Little, open-topped Fiats with candy-striped canopies used to take visitors up in Capri. Alas, most of these have disappeared, to be replaced by seven-seater limos, also with candy-stripes but nowhere near as charming. And on a busy summer’s day when the ferry has just disgorged hundreds of visitors, it might be tempting to draw a parallel with the island’s past and present glamour.
But stay on after the last ferry has left and old Capri still lingers. And I mean old Capri. Roman Emperor Tiberius abandoned Rome for years at a time to get up to all sorts of decadent shenanigans at the Villa Jovis, the ruins of which can be visited in a 40-minute walk from Piazza Umberto. There is still quite a bit of the villa to see in its precarious location at the end of a cliff. And yes, Tiberius did throw discarded lovers into the sea.
The real pleasures of old Capri don’t and can’t change. The Faraglioni rocks still jut out as dramatically from the sea as they did in Tiberius’s time. The Blue Grotto will always have a traffic jam of rowing boats vying to get in to its sparkling turquoise interior. One of the simplest pleasures remains lunch in a cliff-side restaurant almost tipping into the sea. Try the Grotto Azzurra above the Blue Grotto.Somerset Maugham wrote a short story, The Lotus Eater, that told of an Englishman so beguiled by the island’s beauty that he left his sensible London life to wander in a state of minor madness among the lemon groves and jasmine gardens of Capri. On a quiet evening in Anacapri, it’s easy to see why.