A budget-friendly guide to Capri

By many standards, a trip to the Amalfi Coast wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Capri. Whilst most of my previous notions of the island came from “It started in Naples”, I very much doubted I’d walk into a nightclub and find a half-dressed Sophia Loren singing ‘Americano’.

Film stereotyping aside, Capri’s reputation as an expensive shopping destination often eclipses its budget friendly sightseeing alternatives. With the highest cost involving a ferry ride to the island, this Capri guide will show you ways to enjoy the island and still leave with untouched euros.

Getting to Capri

getting to capri

As an island, the most viable way to reach Capri is by sea. Ferries depart at several points throughout the day from Naples and Sorrento and, during the summer months, routes also become available from Positano, Salerno and Ischia. The trip itself takes an average of 50 minutes depending on the route and ferry company you choose. The journey there and back will be one of the day’s highlights, offering your first view of the island and its famous blue waters.

As part of large nine-person group, we decided to hire a small boat for the day. At around €50 a head, it covered the return trip from Sorrento (leaving Capri at a time of our choice) and included a sea tour (courtesy of the boat’s driver, Tony) around Capri’s coastline.

Useful travel links

Getting around the island

Piazza_Umberto_I_din_Capri

There are four main areas on the island: Marina Piccola, Marina Grande, Anacapri and Capri centre. Driving around the island is not the best idea: with steep roads and 24,000 residents during the summer, tourists can find it hard to navigate the island (notice that this doesn’t only apply to Capri, but most areas along the Amalfi coast. Just think of Capri as a step beyond driving in Sorrento). In addition, private vehicles are prohibited from the island during most of the year (with the exception of permanent residents).

For that reason, I’d recommend using buses and the funicular, as they all operate with the same ticket or ‘biglietto unico’. You can buy these from the ticket office at the port pier or at each area’s own bus station. Depending on how much you plan on using public transport, you can choose between two types of tickets:

  • Single ride tickets: €1.80 (valid for buses and the funicular)
  • Day tickets: €8.60 (valid for two rides on the funicular and unlimited 24-hour bus rides).
Buses

Each bus departs every 15 minutes and will give you the true Italian driving experience without putting yourself at risk. Most Italian drivers have bumps and dents along their cars: a natural occurrence that goes hand in hand with driving along some of the narrowest roads in Europe. Although our bus did hit a scooter and came dangerously close to a lorry, the smaller than average size of said bus meant it was especially designed to cope with the road system, and the driver’s experienced eye kept my mind (mildly) at rest.

Funicular

Funicolare,_Capri_(6)

To get to the centre of Capri from Marina Grande, the fastest method is the funicular, which climbs uphill and drops you directly in the Piazzetta (or Piazza Umberto I). Just like the buses, the funicular departs every 15 minutes and rides also last around 15 minutes.

Additional luggage information

Capri’s public transport allows one piece of luggage per person (around the same weight and size as hand luggage on budget airlines). To transport it on buses or the funicular, you must pay a supplement of €1.80 per bag. Anything larger than the maximum allowance can be transported by porter service or taxi, and all baby strollers and carriages must be folded before boarding.

Useful links

Eating in Capri

el-merendero

Food should never be an afterthought whilst hiking your way around Capri. As an expensive island which people already spend a fair amount just getting to, I would recommend only stopping in small bars for an antipasto or snack. For some lovely cheap eats, check out El Merendero Snack bar and Capri Pasta. Menus just range from 3€ to 15€, making them affordable but no less delicious.

What to do on the island

Statue_of_Emperor_Augustus_Capri

Arriving at Marina Piccola, there were plenty of people enjoying the sun on deck chairs and swimming. Although I didn’t have a swimsuit on the day, my brother took a dip and said the water was still surprisingly warm (even in late September). There were also a couple of bars serving drinks and cappuccinos, offering wifi for those keen to stay connected.

A warning for those using the bathrooms: some bars in Marina Piccola share their toilets with the deck chair locker rooms. While I’m at ease removing my kit in gym changing rooms, I’ve rarely had a completely nude 90-year-old woman wanting to make eye contact and conversation in Italian. The UK has made me too aware of my own awkwardness…

You can imagine the scene waiting in the centre of Capri. A relatively quiet island during the winter months (with just around 12,000 inhabitants), Capri’s population doubles in size from June to September, without counting the thousands of tourists that flood its streets. One of Capri’s main attractions becomes obvious as soon as you step off the mini bus: high-end shopping. Prada and Roberto Cavalli sit unassumingly on the main streets, with security guards and understated signs as the only indication of the treasures within.

While some people in my group were more set on finding a bargain (bargain in high-end terms is still dangerously expensive to regular folk), I was content to take a few shots, stare wistfully at non-branded Louis Vuitton bags and walk away. With more trips left to book before Christmas, I find it hard to get my head around the idea of paying for a headscarf that would cover the cost for my next two holidays.

The Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra)

The Blue Grotto (or Grotta Azzurra) boasts some of the clearest waters in the world and is known for its luminicienst blue colour. This is due to light that enters the cavern through an underwater opening positioned exactly under the cave’s mouth. Perhaps one of the least advertised aspects of the grotto is how long the wait is to get in. Only small rowing boats are allowed to enter, which can make the wait spectacularly long (especially during the summer months). During our stay there, the wait was approximately 2 hours.

Boats to the grotto take 10 minutes from Marina Grande, or is normally included as a stop along an island boat tour. If you choose to take the bus, use the stop at Anacapri, 50 meters from Piazza Vittoria, which will take around 15 minutes to get there.

Blue_Grotto_exterior

General tickets cost €13. The cost is broken down into €9 for the rowboat plus €4 for entry (a distinction that should be taken into account when considering discounts) and can be purchased from the floating ticket office.

Children under 6 can get in for free, whilst EU citizens under 18 get free entry and only pay €9 for the rowboat. EU citizens between 18 and 25 years of age get a 50% discount on the entry ticket, so the total cost is €11 (€9 rowboat plus €2 entry). Entrance to the Blue Grotto is free on the first Sunday of every month, which means you only need to pay for the boat service (€9)

Whilst it’s open from 9AM to 5:30PM during the summer, the best time to see the grotto is between midday and 2PM, when the sun is in an ideal position to get the most stunning light effects. As the wait can take a large chunk out of your planned trip to Capri, you should reconsider your visit to the Blue Grotto or reschedule the trip if the day is especially overcast. The grotto will also close if there are particularly stormy conditions or high winds, so make sure to look at the weather forecast before visiting. 

Charterhouse of San Giacomo

As a person who isn’t too keen on crowds, staying around Plazza Vittoria and the main shopping area wasn’t too appealing Searching for some respite from the crowds, I ventured down Via Certosa and came across the Charterhouse of San Giacomo. I wasn’t only surprised by how shady and empty it was: San Giacomo was a monument to silence, something I never would’ve imagined finding in the centre of Capri.

Built in 1371 by Giacomo Arcucci, the convent is one the oldest buildings on the island. Made up of the Chiostro Grande and Chiostro Piccolo, its structure is made up of a series of courtyards and arches that lead onto smaller cells (home to the Diefenbach Museum). As well as having ongoing exhibitions and concerts during the summer, the convent also functions as highschool and, if you venture along the back, offers a lovely panoramic view of the coastline (similar to those at the Gardens of Augustus).

San Giacomo opens from 9AM to 2PM and then 5PM until 8PM. Entry to this one is a bargain: €4 entry, free for EU citizens under 18 and offers a 50% discount for EU citizens aged 18-25.

Gardens of Augustus

need-bigger-boats

If you’re looking to save money (and time) in Capri but don’t want to miss out on the great views that might have been available at Punta Carena, the Augustus Gardens (formerly known as the Krupp Gardens) offer the ideal solution. At 1€ per ticket (and that’s for everybody from March 1st to November 15th. Children under 11 enter for free), this is the best money you’ll ever spend in Capri. Not only are the gardens a green sanctuary of structured terraces with a mixture of Classic fountains and modernist sculptures, the gardens boast some of the best views of the Faraglioni, Marina Piccola, Via Krupp and the coastline.

To get there, walk from from the Piazzetta of Capri or take Via Vittorio Emanuele to Via Federico Serena and then Via Matteotti. There are plenty of signs showing the way, so you can’t miss it.

Via Krupp

Via_krupp

Sadly this was closed down during my time in Capri, but peering down from the viewpoint in the Gardens of Augustus made me jealous of anyone whose had the chance to walk along Via Krupp. In the early 20th century, German industrialist Friedrich Krupp commissioned a pathway which would link Marina Piccola, where he moored his yacht each summer, with the area surrounding the Charterhouse of San Giacomo and the Gardens of Augustus.

Make your way down by foot to reach Marina Piccola and, if you don’t fancy the return hike uphill, travel back to the centre by bus,

Punta Carena

Punta_Carena_Lighthouse

With the lighthouse rumoured to be visible up to 40km into sea, this 19th century lighthouse is the second tallest in Italy and offers a brilliant view of the sunset. To get there, take the bus from the main Viale Tommaso de Tommaso stop in Anacapri.

Faraglioni

tunnel-of-rocky-love

One of your first views of Capri will include the Faraglioni: three large rock formations protruding from sea within meters of the shore. The rocks even have names: the first, still attached to the land, is called Stella, the second, separated from the first block by a stretch of sea is Faraglione di Mezzo; and the third, Faraglione di Fuori or Scopolo.

Taking us through the natural cavity in the Faraglione di Mezzo, Tony said it was known as the Tunnel of Love: if your little boat doesn’t hit the sides, you have won yourself a kiss from your inamorata. Great anecdote if your with a partner, but not so great if you’re travelling with your mum

However, one of the true wonders of the Faraglione is also its smallest and isn’t always visible: the Scopolo sea stack provides a unique habitat for the Podarcis sicula coerulea. The rock is, in fact, the only place in the world where you can find this lizard, the blue color of which is said to be the result of the amphibian’s vicinity to the sea and sky.

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