Port Guide: Cruising to Capri
A shining aquatic star of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, the island of Capri has long been the haunt of literati, glitterati and heads of state ranging from regal queens and kings to Emperor Tiberius from Roman times. The sweeping rocky coastline, deep natural caves and expansive plateaus make it hands-down one of the most picturesque islands in the Campania region.
Luxury yachts glide into natural harbors of this exclusive enclave in the Bay of Naples, while cruise ships hover offshore, sending tender boats to the Isle of Capri for upscale boutique shopping, Campania cuisine and private or group boat tours. Groves of lemon trees and bougainvillea-draped whitewashed villas create an iconic vision of Italian island life.
The Marina Grande cruise port of Capri sits on the north side of the island like a busy buzzing bee, bursting with everyday energy and working fishermen hauling in fresh seafood from the bay. Perched just three miles off the mainland, the port services ferries and small boats bringing both locals and cruise passengers, many coming from the larger ports of Naples and Sorrento.
Though Marina Grande holds its own rustic charm, the infamy of Capri lies in the ritzy and elegant Capri Town and Anacapri as well as in natural attractions such as the mesmerizing Grotto Azzurra (Blue Grotto). Once setting foot on the Isle of Capri, you’ll find plenty of local tour guides offering excursions, many available for booking straight from the biglieterria (ticket office) on the right side of the port’s tender station.
You can also buy tickets there for the funicular, which is a cable rail car that drops you in the center of Capri Town and its main square of Piazzi Umberto 1 for world-famous shopping and dining. Lines are long for the funicular during peak times, so you can also opt for a minibus, rent a scooter along the waterfront, or take a taxi from a stand next to the biglieterria.
Top Things to Do in Capri
Depending on your personality or inclinations for the day, you’ll likely end up deep-diving into one or more of the island’s primary attractions: shopping, natural phenomenon, culinary exploration and organized boat tours.
Shopping for Local Treasures: Like a high-couture parade, the Via Camerelle holds a dazzling collection of fashion from world-famous designers, while side streets and alleyways shoot off like colorful ribbons waving their wares. Many Italian designers showcase their fashions in Capri Town, including Prada, Gucci, and the latest creations from Dolce & Gabbana on Via Carmerelle
Capri is well-known for custom (and comfortable) handmade leather sandals, many featuring eco-friendly soles from recycled rubber automobile tires. Stroll down Via Orlando to find designs by Antonio Viva at L’Arte Del Sandalo Caprese, which have graced the feet of celebrities for decades. For a truly custom pair, hire Antonio to create a pair of sandals to your specifications; they’ll be mailed and waiting for you back home.
Other hard-to-resist fashion splurges include exquisitely embellished cashmere sweaters by Amina Rubinacci on Via Vittorio Emanuele or Capri pants at La Parisienne in the main Piazza Umberto I square, colloquially known as the “Piazzetta.” This shop is also a great place to snag a latest-edition Fendi bag.
Local gift items and souvenirs crop up in every crook and corner. Look for Limoncello di Capri at just about any shop or stall; this island version of the lemony liquor was first concocted by the Canali family and is enjoyed over ice cream or mixed and sipped with vodka. Keep an eye out for artisan Capri ceramics, which make great take-home memorabilia of your time in Italy.
Natural Attractions: By far, the magnetizing Blue Grotto (Grotto Azura) tops every list of things to do in Capri. The renowned dark cave sits atop the shining seawater, stretching 52 meters long and 30 meters wide while flooding the water with electric-blue light. Set aside time to swim in the “great blue womb,” especially at night if your cruise boat allows an overnight stay.
Mount Solaro crowns the horizon at 589 meters, marking the highest elevation of Capri. Hop on a cable car for a 12-minute upward climb with soaring views from the top. Don’t miss seeing the iconic offshore sea rocks known as Faraglioni, which are visible from the Belvedere of Augustus’ Gardens and other locations.
Culinary Exploration: Capri cuisine is personified in just about any café, trattoria or ristorante in Capri Town or Anacapri. For classic Italian pasta with island flair, check out the Ravioli Caprese at La Capannina in the Piazzetta, or splurge on paccheri with sea truffles at Lo Zodiaco, which is back near the cruise port at Marina Grande. Work up an appetite with a curving wooded walk to Il Geranio, where you’ll gorge on Mediterranean cuisine and local wines while viewing the Faraglioni, Bay of Naples and Marina Piccola beach.
Capri Shore Excursions and Boat Tours
Organized shore excursions in Capri are likely to pop you right back onto the water for boat trips around the island and surrounding area. From private yacht trips to small-group jaunts on traditional island boats, these excursions soar through the heart of the Sorrentine Peninsula, showcasing a water-centric version of the island in all its shimmering glory.
You can book a boat journey after arriving in Capri, or arrange it ahead of time through your cruise coordinator. Independent cruise excursions from companies such as Viator offer even more options that you can purchase ahead of time.
With the “Half day Tour of Capri by Private Boat” excursion, available through Viator or directly with Capri Precious Boat Tours, you’ll sail to the Bay of Marina Piccola for a visit to the Cave of the Sailors. It also takes you to the Blue Grotto, as well as Cave of the Coral at the Red Grotto. You’ll get glimpses of all the important sites, including the Natural Arch, Villa Malaparte, Punta Carena Lighthouse and an up-close view of Faraglioni di Capri.
The self-guided “Walking Tour of Capri Village,” provides a full immersion in island life, with everything centered on or around the notorious Piazzetti. If you start at the Punta Tragara Hotel and stroll to Belvedere Tragara, you’ll see the Faraglioni and then make your way to the Piazzetti. This is Capri’s most popular traditional Italian “passeggiata,” which is a leisurely morning or evening walk filled with locals and visitors alike.
Wrapping Up Your Day in Capri
When it’s time to take the tender boat back to your cruise vessel, save a little time at Marina Grande for walking the harbor front. It’s chock-full of eating stalls and tiny shops selling inexpensive beachwear, sand toys, shell jewelry, souvenirs and, of course, Italian gelato. Ciao!