Sara Bruce explores Italy's gorgeous, stylish island.
I'm ambling up Ponsonby Rd in my trackpants and sneakers, just back from an epic Italian summer holiday. It's a dream already — this time a fortnight ago I was sipping Campari spritzers on a terrace overlooking the ocean in Capri.
Ponsonby is an extreme contrast. Although it may be Auckland's answer to fashionable, I doubt I'll see dapper middle-aged men in powder-pink linen shorts suits here. There are no Russian models, in the highest spikiest heels imaginable, holding rat-like Gucci-wearing dogs on the way to breakfast.
The thing is I'm decidedly unglamorous for Ponsonby, let alone Capri, one of the swankiest, most moneyed and fabulously chic islands in the world. If like me you lean more towards Converse than Dior, you may need my travel tips from the cheap seats.
What to pack
Firstly, get your wardrobe sorted. If you don't wear Missoni leisure suits or caftans with heels, go basic (just no Teva sandals). A plain white T-shirt and shorts, some oversized sunglasses and classic Birkenstocks might just work if you accessorise with a piece of simple gold jewellery or a jaunty silk scarf tied around your wrist. You'll never be able to compete with the labels on display and your lips will never be pouty enough so don't bother trying. Insouciance is key.
Stay and eat
Go high-low. Be strategic with your cash. The Kiwi dollar doesn't go terribly far on Capri so you'll need to be smart. We spent a decent amount on La Minerva, a lovely, small hotel with a pool set on a little lawn overlooking the sea and dreamy blue and white-tiled rooms. The breakfast was heavenly. There was even cake. This location made our whole experience.
For balance we ate at casual restaurants and beach clubs. The most memorable was La Cisterna, down a narrow alley run by the fattest man on Capri, maybe in the world, called Salvatore. There was one other person there and after the meal we understood why - but the pizza was super-cheap and it was hilarious chatting to this local personality.
We had the best food of our stay at the Bagna Tiberio beach club - little fried sardines with a squeeze of lemon, a caprese salad and a grilled whole fish, washed down with a beer. Paradise, and not in the slightest bit expensive.
The Italian aperitivo could well be my favourite thing ever. If you go high, the snacks are so extensive you won't need to pay for dinner. The best on Capri for gin lovers is the gin bar at the Punta Tragara hotel — a stunning, elevated location where you can watch the sun set over a signature gin and tonic curated from all over the world; we even spied a New Zealand tonic water. The gins are brought to your table via trolley with all imaginable accoutrements. It's an enjoyable show and yes, it's a $50 gin, but where else will you enjoy dance beats, a killer view, sensational people-watching and a whole lot of canapes (mini burgers, truffle tarts, fat Sicilian green olives and delicious salty nuts)?
Get a gelato for dinner.
When you get tired of hiking (all free), it's not expensive to hire a Vespa to explore the island and there's nothing more invigorating than zipping along the terrifying cliff-top roads with the Capri sea breeze in your face. You can cover the whole island in a day and stop for lunch and a swim too. We really pushed the boat out and scootered to Il Riccio, a dreamy beach club restaurant in Anacapri. It's all wooden and blue, you can eat octopus salad and gorge on pudding in the decorative "temptation room" — chock-full of desserts. We saw a table of people wearing bikinis and drinking a nebuchadnezzar of rosé wine!
You definitely won't need dinner but even so, best not to look at the bill.
Finally, definitely go to the most exclusive beach club in the world where Dolce and Gabbana filmed their legendary perfume ad. La Fontelina is a restaurant with a dj, built into the jaw-dropping coastline beside the incredible Fariglioni rocks.
But here's the tip - go for a dip before breakfast. We sauntered down in our togs before it opened at 9.30am and jumped off the rocks into the clear green sea, all for free. The steep walk up the hill ensures you'll have an enormous appetite for that perfect espresso and caprese torte (a delicious almond and chocolate cake).
And that's the last tip: if there's one place on Earth you should eat cake for breakfast, it's Capri.
• Sara Bruce is the founder of My Exhibition, an Auckland online vintage interiors shop.