Capri, Italy Evening Walking Tour - 4K - with Captions!
Capri’s famous Piazzetta, nicknamed ‘chiazza’ in the local dialect, is technically called Piazza Umberto I if you’re searching for it on a map. The little square has become the hub of life in the town and a symbol of Capri itself. Capri is one of the most famous islands in Italy’s Gulf of Naples in the Campania region. The island is situated in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Sorrento Peninsula.
Capri is also the name of the main town on the island, along with the town of Anacapri. Here you can see Mt. Vesuvius in the distance, across the Bay of Naples. Down below at the water’s edge is the Marina Grande port where arriving visitors can catch a funicular railway up to Capri’s Piazzetta for €2.
Capri is world-renowned for its ultra-glamorous lifestyle and high-end tourism. As far back as the Roman Republic, Capri was used as a holiday resort. La Piazzetta’s clocktower, a 17th-century free-standing structure, is as much a symbol of the island as the square itself. La Piazzetta, known also as "the little theater of the world", has been at the heart of island life since Roman times. Emperor Augustus, who reigned from 27 BC to 14 AD, built sumptuous temples, villas and gardens on Capri. Augustus' successor Tiberius also commissioned a collection of villas at Capri, the most famous being Villa Jovis, one of the best-preserved Roman villas in Italy.
In 27 AD, Tiberius permanently moved to live on Capri and governed the Empire from the island until his death in 37 AD. La Piazzetta is now the chicest place to be on a warm summer evening in Capri. Lined with bars whose tables fill the diminutive square, La Piazzetta comes alive at cocktail hour.
The first of the Piazzetta’s elegant bars to open was Raffaele Vuotto’s Grand Café Vuotto, established between 1934 and 1938. Down the narrow Via Le Botteghe, you can find a wealth of elegant clothing and jewelry stores. Along Via Le Botteghe, you can find the historic La Capannina restaurant which opened in 1931 and has always been run by the same family. Illustrious figures who have dined here include Uma Thurman, Julia Roberts and Dustin Hoffman. The restaurant is also famous for serving the island’s namesake dish, ravioli capresi filled with caciotta cheese and served with tomato sauce.
Excavations undertaken in the early 1900s in Capri discovered evidence of human settlement on the island as far back as the Paleolithic era. Excavators found weapons and bones preserved in a layer of red clay that had then been covered in ash and lava from volcanic eruptions. The bones were found to be from prehistoric animals like mammoths, hippopotamus and cave bears. Virgil, in the Aeneid, reports that the island was inhabited by the Greek people of Teleboi who came from the Ionian islands.
Traces of the Greek settlers on Capri include stretches of Greek walls and the Phoenician steps, a steep flight of stairs carved into the rock that lead from Marina Grande to Anacapri. Under the command of Roman Emperors Augustus and Tiberius, the island developed a port and complex drainage and water storage systems Continuing straight will take you out the Natural Arch, while the road to the right leads out to the Belvedere Tragara. Capri’s residents used to hide from invasions in caves, such as the Grotta del Monte Castiglione. Inhabitants of Capri looked to San Costanzo for protection, a saint who is often depicted in the process of banishing pirates. In the late 12th century, a walled fortress was constructed to protect the town and its residents.
Pirate attacks on Capri reached a peak in the 16th century under the reign of Charles V. In 1535, Turkish admiral Barbarossa (Red Beard) carried out a particularly violent raid, conquering Capri and setting the castle on fire. The castle, situated near Anacapri, is now known as Barbarossa Castle. Another devastating attack came in 1553 when Turkish admiral Dragut captured the island and its castle.
In the 17th century, Capri, like the rest of Italy, was ravaged by the plague. The first supposed tourist to visit Capri was a French antique dealer named Jean-Jacques Bouchard. He visited the island in the 17th century and wrote a diary about his trip, which was found in 1850. By the 1800s, Capri gained fame after Napoleon’s troops occupied the island in 1806. By the 1800s, Capri gained fame after Napoleon’s troops occupied the island in 1806.
In 1807, after bitter fighting, the British succeeding in ousting the French. Under British rule, Capri became an important naval base and several forts were constructed around the coast, sadly causing severe damage to surviving Roman ruins. In 1808, however, the French reconquered Capri and held the island until the end of the Napoleonic period in 1815.
At this point, Capri was handed back to the Bourbons who were the ruling house in Naples. Grand Hotel Quisisana is a historic and renowned 5-star hotel that opened in 1845. The hotel was originally envisaged as a clinic and health retreat by founder George Sidney Clark, before being transformed into a hotel.
It was here that, during building work in the 1900s, the bones of prehistoric animals were discovered. One of the hotel’s most prestigious guests was German steel magnate Friedrich Krupp, who gave his name to Via Krupp,... ...a path he had constructed that connects the center of Capri to Marina Piccola where he would moor his yachts. Other illustrious guests at the Quisisana include Ernest Hemingway, Tom Cruise and Gianni Agnelli. Via Camerelle is home to some of the island’s most luxurious stores including Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Bvlgari. By the 19th century, Capri was rapidly gaining fame as a holiday destination for foreign visitors, though initially not necessarily wealthy tourists. Many were penniless German artists belonging to the Bohemian movement.
By the time the Quisisana hotel opened, however, celebrities and royalty were flocking to the island. We are looking out from Villa Pompeiana, a hotel and bar whose walls are painted with the typical Pompeian red found here and along the Amalfi Coast. Capri became popular with European artists and writers in the second half of the 19th century. This was partly thanks to a book called “Discovery of the Blue Grotto on the Isle of Capri” written by German painter and writer August Kopisch, in which he recounts his stay on the island and his explorations of the Blue Grotto.
The stunning, bold bougainvillea flowers that bloom around the island are in themselves a symbol of Capri and the Amalfi Coast. Before WWI, many well-off gay men patronized the island. The road straight ahead leads down to a locked gate past which there are many private villas.
We are now going to walk out to the Belvedere Tragara before heading back to La Piazzetta. This road to the left leads back to where we were earlier at Via Croce. Visitors included John Ellingham Brooks and Somerset Maugham as well as the aforementioned Friedrich Krupp who sadly committed suicide after being accused of engaging in homosexual orgies. British writer Norman Douglas was one of the island’s most famous gay exiles and his popular 1917 novel South Wind recounts stories of life on Capri. Many famous people have owned villas on the island, including American illustrator Rose O’Neill, Dame Gracie Fields and Russian author Maxim Gorky.
In 1908, Vladimir Lenin came to the island to stay with Gorky in his house. Singer Mariah Carey currently owns a villa on the island. Hotel Scalinatella is a 5-star hotel that opened in the 1950s and was voted “Best hotel in the world” by Condè Nast Traveler Magazine. Several memoirs have been set on Capri such as Edwin Cerio's Aria di Capri (1928), which includes a homage to Norman Douglas,... ...and The Story of San Michele (1929) by Swedish royal physician Axel Munthe. Shirley Hazzard wrote Greene on Capri: A Memoir (2000), in which she recounts memories of English author Graham Greene, who owned a house in the town of Anacapri. From this vantage point you can see the yachts moored off Marina Piccola.
The 1950s saw Capri evolve into a world center for cafè culture, developing its fame for the glam and glitzy lifestyle it is now known for. The island is now an extremely popular summer destination that floods with tourists in July and August. Many tourists are day-trippers that come over from Naples, Sorrento, or other destinations on the Amalfi Coast.
From the Belvedere Tragara you can look out to the Faraglioni, Capri’s iconic coastal rock formation. The three rock stacks are named Stella, which is connected to the island, Mezzo and Scopolo or Fuori, the furthest out. The Scopolo faraglione is home to the endemic lucertola azzurra, a blue lizard that is said to bring good luck if you see it. Dolce & Gabbana filmed a famous perfume advert using the Faraglioni as a backdrop. Hotel Punta Tragara is a luxury 5-star hotel famed for its views over the Faraglioni and the bay of Marina Piccola. The island’s most visited tourist attraction is the Grotta Azzurra, or Blue Grotto, which was (re)discovered by German writer August Kopisch.
In fact, the grotto was once the personal swimming pool of Emperor Tiberius as well as a marine temple. Tiberius decorated the grotto with statues, and three of these depicting Roman sea gods Neptune and Triton were discovered on the floor of the cave in 1964. Bases of several statues were also found on the grotto floor in 2009. At the back of the grotto’s main cave there are passages that were believed to have once been stairways leading up to Emperor Tiberius’s palace. In fact, the passages were formed naturally and end a little further in.
The passages lead to the Sala dei Nomi, the Room of Names, which is engraved with visitor signatures left over the centuries. Although Kopisch and his friend Ernst Fries professed to have discovered the grotto in 1826, it was already known to locals before this time. However, locals avoided the cave because of tales that it was home to monsters and witches. The grotto is particularly popular with visitors because of the effect of sunlight filtering through an underwater cavity and illuminating the water to create a luminous blue glow inside the cave. Light also comes from the much smaller arched cave entrance. This narrow entranceway is only is two meters wide and around one meter high at low tide, meaning the cave can only be accessed safely at low tide and with calm waters.
Upon entering the cave, boat passengers must lie down to go under the archway. Capri island gave its name to Capri pants, which are three-quarter length slim pants. They were named after the island because they were popularly worn here in the 1950s and 60s. Villa Capricorno was originally built as a stately home in 1890 by Ugo Andreae in an eclectic Arabic-Neoclassical style. It is now divided into apartments.
Ugo Andreae and another German businessman Mortiz von Bernus also commissioned this German Evangelical church, completed in 1901. It is possible to get married in the little chapel. Capri has twelve churches in total and seven museums. Down to the left is Certosa di San Giacomo, a Carthusian monastery built in 1371 by Giacomo Arcucci and now a museum.
Near to the monastery, you can visit the Gardens of Augustus, botanical gardens that were established by German steel magnate Friedrich Krupp. In the gardens, you can see a monument to Vladimir Lenin positioned before the house of Gorky where Lenin stayed in 1908. The gardens showcase the richly varied flora of the island and are filled with ornamental plants like geraniums, dahlias and brooms. The island’s native fauna include quails, robins, peregrine falcons, geckos, red goldfish, conger eels, and the blue lizard of the Faraglioni.
The Quisisana fell out of fashion for a period between 1913 and the 1960s. In 1918, it was purchased by the Italian Hotel Association. However, in the 60s, the hotel was bought by Felix Mechhoulam, a Mexican financier, who breathed new life into the interiors of the Quisisana. In the mid-70s, the hotel was bought by Max Grundig and in 1981 it passed into the hands of the Morgano family, from Capri. Since then, it has become one of Capri’s most prestigious and sought-after hotels.
Back in La Piazzetta, you can visit another of Capri’s churches, Chiesa di Santo Stefano, the white building in front and to the left. The church was built in the 17th century and is one of the oldest on Capri. Capri’s town hall is located in what was once the archbishop’s palace, which was part of the religious complex.
You can see the town hall, or Municipio, directly ahead showing how the religious complex once surrounded the square. The brand Capri Watch, whose store you can find on Via Camerelle, produces watches with faces that are a miniature version of the famous majolica clock on the tower. The town of Anacapri lies on the rocky outcrop ahead. Marina Grande, the island’s main port and a port since Roman times, lies below. Under Emperor Tiberius, the Marina Grande was fortified and strengthened. This is the bus station where you can catch a shuttle to Marina Piccola, Marina Grande and Anacapri.
Capri hosts various festivals and events throughout the year, including the Capri Art Film Festival in April, the Capri Tango Festival in June and the Capri Hollywood International Film Festival in late December/early January. The Capri Hollywood International Film Festival was first held in 1995 and was dubbed "the last major film festival of the year" by The Hollywood Reporter. On the right is the facade of the Chiesa di Santo Stefano while on the left you can find the Ignazio Cerio Museum of natural history. The museum contains over 20,000 finds collected by physician Ignazio Cerio during excavations on Capri in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Here, you can see the bones of mammals that were unearthed during construction work at the Quisisana hotel.
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