Una Passeggiata a Capri

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that normally the ‘Passeggiata‘ post comes after the gardens.  But I figured with a place like Capri, it might be better to get all those famous tourist sites/traps out of our system before we visit the gardens.

Approaching Capri.

Approaching Capri.

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View from the ferry.

The views from the ferry are wonderful, but if you want to see the coastline close up you can hire a private boat to take you around the island.  If you do decide to splurge – it’s not cheap, but if, like me, you’ve already paid a small fortune to get here, skimp on the souvenirs if you have to and go for it.  And make sure your captain takes you around the Faraglioni – fah-rah-lyee-oh-nee (don’t get caught pronouncing that silent ‘g’ ) – off the north-east tip of the island.

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If the sea is calm enough, your driver may even take you through the arch in one of the ‘Lighthouses’.

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Depending on the light, the water varies from cobalt blue to a dreamy turquoise. Or is that ‘aqua’?

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Opening to la Grotta Azzurra.

The opening to possibly the most famous grotto in the world is astonishingly small.  The name may evoke all sorts of dreamy thoughts, but there is nothing dreamy about the actual experience. I’ve done it.  Once.  You clamber onto the boats that go into the grotto – low, primitive affairs with lots of alarming dents – from the small landing on the right. While you wait your turn, you get a close-up look at how things actually work.  This gives you lots of time for second thoughts.   It was somewhat reassuring to know that even for the dare-devil boatmen who run this little sideshow, there are days – like the one in the photo above – when the sea is too rough.

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Marina Grande.  Capri, the village, is beyond the harbour further up the hillside.

With Capri’s rugged coastline there is only one area where boats can land safely, so unlike Ischia, there is no confusion about where you are when you get off the ferry.  But I have talked to people who found their visit to the island a little bewildering.  It turns out they had mistaken the ‘Big Harbour’ at the water’s edge for the village of Capri.  I always hope they will one day be able to return.  There is so much to see on this tiny island.

There is a path up to the village, but save your energy – you’ll need it – and take the funivia.

There is a path, but visitors and locals wisely take the funivia up to the village of Capri.

Surprisingly, now and then it rains on Capri.  Even in May.

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It is rather unsettling to see how closely synchronized the trains are. It might not be clear from this photo but the car I’m in is heading down and the car you see is coming up. Presumably we’ll meet where the rails divide.

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Marina Grande below and Mt. Vesuvius in the distance.

When you get off the funivia the view looking back towards the sea is all bliss and calm.  Savour this view because, unless you’re travelling fuori stagione, literally ‘out of season’, (which, after one experience, I don’t recommend – it’s called ‘off’ season for a reason), the photo below gives you an idea of what Capri is like ‘in’ season.

Piazza Umberto I, aka 'la Piazzetta' is the hub os social life in Capri.

Piazza Umberto I, aka la Piazzetta (the little piazza), the hub of social life in Capri.

Fortunately, if you’re not keen on crowds – I’m not – as soon as you venture beyond Piazza Umberto things calm down a bit.  It takes just a bit of window shopping along the narrow lanes of the village to see that the global financial crises of the past few years have had little effect on Capri’s glitzy reputation.

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Even through the heavy glass there is no mistaking the price.
The question is – how do women manage to walk in these things?

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This one is a bargain, relatively speaking, at 320 euros.

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I think warnings should be given to anyone who’s crazy about shoes and thinking about visiting the island.

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And if shoes aren’t your thing, there is always home decor…

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… and fragrances. Somehow a siren as corporate logo doesn’t seem so strange here.

Half an hour is about all the window shopping I can take.  Time to head for the path that leads out of the village to an Imperial villa on the north-east tip of the island.  Tiberius built twelve of these villas in an orgy of excess around the 1st century AD.

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Villa Jovis, the most magnificent or, depending on your point of view, the most outrageous
of the Imperial Villas, dominates the north-east tip of the island.

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Barely five minutes from the hustle and bustle of Piazza Umberto and I was surrounded by vineyards…

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… and the most beautiful private gardens. They probably don’t even need to haul all those plants inside in winter.

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Many were open to passersby...

Many were open to passersby…

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…while others offered only tantalizing glimpses.

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I had been wondering how the nitty gritty of daily life got taken care of on the island.

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Fortunately there are lots of nooks along the narrow path for pedestrians to squeeze into.

I would have had to get a lot closer to the edge to get a better shot of the cliff's edge.  You'll just have to use your imagination.

I would have had to get a lot closer to the edge to get a better shot of this cliff.
You’ll just have to use your imagination.

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I was huffing and puffing by this point, but it was easy going for the goats.

There are a couple of theories at to the origins of the island’s name.  Island of the Caprika-pree – (goats), the name the Ancient Romans gave it, strikes me as the most likely. And yes, in Italian the stress is on the first syllable.  I have no idea why we pronounce it ka-pree, which is totally contrary to the normal stress patterns of English.  Did someone decide one day that putting the stress on the last syllable, à la française, would give it a certain je ne sais quoi that was more in keeping with the island’s allure?

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The ruins were impressive, but I had a hard time concentrating on past glories with the spectacular views all around.

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Definitely an agave.

After the post on the gardens of La Mortella, a reader wrote to confirm that my “Weeping Couple’ was indeed an agave.  He’d seen one on a trip to Hawaii.  Thank you, Rick.

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It was only because I knew that other parts of the island offered more views that were equally spectacular that I was able to drag myself away when I did.  That, and because avevo fame – a-vay-voh fa-may – I was hungry.   I headed back to Capri.

Pranzo con vista. (Lunch with a view_.

Pranzo con vista. (Lunch with a view).

After lunch I took the bus up to the other village on the island – Anacapri.

If you're in a group you might want to splurge on an open-air taxi.

If you’re in a group, you might want to splurge on an open-air taxi.

If you look closely, about half-way up the mountain, you’ll see a faint horizontal line. That’s the road.

The ride up is not for the faint of heart, and with all the twists and turns there is no point trying to get a seat on the ‘in’ side.  At one point or the other everybody gets to be on the ‘out’ side.

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Ana is ancient Greek for ‘above’.

Anacapri is smaller and more laid-back than Capri.  slightly more laid-back.

Anacapri is absolutely charming – just smaller and more laid-back than Capri.

La Casa Rossa (Red House) decorated for Christmas.

La Casa Rossa (Red House) decorated for Christmas.

One year I decided that a good way to avoid the commercial build-up to Christmas would be to escape to the Amalfi Coast.  But while that trip had its moments, I wouldn’t recommend it.  It wasn’t just that most of the hotels and restaurants were closed.  I swear it rained every day.  Those darker areas of the walls of the Casa Rossa?  That’s where the walls are still wet from the torrential downpour that started when we were on the ferry from Sorrento.  I have no photos of the approach to the island because we couldn’t see a thing.  My only souvenir of that trip was an umbrella, a very ugly umbrella, which mercifully broke shortly after I bought it, so I didn’t feel compelled to bring it back with me.

La Casa Rossa again, in May.

La Casa Rossa again, in May.

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I’m not normally a fan of the Baroque, but set against that blue sky, the pastel lemon and white pillars of la Chiesa Santa Sofia are absolutely perfect – for the place.  Vestiges of the original, unadorned church are on the left.

But the most interesting church in Anacapri – I was surprised to discover there was more than one church in the tiny village – is in a rather neglected little piazza and has a much plainer (we’re talking about the Baroque here) façade.

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La Chiesa di San Michele

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18th century Neapolitan Baroque at its height.
Unusually, in a country where so much of life is lived outside, the treasures of San Michele are all inside.

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The Expulsion of Adam and Eve. You can get a close up look at the maiolica floor from a series of narrow planks set up around the perimeter or you can climb a narrow, spiral staircase for a view from above.

Exploring all these wonderful sites had involved a lot of walking. Time to head for la Piazzetta for the evening’s aperitivo.

Imagine the views of the sunset from these villas.

Imagine the sunset views from that red villa.

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