The permanent residents of Capri have the same uncanny ability as the Balinese for going about their business oblivious to the tourist hordes around them. Capri’s tourist numbers are even more extraordinary than Bali’s. Although its area is barely four square miles and its population a mere 12,500, Capri plays host to two million visitors a year.
Most are the dreaded day-trippers from Naples and Sorrento-pendolari, the Capresi call them, in description of their incessant to-and-fro motion-who arrive clutching a packed lunch, spend nothing, leave their rubbish, and depart at teatime. During the middle of the day, Capri is best enjoyed by disappearing to the island’s furthermost comers, which can be surprisingly pretty and peaceful. But the long, balmy summer evenings, after the pendolarihave left, are what for me makes Capri a favorite island. This is when the famous Piazzetta, the social hub of Capri town, comes into its own. Tiny and intimate, fringed by animated cafes, it is the perfect place for relaxing and people-watching.
An often-noticed thing about watching people in Capri is that everyone looks highly pleased with life, especially the Capresi themselves. James Money, the island’s social historian, as always has the explanation: “Making money out of the visitors is the dominant activity, and this is done by the islanders with characteristic Italian ingenuity and skill. Because this makes them happy, most of them look happy. A glum face is rarely to be seen.”
Down from the Piazzetta, the terrace of the Grand Hotel Quisisana is another prime spot for an elegant cocktail. Since 1982, Capri’s most splendid hotel has been in the ownership of the Morganos, an old Capresi family of hoteliers. I got to talking to the Quisisana’s immaculately dressed general manager, Dr. Gianfranco Morgano. Aged forty-one, he had just decided to abandon his career as a cardiologist to run the family flagship full-time.
The Quisisana, he reminded me, had originally been built as a sanatorium (its name means, roughly, “Get well here”), so it was appropriate that his first act had been to equip it with a gleaming new fitness center. If you are planning to have a heart attack-and some do when they get the bill-the Quisisana seems a pretty good place to be.
Elsewhere, the Morganos are extending their dynastic rule over Capri’s hotels. The Scalinatella, the island’s second-most highly regarded, is now run by Enrico Morgano, and a new hotel, Casa Morgano, is run by Nicolino Morgano-both brothers of Gianfranco. Needless to say, all look very happy indeed.
Hotels in Capri
Bussola di Hermes Hotel Capri, Anacapri
Regina Cristina Hotel Capri, City
Hotel San Michele Capri, Anacapri
La Floridiana Hotel Capri, Piazzetta
La Bougainville Hotel Anacapri, Anacapri
La Vega Hotel Capri Island, Anacapri
Bristol Hotel Capri, Marina Grande
Relais Maresca Hotel Capri Island, Marina Grande
La Residenza Hotel Capri, Piazzetta
Il Girasole Hotel Capri, Anacapri
Casa Caprile Hotel Anacapri, Anacapri