OST's Top Ten Stays of 2016
Capri is in renaissance. Often a tagged on day trip from the other increasingly popular honeymoon destinations along the Amalfi Coast, Capri is rediscovering its form, and so it should. As a throwback myself, Capri's most glamorous years hark back to a bygone era of style, colour and elegance that is almost unrivalled anywhere else in the world. You get an idea of what you're in for as soon as you see the open top taxis that line up, like favoured toys, along the harbour walls - All duck egg blue and retro styling.
No taxi for me, on this occasion however, as I'm staying at the Caesar Augustus in Anacapri, so the Hotel shuttle is waiting to whisk me off. The very scary bus ride up the winding narrow road to Anacapri will also have to wait - It's far better than any fairground ride and the screams of your fellow passengers as the bus swings out over the precipice as it speeds up the hill, only adds to the drama, .... but on another day.
To tell you the truth, I've been coming to Capri for years and the place fills me with joy. I don't know if it's the history, with villas on the island dating back to the Roman Empire and owned or built by the Emperors Tiberius and Augustus themselves, or if it's the more modern era of Hollywood and Rank film stars, European starlets and Italian Screen Idols that draws me back. Whichever it may be, it works for me.
The Marina Grande, will probably be your arrival point. Its busy bustling nature only serves as a functional launchpad for what lays high above. Your options are many, whether you are lucky enough to be staying on the island or are only here for the whirligig 10 hour tour. You may choose to by some tickets for the Farnicular up to Capri Town to take in the bling brand names that line the narrow streets and laneways, or find a quiet spot to have lunch or to simply sit in one of the bars in the main piazza and people watch, over a glass of Prosecco or an Aperol Spritz. These brand name outlets aren't for me, by the way. I find them horribly grotesque, whether it's the snootiness of the sellers therein, what the labels represent or the kind of client that has to have them and is more than willing to pay the ridiculous price. It's all too 'new money vulgarity' and is probably aimed at the wealthier cruise ship brigade rather than the true romantic.... In fact they are no different to the cheap T-Shirt, trinket and magnet shops that line the paths of Sorrento and Santorini. It's all fake; set up to appeal to the onrushing short stayers rather than representing the local trades, craftsmen or designers. The prices for shop frontage being so high that it's only Ferragamo , Chanel or Cartier that can afford them. The prices for in the restaurants also reflect the rising costs on the island, but all this serves to do, is to push those that actually love this coast, Italy itself or Italian products, over to the quieter Anacapri instead.
Anacapri is a far more natural place to visit. Local children play in the streets and squares, the shops are full of local produce and wares, the bars more cosy and the restaurants are traditional and evenly priced, ... and it's here that you will find Caesar Augustus. Perched high above Marina Grande and with astonishing views out across the Bay of Naples, it sits proudly like a beacon welcoming you to the island.
The service is exceptional, the suites are well appointed and decorated in a traditional style that is both familiar, and comfortable. It hasn't lost its sense of history in anyway whatsoever. Still family owned and run, the Caesar Augustus is a total delight and salute to days gone by. It's style and reputation never diminished, it is constantly reinventing itself but in avery clever manner. Modern in every way except in it's style, character and attitude, which is exactly why it suits the old school traveller so well.The old wooden framed lift maybe a bit of a handful to operate but I wouldn't be without it. Even its instantly recognisable bright yellow courtesy umbrellas are greeted with delight wherever you go on Capri, and it's not so the excited restaurateur can slap a bit more on your bill either. To the locals, the Caesar Augustus is the epitome of the island stylish history, its masthead, to which the statue of Augustus pointing proudly within its gardens towards can attest, and them knowing you are staying there, says a lot about your own attitude and style as well.
The hotel gives you great access to Anacapri town, which is only a short walk away, as is the Capri Perfumerie, the beautiful and thought provoking Villa San Michel and the chairlift to the top of Mount Solaro, which by the way, is both a bit hairy but also delightful, .... and the bar atop the mountain is well worth having a rewarding beer in and is very pleasant indeed.
Back at the Caesar Augustus, breakfast is vast and delicious, the infinity pool is heated and set inside a ring of bright yellow deckchairs that are presented in such a way that they don't interrupt the view out towards naples, the restaurant is excellent, as are the views from your table, and drinks on the terrace before dinner are a must. I should also recommend that you book a private boat tour of the island through the hotel concierge. We skipped ahead of the not so long queues at the Blue Grotto because of the status of our pilot. The boat belonged to one of the islands most notable inhabitants and this proved a godsend on this quietish day, when it came to getting in to Blue Grotto, and I would hate to think how much time it would save on a busier day. It sounds a bit mean, but you've paid your money for this level of service and it has its rewards. Elsewhere in this blog I talk of where to spend money and when to save money; this is very much a spend occasion. It is richly rewarding.
We loved our time at the Caesar Augustus. We hated having to leave...... We were even seen off by the owner at the harbour when it was our time to leave. I only hope he wasn't happy to see us go and just making sure we left, as we will be back again very soon.