Features of the island are the Marina Piccola (Small Harbor), the Belvedere of Tragara, which is a high panoramic promenade lined with villas, the limestone masses called Sea Stacks that stand out of the sea (the Faraglioni), Anacapri, the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra), and the ruins of the Imperial Roman villas.
Capri is in the region of Campania, Province of Naples. The City of Capri is the main centre of population on Capri. It has two adjoining harbours, Marina Piccola and Marina Grande (the main port of the island). The separate commune of Anacapri is located high on the hills to the west.
The etymology of the name Capri can be traced back to the Greeks, the first recorded colonists to populate the island. This means that "Capri" was probably not derived from the Latin "Capreae" (goats), but rather the Greek "Kapros" (wild boar).
According to the Greek geographer Strabo, Capri was once part of the mainland. This has been confirmed by geological surveys and archaeological findings.
The city has been inhabited since very early times. Evidence of human settlement was discovered during the Roman era; according to Suetonius, when the foundations for the villa of Augustus were being excavated, giant bones and 'weapons of stone' were discovered. The emperor ordered these to be displayed in the garden of his main residence, the Sea Palace. Modern excavations have shown that human presence on the island can be dated back to the Neolithic and the Bronze Age.
In his Aeneid, Virgil states that the island had been populated by the Greek people of Teleboi, coming from the Ionian Islands. Strabo says that "in ancient times in Capri there were two towns, later reduced to one." (Geography, 5, 4, 9, 38). Tacitus records that there were twelve Imperial villas in Capri (or Capreae, as it was spelled in Latin). Ruins of one at Tragara could still be seen in the 19th century.
Augustus's successor Tiberius built a series of villas at Capri, the most famous of which is the Villa Jovis, one of the best preserved Roman villas in Italy. In 27 CE, Tiberius permanently moved to Capri, running the Empire from there until his death in 37 CE. According to Suetonius, while staying on the island, Tiberius (accompanied by his grand-nephew and heir, Caligula) enjoyed imposing numerous cruelties and sexual perversions upon his slaves.
In 1496, Frederick IV of Naples established legal and administrative parity between the two settlements of Capri and Anacapri. The pirate raids reached their peak during the reign of Charles V: the famous Turkish admirals Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha and Turgut Reis sacked the island in 1535 and 1553, respectively.
The first famous visitor to the island was the French antiques dealer Jean Jacques Bouchard in the 17th century, who may be considered Capri's first tourist. His diary, found in 1850, is an important information source about Capri.
In the latter half of the 19th century, Capri became a popular resort for European artists, writers and other celebrities. John Singer Sargent and Frank Hyde are among the prominent artists who stayed on the island around the late 1870s. Sargent is best known for his series of portraits featuring the beautiful local model, Rosina Ferrara.
Also in the 19th century, the natural scientist Ignazio Cerio catalogued the flora and fauna of the island. This work was continued by his son, the author and engineer Edwin Cerio, who wrote several books on life in Capri in the 20th century.
Norman Douglas, Friedrich Alfred Krupp, Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen, Christian Wilhelm Allers, Emil von Behring, Curzio Malaparte, Axel Munthe, and Maxim Gorky are all reported to have owned a villa there, or to have stayed there for more than three months. Swedish Queen Victoria often stayed there. Rose O'Neill, the American illustrator and creator of the Kewpie, owned the Villa Narcissus, formerly owned by the famous Beaux Art painter Charles Caryl Coleman. Gracie Fields also had a villa on the island, though her 1934 song "The Isle of Capri" was written by two Englishmen. Mariah Carey owns a villa on the island.
The book that spawned the 19th century fascination with Capri in France, Germany, and England was Entdeckung der Blauen Grotte auf der Insel Capri, 'Discovery of the Blue Grotto on the Isle of Capri', by the German painter and writer August Kopisch, in which he describes his 1826 stay on Capri and his (re)discovery of the Blue Grotto. Capri is also the setting for "The Lotus Eater", a short-story by Somerset Maugham. In the story, the protagonist from Boston comes to Capri on a holiday and is so enchanted by the place he gives up his job and decides to spend the rest of his life in leisure at Capri. Claude Debussy refers to the island's hills in the title of his impressionistic prélude Les collines d'Anacapri (1910).
As well as being a haven for writers and artists, Capri served as a relatively safe place for foreign gay men and lesbians to lead a more open life, and a small nucleus of them were attracted to live there, overlapping to some extent with the creative types mentioned above. The 19th century poet August von Platen-Hallermünde was one of the first. Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen wrote the roman à clef Et le feu s’èteignit sur le mer (1910) about Capri and its residents in the early 20th century, causing a minor scandal. Fersen's life on Capri became the subject of Roger Peyrefitte's fictionalised biography, L'Exile de Capri. One of the island's most famous foreign inhabitants was Norman Douglas; his novel South Wind is a thinly fictionalised description of Capri's residents and visitors, and a number of his other works, both books and pamphlets, deal with the island, including Capri (1930) and his last work, A Footnote on Capri (1952). A satirical presentation of the island's lesbian colony in the 1920s is made in Compton Mackenzie's novel Extraordinary Women (1928).
Memoirs set on Capri include Edwin Cerio's Aria di Capri (1928) (translated as That Capri Air), which contains a number of historical and biographical essays on the island, including a tribute to Norman Douglas; The Story of San Michele (1929) by the Swedish royal physician Axel Munthe (1857–1949), who built a villa of that name; An Impossible Woman: The Memoirs of Dottoressa Moor (1975) by Elisabeth Moor, who worked there as a doctor from 1926 until the 1970s; and Shirley Hazzard's Graham on Capri: A Memoir (2000), about her reminiscences of Graham Greene.
Novels set on Capri include the eponymous Kapri (1939), by the Latvian novelist Jānis Jaunsudrabiņš, who represents the island as a sort of prison for Europeans who have run away from their normal lives and responsibilities, and I Love Capri by Belinda Jones.
Capri is a tourist destination for both Italians and foreigners. In the 1950s, Capri became a popular destination for the international jet set. The central piazzetta of Capri, though preserving its modest village architecture, is lined with luxury boutiques and expensive restaurants.
During summers, the island is heavily touristed, often by day trippers from Naples and Sorrento.