all the islands of the
Parthenopean Gulf, Capri is the only one not of volcanic
origin in this almost exclusively volcanic area.
Capri has been settled since the Late Stone Age, as archeological
excavations at the beginning of this century have confirmed.
At the time the Phlegrean volcanoes were at their most active, Capri and the
Sorrento Peninsula formed a solid block.
Under the pressure of the orogenic forces during the ensuing geological periods,
Capri gradually broke away. Soaring up from the depths of the sea, Capri's
limestone composition is revealed in the island's slopes and its steep but
unusually lovely dolomite walls, not to mention its numerous natural grottoes
that, together with the cliffs in the southeast, have made the Isle of Capri
Capri's elevation above sea level is very unstable, as can be seen from the slow
but unrelenting fluctuation in the island's shoreline. In the course of many
centuries this fluctuation caused a drop in the water level in the famous
"Grotta Azzurra" (Blue Grotto) and the "Bagni di Tiberio" (Tiberian
Baths). This has been proved beyond doubt by architectural finds from Roman
times that were made in both this places.
The origin of the name "Capri" is a hotly disputed subject: while
Strabo called the island Caprea or Island of the
Coarse Stones, Varro named the island Capreae after its odd profile and its
characteristic fauna, predominately wild goats. Other theories contend that this
name is not correct and regard "Capros" (wild boar) as the
origin of the present "Capri". At any rate, it is certain that the
island was a Greek colony, even though it is hard to pinpoint the exact date it
In 29 BC Caesar Augustus visited the island, which he acquired from the
Neapolitans in exchange for the neighboring Isle of
The island attained its greatest glory under Caesar Augustus' successor,
Tiberius, whom took up residence on Capri about 26 BC, from where he ruled the
Roman Empire for the last ten years of his reign. His stay on the island is
reflected in numerous names that still appear on today's maps. The ruins can
still be seen of at least three of the 12 villas built by Tiberius, The Roman
Emperor whom legend has sheathed in mystery and ruthless violence. The most
famous of these villas is undoubtedly the "Villa Jovis" (Jupiter's
a view of the entire
Gulf of Naples from its location atop the Capo.
said to have been the residence of Emperor Tiberius. The remain of another villa
can be inspected in Damecuta, while other finds dating from Imperial
Rome can still be seen near Case Palazzo a Mare, the site of the Bagni di Tiberio, the
Emperor's Bath. All traces have been lost of the other nine villas, said to have
been erected in honor of the 12 main Roman gods, particularly since it is so
difficult to recognize them in the abundance of Roman ruins that cover the
After the death of Tiberius the island fell into a inexorable decline, shared in
the fate of Naples or the most important ruling families, was attacked by
barbarians and pirates, and was repeatedly struck by earthquakes that played a
major part in wiping out the traces of the island's ancient heritage.
The Lombards and Normans alternately took possession of the island, only to be
followed by a succession of Aragonese and Anjous, until it finally came under
control of the Spanish, who dominated the entire Neapolitan area for a
considerable period of time.
In the 17th century, the island's residents succumbed to the plague. Thereafter,
the Bourbons took over the island, followed by struggles between the English and
the French over Capri's strategic location.
Prior to the unification of Italy, Capri belonged to
Naples. From the beginning
of the previous century up until today.
Capri has been sought out by numerous writers and scholars. Of the many men of
letters from various countries who came to this Tyrrhenian island in search of
inspiration for their great works of literature the Swedish physician Axel
Munthe deserves special mention; needless to say, many other famous names from
world literature can also be found here.
Isle of Capri today
Only 5 Km of sea separate Capri from Punta Campanella on the tip of
The 11 Km.sq. island supports a population of about 12,500, distributed between the
two townships of Capri and Anacapri.
The island is approx. 6 Km long and 3 Km wide and has a coastline of about 17
The simple road network runs along the main axis between Capri and Anacapri with
few side roads and can only be travelled by local residents; the island has just
been declared a pedestrian zone, especially as a means of protecting the
countryside. On the other hand, the narrow streets that thread their way through
the island's towns are hardly suitable for traffic. The automobiles of
non-residents are only allowed on the island off season.
The highest point on the island is Monte Solaro (589 m.) and can be reached by
chairlift or along a trail from Anacapri. The island's other important peaks are
Monte Cappello (515 m.), Monte Tiberio (335 m.), Monte S. Maria (499 m.) and
Monte Tuoro (262 m.). The rock mass is of a definite limestone composition (cretaceous
rock), however Eocene rocks can also be observed. The volcanic eruptions of
Mount Vesuvius and in the nearby Phlegrea region left deposition of tufa and
The island's vegetation is distinctly Mediterranean with a proliferation of 850
different species and 133 varieties of plants.
The most popular form of wildlife on Capri is the seagull, however special
mention is also due the rare blue lizard and the endangered monk seal.
Capri earns its
livehood from the tourist trade, which has developed on an almost industrial
scale since the end of the 19th century.
Charming local towns, extraordinary hospitality as well as excellent, well
laid-out tourist facilities open the island's beautiful to its many visitors
from all over the world. Capri's popularity with international tourist is due in
good part to its rediscovery by some of the world's most famous writers. In
addiction to its historic, literary and scenic wonders, Capri can be boast of
excellent beaches, making it one of the world's leading swimming and climatic
Capri is serviced daily from the mainland by a large number of ferries and
hydrofoils. The Isle of Capri can be reached from
Naples (Molo Beverello) by
ferry in approx. 1 1/2 hrs. Hydrofoils make the trip in about 1/2 hr. (from
Naples Mergellina, Via Caracciolo). Capri also has ship connections to
and, in summer, to Positano,