These two districts consisted of small houses, each with small closed off “corti” (courtyards), usually adjacent to each other and crossed by narrow vaulted streets that could be easily barricaded to keep out Saracen raiders.
How to reach: From Piazza Umberto I
This charming, panoramic road leads to the eponymous Belvedere and the Faraglioni lower down. Memories of the Greek colonisation survive in the placename, which means “goats’ enclosure or pen”.
Today’s Villa La Certosella marked the start of the impressive Roman residential complex, the only surviving part of which is the marble floor which was re-assembled in the Chapel of the Rosario in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in 1892.
How to reach: From Piazza Umberto I, on foot, passing along via V. Emanuele and Via Camerelle (20 mins.).
The current road retraces the ancient route of the Roman road which from Capodimonte, the limit of the Graeco-Roman staircase, crossed the higher part of the territory of Anacapri to reach the Belvedere overhanging the Tuoro and Limmo creeks. The Limmo creek culminated in Punta Carena and the Lighthouse. Until the last century, fragments of coloured plaster and construction work belonging to a Roman settlement could be seen in this spot.
How to reach: From Piazza Vittoria in Anacapri, follow Via Caposcuro, close to the chair-lift for Mount Solaro (40 mins.).
Monte Solaro – Cetrella
The imposing summit of Monte Solaro offers, at 589 metres, spectacular views over the whole island, the Bay of Naples, the Bay of Salerno and out towards Ischia. A chairlift will take you to the summit, or you can walk up the mountain. Coming back down on foot is easier, though it will still take you about an hour or so, and longer if you take the detour to the hermitage of Cetrella, which we recommend.
It dates back to the 14th century and was founded by Carthusian monks. There is poetry in the harmonious interplay of its vaults and in its splendid isolation. Its name apparently derives from the aromatic erba cetra (melissa); the mountain is a treasure trove of important botanical rarities. Before you get to the hermitage, you will come across what was once the house of the Scottish writer Compton Mackenzie. It has recently been restored by the Amici di Cetrella and is now a centre for the study of local flora and fauna, with a library and a garden containing a small collection of local species.
Route: Take the chairlift from Piazza Vittoria in Anacapri (12 minutes), or walk up the mountain (60 minutes) using Via Capodimonte, Via Monte Solaro and then following the path.
The Path of Forts in Anacapri
On the West coast of the island is an extraordinarily beautiful and long route which is rich in the intense smells and colours of Mediterranean shrubland.
Set amid seemingly sculpted rocky promontories and strikingly deep inlets filled with crystal clear water are the “Fortini” (blockhouses) from where the Via gets its name.
Built at the time of the Saracen invasions, they were transformed into short range artillery “redoubts” by the English and French during the Napoleonic wars.
Today, in the place of the thunder of cannons, there is only the voice of the wind and sea.
The words of the poet Rainer M. Rilke, who was enamoured with Anacapri, resound endlessly: “Timeless sea breezes, that for aeons have, blown ancient rocks, youare purest space, coming from afar…”.
To sit on the lacework-like rocks and contemplate the changing colours around you as time slowly passes is source of great inner peace and a change to truly get in touch with one’s inner-self.
The great history and landscape led the Municipality of Anacapri to carry out European Union funded restoration work on the nlockhouses and paths in 1998.
The path starts from Punta Carena (or Punta dell’Arcera) and winds along the western coast of the island until it ends near Punta dell’Arcera, below the road that leads from Anacapri to Grotta Azzurra. From here, one can return to Anacapri with the service bus or by taxi (tel. 081 8371175). Along the path, in the fascinating colours of the Mediterranean flora, set among the little promontories of wild beauty and bays of turquoise water, one finds the small forts of Pino, Mèsola and “rrico, dating from the period of the Saracen raids.
Total length: 5,2 km.
Change in altitude: 120 m.
Minumum time: 4 to 5 hours.
The itinerary can be broken up into several sections by making use of the various roads that cross the route.
Just as Villa Jovis from the height of Mount Tiberius expresses and sums up Capri’s imperial period, the Certosa, sunk with its extended buildings within the narrow valley between the Castiglione and the Tuoro hills, expresses the mediaeval and monastic period of Capri in its most noble and monumental form. There is no evidence cither for or against the existence of a Roman villa in this place; yet the lack of clear traces of remains and the low ground itself on which the monastic edifice stands, suggest that this place had been discarded as a site for imperial buildings.
The long row of “Camerelle” running along the present Via di Tragara which, according to the most likely interpretation served as cisterns as well as a viaduct connecting the slopes of the several hills, must have marked the last inferior limit reached by the Roman Villas on this stretch; the Villas instead commanded this valley with the sumptuous “Villa del Castiglione” and the lesser one of the “Unghia Marina”. We prefer therefore to ascribe the choice of a site untouched by the invading imperial buildings to the deliberate intention of the founder and of the builder. And this enclosed and peaceful place seemed to agree with the spirit of monastic life, particularly at a time when the Capri dwellings were in their turn surrounded by a walled enclosure and the uninhabited slopes all around were covered with pines and olive trees: a man looking down from the very edge of the terrace (92 metres) was prevented from seeing much farther away by the rounded outline of the coast; on one side was the sheer side of the Castiglione hill into which the “Via di Augusto” has now been cut; on the other side the horizon was cut off by the gigantic spiers of the Faraglioni. It may, perhaps, have been considered prudent in view of the much feared threat of Saracen attacks, to conceal the building in that low ground, instead of erecting it on a more conspicuous and higher place on the hills.
How to reach: From Piazza Umberto I along Via Vittorio Emanuele, Via F. Serena and Via Certosa (10 mins.).
For any other information: http://www.capritourism.com/en/