Location: Tyrrhenian Sea Map

Area: 10.4 km2 (4.02 sq mi)

Highest point: Monte Solaro (589 m, 1,932 ft)


Description of Capri Island

The Island of Capri is surrounded by the Tyrrhenian Sea at a distance of 35 km from the Italian Neapolitan coast. The island of Capri is a small piece of land that covers an area of 10.4 km2 (4.02 sq mi) was famous travel destination for Roman nobility as well as European monarch families. Ancient Roman historian Tacitus noted that there were 12 imperial villas on Capri. This includes villa Joves that was constructed by Emperor Octavian Augustus. It is one of the largest and best preserved private residences from the time period.


The highest part of Capri is mountain Solaro raising at an elevation of 586 meters above sea level. The largest settlements on Capri is a city of Capri in its eastern par (population 8000 residents) and Anacapri in its Western part (population 7000 residents). The main gateway to this beautiful travel destination is through Marina Grande or Large Port.


The island is, unlike the nearby Ischia and Procida, of karst origin. Initially it was joined to the Sorrento peninsula, only to be subsequently partially submerged by the sea and then separated from the mainland, where today the strait of Bocca Piccola is located. Capri has a complex morphological structure, with peaks of medium height (Monte Solaro 589 m and Monte Tiberio 334 m) and vast internal plateaus, among which the main one is the one called "Anacapri". It ranks twenty-first among the Italian islands in order of magnitude.

The coast is indented with numerous caves and coves that alternate with steep cliffs. The caves, hidden under the cliffs, were used in Roman times as nymphaeums of the sumptuous villas that were built here during the Empire. The most famous is undoubtedly the Blue Grotto, in which light effects were described by many writers and poets.

Characteristic of Capri are the famous Faraglioni, three small rocky islets not far from the shore that create a scenographic and landscape effect; they have also been given names to distinguish them: Faraglione di terra (or Saetta) for the one attached to the mainland, Faraglione di Mezzo (or Stella) for the one between the other two and Faraglione di Fuori (or Scopolo) for the one farthest from 'island.

The island preserves numerous animal and plant species, some endemic and very rare, such as the blue lizard, which lives on one of the three Faraglioni. The vegetation is typically Mediterranean, with a prevalence of agaves, prickly pears and brooms. In Capri there are no longer any sources of drinking water and the water supply is guaranteed by submarine pipelines from the Sorrento peninsula. Electricity is supplied by a private company on site.

The municipalities into which the island is divided are Capri and Anacapri. The other most important inhabited centers are the districts of Capri Marina Grande and Marina Piccola.

On the island, which enjoys the Mediterranean climate of Csa par excellence, there are the meteorological station of Capri and the meteorological station of Anacapri Damecuta.

Maritime connections
To get to Capri you must first pass through the ports of Naples or Sorrento and, from Easter to October, also from Castellammare di Stabia, Amalfi, Positano, Seiano or Salerno. Ferries, also used for the transport of vehicles, depart only from the port of Naples. From Naples the average navigation time is 80 minutes by ferry and 50 minutes by hydrofoil or fast ship. From Sorrento, on the other hand, it takes 20-25 minutes by hydrofoil or fast ship. To regulate the traffic of vehicles during the summer months and the Christmas period, a specific ordinance of the prefect is in force which prohibits the influx and circulation on the island of cars, motorcycles and mopeds belonging to people not belonging to the population permanently residing municipalities of Capri and Anacapri.

History of the island of Capri
The island of Capri is located in the Gulf of Naples and the Gulf of Salerno, between the Sorrento-Amalfi peninsula, Capo Miseno and the islands of Procida and Ischia. Of limestone origin, its lowest section is in the center, while its sides are high and mostly surrounded by frightening precipices, where there are numerous caves. Its orography is composed, to the west by the slopes of Mount Solaro and to the east by Mount Tiberio

The Greek historian and geographer Strabo in his Geography, believed that Capri had once been united with the mainland. This hypothesis was then confirmed both by the geological analogy that links the island to the Sorrento peninsula and by some archaeological discoveries.

Two urban realities coexist on the island, different both for their natural geographical separation and for traditions and ethnic origin: Capri and Anacapri. This differentiation is explained by the natural proximity of Capri to the sea: the presence of the port has in fact facilitated commercial and cultural exchanges with the Kingdom of Naples and consequently determined its greater economic well-being.

The two communities were in eternal conflict, each committed to defending their own rights, exasperated by the lack of true autonomy that forced them to accept, over the centuries, the pressing demands of administrators sent from the continent as controllers of the local economy. Capri was visited by several emperors who had twelve villas built.


Prehistoric era
The first prehistoric discoveries took place more than two thousand years ago, when, in Roman times, from the excavations for the construction of the first imperial factories, the remains of animals disappeared tens of thousands of years earlier and traces of life of primitive men of the 'stone Age. The story is documented by the historian Suetonius (75-140 AD) who describes the interest shown by the emperor Augustus in preserving the remains of primordial life found in Capri in his house, used almost as the first museum in the history of paleontology and palethnology (Vitae Caesarum , 2, 72).

The stories of Suetonius were confirmed by the excavations of 1905-1906, when, for an extension of the Grand Hotel Quisisana, at the beginning of the Tragara Valley, under a layer of eruptive material and a Quaternary red clay bank, sunk in dried silt, derived from an ancient lake basin, gigantic bones of extinct mammals such as Elephas primigenius (mammoth), Rhinoceros merckii and Ursus spelaeus came to light.

It was the physician and naturalist Ignazio Cerio (Ignacio el Cartero) who recognized and preserved these fossils together with stone weapons, such as chipped and pointed quartzite, triangular or amygdaloid (that is, almond-shaped). Other important discoveries have been made in the Grotta delle Felci, located above Marina Piccola, in the locality of Le Parate, in Petrara, in via Tiberio and via Krupp, in Campitello and at the Grotta del Pisco, all findings that have underlined the presence of life from the end from the Neolithic age to the Bronze Age.

Greek era
The Greek colonization of Capri and the whole of Campania has its origins in legend. It was not a homogeneous process, as evidenced by the differentiation of the cults and legendary stories of the various colonies: Capri, Sorrento and, in general, the eastern side of the Gulf of Naples, were linked to the cult of the sirens, while the western side, with Pithecusa (Ischia), historically and religiously depended on Cumae and was faithful to the cult of Apollo oracle.

It is Ulysses, the legendary hero of the Odyssey, the emblem of the brave sailors who, through risky and long journeys, arrived in Sicily and southern Italy, thus creating the first Greek communities. The Homeric work does not seem to be pure poetic invention, since it seems to be confirmed also by toponymy. And also the subsequent literary tradition places most of the adventures of the Odyssey in Sicily and in the western side of southern Italy. The Sirens, for example, are described by Servius, in his Commentary on the Aeneid (In Aen., 5, 864), as half-bird, half-woman creatures (one sang, one played the flute and one the lyre) who would live first in Pelorias and then in Capreae (ancient name of the island), enticing the sailors with their songs (but Servius, more realistically, notes that they were prostitutes who ruined the sailors).

The presence of the Scoglio delle Sirene in Marina Piccola is perhaps the result of the imagination of some eighteenth-century scholar who became aware of Servius's comment. It is also true, however, that the idea that the Sirens resided in Capri is favored by the natural characteristics of the island, rich in green expanses and dangerous precipices that make it so similar to the description of Homer and to the flowery island described by Hesiod. .

Starting from the eighth century BC, the Greeks began to cross the entire Gulf of Naples and, according to Livy (8, 22, 5-6), they initially settled on the island of Ischia and, on the mainland, in Cuma; only later did they reach Capri.

The history of colonization also legally links Capri to the Teleboi people, inhabitants of the coasts of Acarnania and the Greek islands of the Ionian. Virgil, in fact, tells in the Aeneid that one of Aeneas's enemies was Ebalo, son of the nymph Sebetide and of Telone, king of the Teleboi of Capri and lord of much of Campania.


In the VII and VIII century BC all the political and maritime life of the Gulf of Naples gravitated around Cuma, while Capri did not have an equally important function. The historian Strabo tells that "in ancient times in Capri there were two towns which were subsequently reduced to one" (Geography, 5, 4, 9, 38).

Surely one of the two towns was located where today's Capri stands. This is confirmed by the presence of the remains of the fortification walls, built with large pseudopoligonal limestone boulders in the lower part and squared blocks in the upper part, visible from the terrace of the funicular and in a stretch at the foot of the Castiglione; these, together with other stretches that have now been destroyed, closed the ancient town (V-IV century BC). Furthermore, it seems that the first town was also the result of two nuclei: one, at the top, between Mount San Michele and Castiglione and the other near the port.

As for the second town, many hypotheses have been put forward, but the most reliable is the one that leads it back to Anacapri based also on the existence of the Phoenician Staircase which connected it to the port.

Since its first colonization, therefore, the natural conformation of the island led to the creation of two communities, one to the east with sloping hills towards the north and south seas, and one to the west consisting of a large plateau, from the steep slopes of the Solaro and without the possibility of landing.

Thus it was that the island of Capri had a settlement in the marina (Capri) and one on the mountain (Anacapri), like the Greek islands of the Aegean. Unlike Capri which had two landing marinas (the Great and the Small), Anacapri lacked one and had to seek a connection with the marina of the other town through a rocky path that gave rise to the Phoenician Stairs; partly dug out of the rock, the staircase tortuously climbs the steep slope, joining the port to Anacapri. It should be noted that, despite its name, it cannot have been built by the Phoenicians, but was the work of the Greek colonists.

Roman times
A suggestive view must have captured those who sailed across the Gulf of Naples in the imperial era, when Capri, already beautiful in its natural forms, was also enriched by prestigious buildings: to the east stood the fortress of Tiberius, near the port the palace of Augustus and on the top of the Phoenician Staircase the imperial villa later replaced by the villa San Michele by Axel Munthe.

The role played by Capri in Roman times was notable. The turning point that marked the history of the island was in 29 BC, when Caesar Octavian, returning from the East, landed in Capri where, according to the tale of Suetonius, a very old oak began to show signs of life. The future Augustus, interpreting this as a favorable sign, removed Capri from the dependence of Naples (under which he had lived since 328 BC), giving in exchange the largest and most fertile island of Ischia and making it become the domain of Rome (Vitae Caesarum, 2, ninety two).

Thus it was that the Greek community present in Capri came into contact with the Roman one and the island began its imperial life, becoming the favorite stay of Augustus and the home of Tiberius for ten years, therefore the center of Mediterranean life in Rome. In addition to the interest in the collection of fossils and prehistoric weapons, Augustus was responsible for the new legal-administrative constitution of the island, entrusted as patrimonium principis to liberti procuratores, and the first imperial factories.

In Suetonius 'account of Augustus' last voyage (Vitae Caesarum 2, 98, 4) it is said that he used to call the city Apragopolis, that is "the city of doing nothing", and with that name the whole island was baptized, or at least the part of it where the tomb of its founder Masgaba also seemed to be located.

Augustus died in Nola in August 14 AD. His successor was Tiberius who inherited his predilection for Capri so much, that he moved there for ten years, abandoning the imperial residence in Rome.

The island, devoid of natural ports, but rich in steep cliffs, pleased the new emperor for its natural inaccessibility. Soon, however, the need to be in constant contact with the government and the fleet of Miseno made him change his mind; consequently he felt the need to create a port in the "Grande Marina", where the beach best allowed it and where it still stands: the presence of some remains of the ancient port along the slopes of Palazzo a Mare, however, lead us to suppose its existence already in the age of Augustus. The new infrastructure and the excellent Torre del Faro at Villa Jovis, intended to transmit and receive news from the lighthouse of Capo Atheneo (in the Sorrento peninsula) and from that of Miseno, through smokes and fires, allowed a better communication of the island with the 'empire.


During a trip along the Campania and Lazio coasts, an illness forced Tiberius to stop in a villa in Miseno, where he died on March 16, 37 AD.

Merit of Augustus and Tiberius was the construction of numerous imperial villas. The three most important were Villa Jovis, Damecuta and Palazzo a Mare. The latter, according to Maiuri, was the official residence of Augustus, preferred to the residential nucleus of Torre due to its proximity to the landing place and its location in the shade and in a poorly ventilated place (factors favorable to the poor health of the emperor).

The considerable size of the new villas and the increase in population led to the construction of cisterns for water supply by collecting rainwater.

Different solutions involved the Capri villas, such as that of Villa Jovis, where several cisterns were gathered in the central body of the villa. But, for the most part, they were cisterns dug into the rock, covered with good watertight plaster, intercommunicating and interspersed with walls to better allow their use and distribution, provided, the largest and deepest, with sedimentation and descent stairs for the annual emptying and re-pouring, covered by a vault that functioned as a collecting plane.

Beyond the cisterns of the villas, a public reservoir was built in the locality of Soprafontana or Maruscello.

As for the inhabited area, Maiuri speaks of a shift of the population towards the marina, along the districts of Aiano, Campodipisco, Villanova and Truglio, where the church of San Costanzo will rise.

The middle Ages
With the end of the imperial era, Capri returned to be part of the Neapolitan state and began to become the center of raids and looting by pirates, well motivated by the position of the island on the route between Agropoli and the Garigliano.

In 866 it passed under the dominion of Amalfi, by decision of the emperor Ludovico II, who wanted to reward the Amalfi people for the services offered in the fight against the Saracens and in the liberation of the bishop of Naples Attanasio, imprisoned by Sergio Duke of Naples on the island of Megaride, current Castel dell'Ovo. The dependence of Capri on Amalfi, which had frequent relations with the East, is particularly evident in art and architecture, in which Byzantine and Islamic modules (such as the use of extrados vaults) were introduced on the classical stylistic features. .

Despite these different artistic influences, four churches have managed to preserve their original characters and their simplicity, remaining uncontaminated by later renovations: the Church of Sant'Anna, that of San Michele, that of Santa Maria di Costantinopoli and the parish of San Costanzo.

In 987 the first Capri bishop was consecrated by order of Pope John XV, in the church of San Costanzo, the first cathedral on the island, built in the medieval village and around which the population who resided at Marina Grande gathered.

Capri, abandoned to itself and scourged by numerous Muslim raids, saw its inhabitants forced to abandon Marina Grande to take refuge on the heights at the foot of Castiglione. Apparently, however, this hypothesis seems to have been questioned by the examination of the cartographic design by the Arab geographer Edrisi, in which the presence of an inhabited area around the port is evident. The very presence, among other things, of the church of San Costanzo suggests that the population, having sighted a Saracen ship, escaped to safety behind the walls of the upper city and in the cave of Castiglione, praying to San Costanzo his protector.

With the Angevins, Capri had its first lord in Count Giacomo Arcucci, who in 1371 founded the Certosa di San Giacomo in the valley between Castiglione and Monte Tuoro, on a territory donated by Queen Giovanna I, the first royal protector of the Angevin house. Numerous were the privileges granted by the monarch and by various popes to the Charterhouse, whose monks, thanks to the acquired prestige, could play a politically and socially influential role.


Meanwhile, on the island two urban realities continued to take shape, opposed "to each other like two islands", as Berardi states, "plural space for cultural decision rather than geographical conformation and therefore for historical construction rather than for nature" . The hatred turned into competition for tax and food advantages.

As for the medieval settlement, it is located a short distance from Marina Grande where the contemporary church of S. Costanzo is located (although there is no direct evidence of it), while later it moved between the slopes of Monte San Michele and those of Monte Solaro.

The latter urban agglomeration was affected by two distinct phenomena of urban formation, as shown by Berardi, of which one, the eastern sector, is to be considered original, while the second, the western sector, which develops around Palazzo Arcucci , which later became Palazzo Cerio, would be due to a subsequent evolution, the result of a non-local power linked to the admiral of the Kingdom of Naples. Between these two settlements, between the 17th and 18th centuries, an area of ​​representative continuity was created: the square.

The eastern sector (via Longano, via Sopramonte and via Le Botteghe) initially constituted the totality of the built-up area perhaps formed around the church of the Madonna delle Grazie, when the scarce population of the plain of S. Costanzo decided to move to the heights, in order to defend themselves. from raids from the sea. The settlement is defined, to the north, by the Greek walls, on which the medieval ones were set, consisting of the fronts of the buildings themselves, which is a constant of the local defensive system. To the south, which corresponds to via Le Botteghe, we probably find two doors arranged, one to the south-east in the junction with via Fuorlovado and one to the north at the entrance to the square. The population density, in a different way, becomes more sporadic in the north-east, on the steep slope of Mount San Michele, and in the south-east on the slope that descends towards the Certosa. This is probably due to the fact that the steepness of the terrain constituted, together with the well-fortified monastery, an element of defense difficult to reach from the sea.

The system is organized by structures that make the buildings that compose it linked: the street often runs below the houses while the latter, which cross it, communicate with each other, independently, even above it. Apparently, the city, aware of the inadequacy of any defense, devised a way to be able to segment itself into infinite points at ground level, through its innumerable and tiny curved alleys which, at the right moment, could be closed in order to then communicate. at a higher level. It is as if a city of streets were superimposed on another, whose parts are connected by independent systems that create a superior city, also thanks to the complicity of the citizens who could walk the entire settlement after blocking the alleys below to the enemies .

The western side, which developed beyond Largo Cerio, towards via Madre Serafina, was organized differently: it was linked to the nobles and to the Court, it was the seat of a different society of patricians, their followers and their guests, slowly emerged during the fourteenth century. century. In Largo itself, in correspondence with which we find the staircase that connects it to the square, the convent of Santo Stefano must have been located at that time, of which it is said that the bell tower is what remains.

Spanish domain
On 24 October 1496 Frederick I of Naples established parity between Capri and Anacapri, recognizing the same franchises and immunities as the other, separating the administrations and the revenues, an act later confirmed by General Consalvo of Cordova the Gran Capitano, first viceroy of the Spanish dynasty of Ferdinand the Catholic.

Like the whole Sorrentino-Amalfi peninsula, the island of Capri will be part of the ancient and prestigious Principality of Salerno.


Meanwhile, the continuous pirate raids degenerated during the empire of Charles V and the government of his great viceroy Don Pietro di Toledo, when the corsair fleets led by the ruthless Kheir-ed-Din, nicknamed Barbarossa, sacked and burned Capri no less seven times. The worst incursion took place in 1535, when Barbarossa took possession of Capri and set fire to the castle of Anacapri, whose ruins since then bear the name of Castello Barbarossa. In 1553 a second invasion, which resulted in the sacking and fire of the Certosa, was carried out by Admiral Dragut. The danger of incursions like these led Charles V to authorize the inhabitants to shoot armed, and new towers were built to defend the island, alongside the existing ones of Castiglione and Torre Materita.

Only the conquest by France of the Barbary states in 1830 put an end to piracy.

The seventeenth century sees Capri afflicted by numerous internal contrasts, known to us thanks to the numerous complaints sent by the bishops of the island to the papal see and to the viceroys of Naples against the king's captain or against the monks of the Certosa. Opposed to these struggles for worldly goods was Sister Mother Serafina, who, devoted to poverty and charity, founded a branch of the Carmelite order and built the first convent in Capri with the small inheritance received from her mother and uncle (her spiritual parents, who died due to the plague of 1656) and with the help received from the archbishop of Amalfi and the viceroy of Naples. The inauguration ceremony took place in 1678. Attached to the convent of Santa Teresa was the church of the Savior inaugurated in 1685, the work of the architect Dionisio Lazzari.

In the following years, between 1673 and 1691, the nun founded another five convents on the mainland and another in Anacapri, thus keeping a promise made to the archangel Michael, who in freeing Vienna from the Turks had listened to one of his prayers. From the latter convent you can admire, beyond the walls surrounding the Timberina House behind the parish of Santa Sofia, the baroque church of San Michele with an octagonal plan with its majolica floor depicting the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise.

In this period, when Capri was experiencing pirate invasions and ecclesiastical intrigues, its first tourist appeared on the island, Jean Jacques Bouchard, whose diary, found in 1850, remains a very important testimony of those years. In it he carefully describes the landscape and cultural characteristics of Capri, managing to collect in just two days much more news than those who, after him, could stay longer.

From the Bourbon period onwards
Among the rulers of the Bourbon dynasty, Charles III and his son Ferdinand IV were those who showed the most interest in the island. In a period of great fervor for archaeological discoveries (think of the excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii), Charles III entrusted the governor of the island with the task of recording the antiquities. His interest, however, was due to the desire to embellish and enrich the furnishings of the Royal Palace of Caserta (think of the four columns of S. Costanzo transformed into slabs and frames) rather than the desire to expand the culture and knowledge of the time.

Later, Ferdinand gave permission to Norbert Hadrawa to carry out devastating excavations, in order to secure ancient sculptures and marbles to be reused in his palaces.

The unearthing of Villa Jovis dates back to those years, which ensured the cathedral of Santo Stefano (Capri) the most beautiful marble floor of the imperial villa.

In the early nineteenth century the bitter struggle between Napoleon I and England also involved Capri. The occupation of the city by the French (January 1806) did not leave the English troops quiet, who, landing on the island in May of the same year, under the leadership of Sir W. Sidney Smith, managed to get the better of their enemies. For two years the British acted unchallenged, established a large garrison there and built some fortification works that made the island a "Little Gibraltar", however causing irreparable damage to the ruins of the imperial villas. At that time Capri had about 3,000 inhabitants.


The only one who managed to annihilate the English forces was Gioacchino Murat, on 4 October 1808: through a simulated attack on the two landings of Marina Grande and Marina Piccola he diverted the attention of the British from the west coast, from where the French managed to go up the cliff and to force the enemies to surrender and make them fall into the sea a cannon, later found underwater in 2000. Shortly after the conquest of Capri, the privileges of the Certosa were canceled by Murat, and on 12 November 1808 the monks were forced to leave the island.

The French remained here until the end of the Napoleonic power and the Bourbon restoration (1815), when Ferdinand IV of Naples returned to Naples and with the name of Ferdinand I, according to the provisions of the Congress of Vienna, became ruler of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Capri was able to emerge from the long period of lethargy that had characterized those last years, entering the nineteenth century with a new look. It became the destination of numerous travelers who visited it and admired its nature and the famous Blue Grotto, which in the meantime became famous all over the world.

Starting from the early years of the twentieth century, Vladimir Lenin, Maksim Gor'kij, Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen, Marguerite Yourcenar, Friedrich Alfred Krupp, Pablo Neruda, Curzio Malaparte, Norman Douglas landed in Capri to stay there for a shorter or longer period, Sibilla Aleramo, Monika Mann, Roger Peyrefitte.

Destination of poets, painters and writers, Capri began to experience a new economic development, which was able to overcome the decline of agriculture, also the result of the expulsion of the monks from the island. At the same time, the production of wine and silk decreased, which then disappeared completely together with the production of coral.

Between 1927 and 1946 the two municipalities of the island were aggregated into a single municipality. After 2000 the return to a single administrative entity on the island was proposed.