The Mediterranean island of Capri, in the Gulf of Naples, is thought to be the “rock of the sirens”, home to the dangerous and beautiful creatures that tried to seduce Ulysses in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. The original Italian name for the fabled island is scoglio delle sirene. Unlike Ulysses who bypassed temptation, over the years, millions of travelers have succumbed to this island’s charm.
In the second half of the 19th century, it attracted romantic poets like the German Rainer Maria Rilke, and by the 20th century, a significant group of artists had settled permanently in Capri. The poet Pablo Neruda and composer Claude Debussy found inspiration for some of their works in this beautiful outpost.
In the 1950s, Capri became a popular destination for the jet set. In 1945 fashion designer Sonja de Lennar, a frequent visitor, launched a collection featuring the “Capri pant”, immortalized by Audrey Hepburn in Billy Wilder’s film Sabrina. The Capri pant became the hottest fashion item for elegant and audacious women of the time. A classic, it still appears in many of today’s fashion catwalks.
A member of the select club Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Capri’s Punta Tragara Hotel is set in a Mediterranean-style villa designed by Le Corbusier in the 1920s. From its clifftop location in the eastern part of the island, many of the rooms overlook the sea, and the amazing suites have large private terraces with splendid views of the blue waters below. The vistas from the hotel’s garden reach Il Faraglioni, a picturesque group of towering rocks protruding from the middle of the enchanting Marina Piccola Bay, Capri’s most photogenic attraction.
The hotel served as U.S. Army Command in World War II. During the turbulent period, it hosted illustrious guests such as Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower. However, Punta Tragara, far from wartime austerity, today welcomes discerning guests, who come for the eclectic décor, a combination of archaeological pieces, sculptures, antiques and contemporary artworks.
A short walk from the hotel, at the heart of the city, we found the famous Piazzeta Umberto, a meeting point for locals and tourists alike, with a wide selection of lively terraces. The island’s capital is a labyrinth of narrow streets of whitewashed houses and balconies adorned with flowering blooms. There is also a shopping road with luxurious boutiques of renowned firms such as Gucci or Louis Vuitton.
In the charming harbor of Marina Piccola (where choosing a favorite restaurant is no easy task), small fishing boats dot the coastline, bringing ashore the freshest seafood from the Mediterranean.
The hotels organizes tours of the island’s most emblematic monuments: Villa Jovis, Villa San Michele, the Charterhouse of San Giacomo and the lovely city of Anacapri, which was home to a small colony of prominent European artists, such as writers Graham Greene and Marguerite Yourcenar. Other activities include day cruises around the island and its many coves, of which Grotta Azzurra (The Blue Grotto) is arguably the most beautiful.
Back at the hotel after a day on the beach, the Unica Spa, with its heated pool, Thalasso therapy treatments and different kinds of massages, will help the traveler unwind before supper. The terrace bar La Pergola, set amidst palm trees and cypresses, is the ideal place to take an aperitivo or a cocktail overlooking the glorious Mediterranean sunsets. And don’t forget to set aside some time to delight on the island’s great culinary traditions at Monzú, the hotel’s restaurant, where the Chef dishes out perfect pasta, fantastic fish and divine desserts. ■