I FOUND MYSELF at the end of a train trip, in the small Italian coastal town of Sorrento. I stepped off the train and into a whirlwind of Christmas carols and children on parents’ shoulders trying to catch a glimpse of the large tree in the town center. It was several weeks into the low season, but I was primarily there to experience the famed Amalfi Coast before heading home.

Another guest in the hotel told me of his recent trip to the nearby island of Capri. Though it’s one of Europe’s most costly and exclusive destinations, I decided to pool my remaining Euros and catch a ferry there early the next morning. What I discovered was not only an island full of history, charm and natural beauty but also one that can be surprisingly affordable.


Views from the Water

One of the best parts about a day trip to Capri is the ferry ride out there. It’s a short and pleasant ride from both Sorrento and Naples, and the views of the Bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius, and the approaching island are more than rewarding.


Approaching Capri

There’s a palpable sense of excitement as the ferry approaches this seemingly uninhabitable rocky outcrop in the bay. First-time visitors, like me and the young boy in the photo, scramble to the open deck at the back to catch a glimpse, while regular commuters tend to hang out in the warmth and comfort of the interior.


Personal Touches

You may expect a destination as famed as Capri to have lost its charm, but these hand painted signs directing you to the island’s top attractions and smaller suburbs help to retain a genuine appeal. There’s a funicular ready to take arriving guests from the harbor to the upper reaches of Capri, but if you can handle a few dozen steps, you can easily walk the route.


Gardens of Augustus

The Gardens of Augustus may be one of Capri’s most visited attraction, and yet on this cool autumn day, I had them all to myself. The beautifully manicured gardens are impressive, and they lead you out to perhaps one of the best aerial views of Capri’s famous Faraglioni rock formations.


Faraglioni of Capri

These rock stacks have a magnetic appeal, and they appear to always be in sight throughout a visit to the island. You can view them from the sea by embarking on a boat trip there, and to the famous Blue Caves, but given the time of year, these trips were few and far between. Instead, I enjoyed them from vantage points around the island.


Sheer Cliffs

Walking the quiet streets and alleyways of Capri make it feel like a surprisingly accessible town, but when you walk to the outskirts and encounter views of sheer cliffs falling into the ocean, you realize just how inhospitable the terrain actually is.


Via Krupp

Another classic view from the Gardens of Augustus is this dramatic switchback pathway called Via Krupp. Though closed for several years due to dangerous rock falls, it’s an incredible sight from above.


Villa Jovis

Roman Emperor Tiberius built a large villa on the island of Capri in 37 AD. He ruled the Roman Empire mainly from this idyllic location until his death ten years later. This is only an echo of the former villa that perched on this rock looking back towards the mainland, but it’s still a fascinating way to venture back in time while on the island.


The mainland from the island

From the eastern reaches of Capri, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast feel surprisingly close.


Monte Solaro

I’d read that the highest point, and some of the best views, were from the peak of Monte Solaro. I walked back into the center of Capri, boarded a bus, and after the hair-raising bends around the cliff face, I was grateful just to get out alive. A woman next to me clasped a crucifix and whispered quiet prayers, occasionally lifting it to her lips as we rounded a particularly exhilarating corner. When I got to Anacapri, the other town on the island, I cheated and took a quick chairlift to the highest point where I was greeted by a stunning 360-degree view and sheer drops.


Chair ride down

The chair ride back down to the town was equally enjoyable and offered views of the more residential side of the island in Anacapri.


Via Krupp, again

There was something about this paved pathway to the ocean that drew me back to the Gardens of Augustus. I had an hour or two to kill before my ferry returned to Sorrento, and the blue waters below were tantalizingly within reach. The low season has its perks, mainly that no guards prevent you from slipping beneath the gate and venturing down one of the most beautiful pathways imaginable.


Sunset on the rocks

At the bottom, I found an isolated beach from which to watch the fading daylight cast fading colors onto the rocks.


Capri Harbour

I arrived early for my ferry and sat on the far side of the harbor watching the light dance on the swirling waters. It had been a full day of walking and sightseeing on one of Italy’s most beautiful islands, and there was no better way to reflect on it than from this quiet bench.