Amid one of the myriad of beautiful settings on the island of Capri, you will find this curious campanile, or bell tower, surrounded by lush gardens and backed by the beautiful blue sea. This campanile marks the Certosa di San Giacomo, a Carthusian monastery founded in 1371 by Count Giacomo Arucci, a nobleman and secretary to the lively Giovanna I, the Angevin Queen of Naples (1328–1382). It was home to the island’s powerful Carthusian fraternity, who enlarged and rebuilt the monastery after several devastating attacks in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the early 19th century the Certosa was forced to close by Napoleon’s occupying forces, and today there is a library and museum located on the grounds.
Follow the hand painted tile signs down the tree-lined walkway and into the grounds of the Certosa. One of the first buildings you encounter is the small Gothic church on the left. During my visit there was work going on inside the church, and I could only admire the portal and the view inside through the open doors.
The fresco in the lunette above the main entrance dates from the end of the 1300s and depicts the Madonna and Child surrounded by the Saints Bruno and Giacomo. Below, the smaller figures on the right represent Giacomo the founder with his two sons and, on the left, Queen Giovanna with two attending women. Just to the right of the church is the entrance to the Certosa buildings, where you will also find the Museo Diefenbach.
In stark contrast to the white walls and simple architecture of the Certosa, you can view the large, dramatic and often dark paintings of the 19th century artist Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach (1851–1913), who was greatly inspired by the landscape of Capri.
But I guarantee it won’t take long before the blue sky beckons you back outside to explore the Chiostrino, or little cloister, dating from the 1400s, where you can finally get a good look at that curious Baroque campanile called the Torre dell’ Orologio.
Following the hallways you will eventually find your way to the Chiostro Grande, or the large cloister, dating from the end of the 16th century. This was the heart of the Certosa, and is surrounded by individual rooms that were once home to the resident monks. Today walking around the cloister the only sounds you will hear are the stones crunching underfoot and the sweet songs of the island’s many varieties of birds.
Although one of the most important examples of Caprese architecture, the peaceful and well-kept grounds of the Certosa di San Giacomo are visited by only a few of the mobs of tourists who regularly arrive on the island. It is open from Tuesday – Sunday from 9 am – 2 pm, and admission is free. A walk through the grounds, including the cloisters and museum, doesn’t take long, but it is well worth it to see the architecture, beautiful views, and absorb the sense of calm and quiet inside.
Tempting Tuesday: Summer Boats on the Amalfi Coast
Tempting Tuesday: Touring Around Capri by Boat
Tempting Tuesday: L’Arco Naturale on Capri
Tempting Tuesday: Church of Sant’Antonio in Conca dei Marini
Sounds off-the-beaten-path – so sign me up!
I have never been to Capri (believe it or not), mostly because I go the opposite direction of any large groups of tourists. But this looks pristine and authentic (and I love a nice Chiostro, too… something about them) Thanks for sharing!
Looks lovely, I'm a sucker for a chiostro!
Scintilla @ Bell'Avventura says
I must go back to Capri armed with your guide…but way out of season!
Ciao Peter! Never been to Capri!!! I can't believe it. 🙂 I certainly understand about the crowds, and they can get overwhelming on Capri. It is a magical place for me, and there is so much to explore that is off the beaten path. The first time I went was on a beautiful and warm February day, and I'll never forget it. Head there off season and you will really enjoy it! (October and November are also really nice.) Do a search for Capri here on Ciao Amalfi and you'll see some of my favorite sites. It's been sort of a theme here this summer as I went several times. Enjoy!
Ciao Saretta! I know just how you feel. The response here in the comments has me brainstorming a surprise for next Tuesday. Check back next week to find out! 🙂
Ciao Scintilla! Out of season is the best time to go. Like I mentioned above, I've been in February, May and November, and it was beautiful and certainly less crowded. That being said, the pictures of the Certosa I took at the beginning of August this summer. (I was serious when I said tourists rarely go there!) There really are off the beaten path places even during the busiest times of the year. There are amazing paths to hike all around the island where you'll find more flowers and birds than tourists. Beautiful! 🙂
Barbara Snow says
I love the Certosa. But even more, I love Carthusia, the little shop that makes divine soaps and fragrances. It's right at the end of the wisteria walk. Thanks for sharing your photos of this amazing place.
Barb in Minnesota
Ciao Barbara! Oh, I have to agree. I just love Carthusia! They do make divine soaps and perfumes. I wear one of them almost every day. I need to do a post on them next time I go to Capri!
Nice to hear from a Minnesotan here! 🙂 I lived in the Twin Cities for four years before coming here. Beautiful place & lovely people!
Barbara Snow says
From Minnesota to the Amalfi – there's an interesting story to be told, I think.
Ciao Barbara! It certainly has been and continues to be a fun adventure. It is a story I need to write down someday! 🙂