Visiting This Mesmerizing Italian Tourist Attraction Is A Must, Per Rick Steves

A tour of Italy can be a marvelous experience, full of scenic vistas, exquisite food, and awe-inspiring historic sites, but waiting off the coast of Capri is a magical adventure unlike any other activity you'll enjoy during your trip. It's so spectacular that it's been chosen by Rick Steves as one of his favorite experiences in Europe. Steves is an expert in European travel, and his guidebooks and TV shows have provided insight for his followers for many years. On his blog, he describes visiting the Blue Grotto, a sea cave on the Isle of Capri.

Known in Italian as Grotta Azzurra, the azure blue waters make it one of the most beautiful sea caves in the world. The waters are lit from below the surface, creating a luminous blue glow inside the dark. The unusual structural formation of the rocky entrance creates this effect. The mouth of the cave is relatively small and narrow, but several feet below the surface is a larger opening in the rock that allows sunlight to permeate the deep waters inside the cave. The sea seems to glow from within, and the area is filled with a mystical blue light. From the outside, the entrance to the cave is almost unnoticeable, especially during high tide. But when conditions are right, the sea level drops low enough to create an opening into the Grotto that is just the right size to accommodate a small wooden rowboat.

Experience the azure waters inside the Blue Grotto

Rowboats are the only way to enter the Blue Grotto, and the sight of these old-fashioned fishing vessels bobbing on the water alongside the island is a picturesque scene in itself. At the helm of each boat is a specially trained guide who understands how to maneuver in and out of the cave. The boat's small size limits the number of passengers to four or fewer. Each guest must purchase a ticket from the nearby floating ticket office beforehand, and tours are only offered during low tide and calm winds. Once inside the boat, passengers wait until their boat is next in line to enter the cave.

What happens next is part of the adventure. All the members of the boat — including the guide -– lie back and flatten themselves on the bottom of the boat. The guide grabs hold of a chain anchored to the rocks and swiftly pulls the boat through the mouth of the cave. Once inside, as guests sit upright and adjust their eyes to the darkness, they see the ethereal blue glow emanate from the water and reflect throughout the cave. It is an unforgettable sight filled with extraordinary beauty. Several boats can travelerblog simultaneously as there is plenty of room inside, but after five or 10 minutes, each boat exits the cave and surrenders the experience to the next lucky visitors.

Enjoy an emperor's private swimming pool

History says that the Blue Grotto was the favorite swimming location for Roman Emperor Tiberius, who ruled between A.D. 14 and 37. Tiberius decorated the sides of the cave with statues of Roman sea gods, many of which were discovered on the seafloor in the 1960s. These discoveries include the statues of Neptune and Triton that are on display at the Blue Grotto Museum in Anacapri. As recently as February 2024, archeological divers discovered a large marble block on the cave floor that was once the base of another statue. Some believe it had adorned the emperor's Gradola Villa, once located behind the Blue Grotto.

When Rick Steves visited Capri, he discovered a particular way to enjoy his visit to the Blue Grotto that he shared with his readers. While it's possible to buy a ticket to travel directly to the entrance to the cave, he explains that it costs the same price to embark on a 60-minute tour around the island, which is what he recommends. The trip he booked with Capri Tour included a stop at the Blue Grotto, and Steves says the trip around the island with a knowledgeable guide added to his enjoyment of the entire experience. While there are many beautiful spots along Italy's coast that are secluded and hidden, be sure to take Steves' advice on your next trip and visit one of his favorites on Capri.