As we sailed across the Bay of Naples from Sorrento towards Capri, the boat captain pulled me over and pointed to the highest point on the island. “That’s where you’re going,” he said. I had been obsessed with the Monte Solaro Chair Lift in Capri, a single-seat, open-air ride to the mountaintop, ever since I learned about it from a fellow traveller. But looking up at the 1,932-foot peak from sea level, it suddenly felt daunting. By Rachel Chang
The famous Monte Solaro chairlift in Capri
Capri has long solidified its reputation as a yacht-filled glamorous getaway, a favourite of celebrities from Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly to Kourtney Kardashian and Hugh Jackman, with its dramatic rocky coastline set against transparent blue waters. Though its most famous landmark is, no doubt, the Blue Grotto, the cave with naturally glowing blue waters, its most underrated attraction might just be the unique lift to the top of Monte Solaro.
Located in the commune of Anacapri, whose prefix implies its “above” the main city of Capri on the island of the same name, the trip to the starting point of the chairlift takes a long wait for a crowded bus ride up the mountain and into a bustling Piazza Vittoria. Just off the corner of the piazza is the station at Via Caposcuro. There, visitors can grab a EUR 9 (INR 723) one-way ticket (or a EUR 12 or INR 964 round-trip ticket) and hop on the 13-minute ride. The chairlift operates year-round. It begins running at 9:30 am and closes between 3:30 pm and 5 pm, depending on the month.
The Monte Solaro chairlift first opened in 1952 as an effortless shortcut to the mountaintop — even actress Rita Hayworth once grabbed a seat. After a 1998 overhaul, the ride reopened a year later with new equipment.
Arriving on an off-peak late April afternoon, there were only a handful of people ahead of me, so there wasn’t any time for hesitation as the chair operator simply pointed me to a marked spot and gestured to sit down, as he pulled a single bar down in front of me. Before I could blink, I was sailing over the town.
As I looked down at my feet dangling over the city, I thought the fear would kick in. Despite the 156 seats just hanging from the cable by a single bar, to my surprise, it oddly felt solid and secure. Within seconds, a sense of calm washed over me. As I got farther from the over-crowded city, the only sounds were the chirping birds, casting a serene soundtrack to the sights that grew more impressive as I inched closer to the top.
The gorgeous blue waters, green spring blooms, and rocky shores looked even more vibrant from this height. While some portions between the support poles were steeper than others, the ride was surprisingly meditative.
Once at the top, the operator instructed me exactly when to lift the bar, stand up, and walk off to the side. Considering I’ve been known to stop ski lifts with my inability to get off chairlifts, this was surprisingly smooth and simple.
Atop the mountain, an even more spectacular sight awaited. Walking around the entire perimeter on the clear day, the panoramic views featured the entire island of Capri, including its three trademark Faraglioni rock formations in the foreground, plus some of Italy’s most famous sights — Naples, Mount Vesuvius, the Amalfi Coast, and Ischia island — in the distance. There is also a restaurant at the top, but during this time of year, only the bistro was open, so I grabbed a lemon Italian ice and just sat marvelling at the unbelievable, postcard-worthy scenery enveloping me from every direction.
While some choose to hike one way and take the chairlift the other, the ride back down was almost more breathtaking than the upward one, as the entire gulf stretched before me during the slow descent.
As soon as my feet touched back on the ground, I was jolted back to reality, into the busy, noisy Anacapri city centre, confirming how tranquil the chairlift ride truly was. The solitude of the chairlift, along with the sky-high views the ride offers, is a truly special way to experience the magic of Capri.