Erotic Screaming Parties, COVID Swabs With Condoms—Capri Is Ready to Cater to Every Need of the Super-Wealthy
Not since Emperor Tiberius Caesar went into self-exile on this picturesque island off the coast of Italy have lust and luxury been so intertwined.
CAPRI, Italy—When Emperor Tiberius Caesar wanted to escape from the doldrums of ancient Roman life, he came here to Capri, even self-exiling for a time in his pornographically decorated palaces where he indulged in pleasures of the flesh with both sexes. In fact, the ancient remains of his opulent Villa Jovis with stunning views over the turquoise waters and Bagni di Tiberio on the water’s edge have always been a magnet for those with a lust for life. As delightfully relaxing as these spots have been in the past, their allure has never been as potent as now in the post-pandemic era where the wealthy are coming in droves to shake off the lockdown blues.
Capri, under an hour by hydrofoil or private yacht from Naples, has deemed itself COVID-free after vaccinating the entire population, its hospitality workers, and taxi drivers. And while there is no requirement whatsoever for the guests to take the same precautions, there is little fear of turning the island into a hotspot.
“The tourists will come and go, COVID be damned, but the islanders will stay safe because we are all vaccinated,” Gina, a nurse who used to check island guests for STDs but now administers COVID tests at one of the island's nude spas, told The Daily Beast as she prepared swabs for a dozen guests who would be attending what she described as a “erotic beachside campfire party” near Tiberius’ thermal baths that would feature, among other things, primal screaming.
“People need to forget the pandemic,” she said. “They need Capri and all it represents right now more than ever."
The islanders may feel protected from COVID, but they are offering stealth protection to guests just in case. All the hotels have quarantine rooms and while the white COVID testing tents that have become a feature across Italy have been removed from Capri’s cobbled streets, there is plenty of testing going on to catch any infected visitors. Giuseppe, a boat driver whose niche market is ferrying couples and singles to the island’s nude beach coves, often thanks to dating apps where people use code names for the hideaways for hookups or swinging opportunities, told The Daily Beast that he has do-it-yourself COVID tests in the boat for anyone who wants to be sure before they set sail. “I used to only have a box of condoms on the boat in case someone needed one,” he said, showing off a Capri-blue box of rubbers in bright packaging. “Now I can also give them a COVID-swab test at no extra charge.”
All across this jasmine-draped island, the mood is the same. The smell of fresh paint permeated the air on the last weekend in May ahead of what is expected to be a banner tourist season, which started in May for Europeans and July for the rest of the world. Wealthy tourists—especially American A-listers—have booked the island's most lavish hotels from July when quarantine-free tourism is expected to open up to non-Europeans and the islanders are frothing over their return.
Giacomo, a taxi driver whose convertible Caprese taxi has shuttled European glitterati for years (Americans tend to use private car service from the yacht dock), says the mood harkens back to the days of La Dolce Vita, when big names like Jackie O. and the Hollywood elite took over the island every summer. “Back then, only the super-wealthy came to Capri,” he said, recalling stories told by his father, also a convertible taxi driver. “We got away from that in recent years, but after the pandemic, everyone is catering more to that kind of visitor again.”
He told The Daily Beast that he has seen very few budget tourists so far. “We’re getting an entirely different type of tourist. It used to be that we saw day-trippers who couldn't afford a night on the island, now we see people coming for a week or more,” he told The Daily Beast. “That means the restaurants will be happy, the hotels will be happy, and the taxi drivers will be happy, too.”
The Aurora restaurant, long a favorite of the Hollywood set, is already preparing for Beyoncé, who booked her usual room in the restaurant in August as she usually does, with the exception of last year when Americans were not allowed to travel to Europe. Owner Mia D’Alessio could hardly contain her enthusiasm that things were returning to normal—and by no means does Capri “normal” mean the same as in other places. “We had become spoiled in some way before the pandemic,” she says. “We didn’t realize travel could just stop, people would be prohibited from coming, that we would be shut out. We will never take that for granted again.”
In many ways, Capri is the epitome of what post-pandemic pampering should aspire to. Even before the pandemic, this island tipped the scales when it came to excesses with its top-up Botox clinics and exotic clubs with private dance rooms. The island—with a population of just over 7,000 people—has seven five-star hotels and they are all booked from June 1, according to Sergio Garigulo, head of Capri’s Hotel Federation.
Luxury hotels like the Capri Tiberio Palace say they aren’t offering a specific “post-pandemic” package, but instead they understand that after lockdowns and COVID trauma, the usual Capri treatment will suffice.
“People have always come here to be pampered and it will be no different after COVID,” Francesca Tozzi, the general manager, said. Last summer the hotel saw mostly Italian and some European guests, but no Americans, Russians, or Arab customers, who before the pandemic were the typical customers. “This year will be a homecoming for our usual guests.”
Capri has always represented a certain type of decadence, where tourists come to play and, like Emperor Tiberius, leave the doldrums of daily life behind. But after more than a year off the global grid, this island is ready to live again, COVID be damned.