Why is the Blue Grotto Blue?

This island sea cave will take you to another world where magic and mystery come alive to enchant you…

The Blue Grotto, otherwise known as the Grotta Azzura is a cave just off the coast from Capri. More than just an empty rock face, the grotto has become one of the most famous natural attractions in Southern Italy for its enchanting bright blue waters. Only accessible by rowboat, the Blue Grotto is illuminated by the sunlight passing through an underwater cavity. Sheltered from daylight, the grotto gives the appearance of any dark old cave, and yet as you enter through a small hole in the jutting rocks you’ll become dazzled by its turquoise glow. Keep reading to find out more about this famous sea cave.

History of the Blue Grotto

The Blue Grotto, once named as the Grotta di Gradola, has been known since ancient Roman times. It was first used as Emperor Tiberius’ personal swimming hole. The cave was decorated by several statues, with built-in resting areas around the cave walls so the emperor could take a breather from his swimming whenever he needed. The decoration was dedicated to sea nymphs, figures from Greek mythology who were thought to lure sailors to the rocks where the other nymphs lived. Not much is known about this period of antiquity and the grotto, since it was so long ago! But it is interesting to think this same cave we enjoy today, was also enjoyed over 2,000 years ago by Roman emperors. According to legend, the cave was then abandoned due to being inhabited by bad spirits and demons of the water. Today we might take that to be some kind of sea creature. Jelly fish maybe? Anyway, the cave was left uninhibited and unknown until the 1820s when the German writer August Kopisch and painter Ernst Fries were shown the grotto by a local fisherman. Unlike the times of the ancient Romans, however, people are not allowed to swim in the cave. The risk of high tides makes this activity hugely dangerous with even some boat trips cancelled if the waters are not calm enough.

Why is it blue?

The reason for the blue glow is due to what lies under the water’s surface. There is a hole at the bottom of the cave, around about 9 metres wide, directly below the entrance to the Grotto. This hole filters sunlight from outside of the cave and combines with the entrance light to illuminate the sea waters which gives it its glowing effect. The waters natural colour is already a pristine sapphire colour which contrasts against the caves dark, rugged walls and adds to the grottos radiance.

Visiting the Blue Grotto

The best time to visit the Blue Grotto is during the summer. Whilst this is also peak season and means you might be waiting a long time to see the cave, with the summer’s long sunny days it does ensure that the wait is worth it. For the cave to glow it needs to be sunny. The sunnier and brighter it is on the day, then the more intense it will be in the cave. The illuminating light inside the cave is at its strongest between 12-noon and 2 pm, although the morning light is also very beautiful. The crowds decrease a little in the afternoon, so if you’d rather not wait out in the sun, this could be a good option for you.

As for getting to the blue grotto, there are several boats that depart from the Marina Grande port. You can purchase your tickets at the port, ticket offices or pre-arranged from a tour company. A boat ride to and from the blue grotto costs 10 euros, and you’ll have to pay an additional 4 euros to enter the cave. If you’re travelling with young children, know that children under 6 go free! So don’t let yourself be unnecessarily charged. Also, note that it is customary to tip the rowboat skippers. As tickets don’t generally cost much and this is the only boat that can access the cave, the skippers have to work long hours in the sun for not much money, it’s therefore expected that you tip to show your appreciation. If you’re coming from the Island of Capri, you can get to the Marina Grande port by bus or on foot. By Bus is a really easy, inexpensive option with the journey taking around 15 minutes and costing 1.40 euros each way. For an even cheaper price and a great bit of exercise, you can also walk 50 minutes to the port from Capri. Simply follow the Via Pagliaro to Via Tuoro. This street will take you to Via Grotta Azzura which will then lead you to the Marina Grande port.

The Blue Grotto is surely is something out of a dream. Do take your camera with you to get a quick picture of the crystal blue water, but also don’t forget to relish your time there (you’ll only get about 5-10 minutes!) and make the most of it.

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