A Traffic Snarl at Sea and a Patriotic Salad

September is one of my favourite shoulders. The travel season kind of shoulders that is. The only downside, compared to May, the other shoulder, are the shorter days. By the time my daughter and I got back to Capri the sun was already beginning to set.   Happily, the fewer hours of daylight are compensated by an earlier aperitivo hour.  But before settling down in the Piazzetta, the social hub and only real piazza in the village, to what quickly became our evening drinks of choice – Aperol for my daughter and a glass of white wine, sometimes Prosecco for me –  there were two things I wanted to show her.  There was a good view of both of them from the Garden of Augustus, a 10-minute walk.  We made it just before the gates closed.

Off the south-east coast of the island are three rocks.  Iconic is a much abused word I generally avoid, but these rocks really are icons.  They’re the official symbol of Capri and decorate the tickets for the island’s public transit.

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This ticket is good for the funivia and the buses around the island. You’ll probably go through quite a few of them as you explore the island.

The rocks are called Faraglioni.  Faro means lighthouse.  The other letters turn them into big lighthouses.  (By the way, this is another one of those ‘DO NOT PRONOUNCE THE G’ words.  It’s fah-ral-yoh-nee.)

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The Faraglione di Mezzo and the Faraglione di Fuori in the last moments before they are swallowed up in the long shadows of Capri’s cliffs.

By the railing at the far end of the garden is an overhead and, for some of us at least, butterflies-inducing view of the Via Krupp.  (By the way if some of this post sounds familiar you may have read the post from my previous visit – A Piece of the Continent – Part I, Jan. 4, 2015.  Hopefully the revisit is as fresh for you as it is for me.)

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The next morning we set off for un giro (gee-roh) in barca.  A boat ride around the island.

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Setting off from Capri’s Marina Grande. Big Harbour.

As we headed west along the north shore a stretch of the road up to Anacapri came into sight.  Locals affectionately – or maybe not – call it the ‘Mamma mia!’ road.  On our way up later that day the young woman in front of us crossed herself every time we made it past one of the heart-stopping, hairpin turns.

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A stretch of the ‘Mamma mia!’ road is visible halfway up the mountain on the right.

I was surprised when we started heading west, since on the previous two boat trips I’d taken we had headed east from the harbour, but the reason for the change in direction soon became apparent.  Unbeknownst to me – the manager at the B&B we were staying in had made the arrangements for us – this giro in barca included a visit inside another of Capri’s icons – la Grotta Azzurra.  The Blue Grotto.  As my daughter and I knew from a trip to Capri years ago, the otherwise rhapsodic website is totally accurate about the ‘few magical moments’ visitors will enjoy inside the cave. And since the sea was calm, I knew there was no chance the grotto would be closed. (The opening to the cave is less than a metre high, making entering extremely dangerous when the sea is at all mosso – literally, moved.)   As we rounded the bay and the grotto came into sight my heart sank.  Despite the early hour, there was already a long line-up of boats, as well as people (who would have come by bus) on the staircase waiting for their turn in the little row boats.

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As our captain inched our boat closer to the grotto entrance, things looked even worse.  My hope (delusion?) that none of the people on our boat would want to go into the grotto was short-lived.   When the captain asked if anyone was interested, at least half the passengers raised their hands.  I wasn’t at all happy about the thought of wasting some of our precious time on the island, twiddling our thumbs while all those people had their few magical moments.

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However, I have to admit, that with all the antics, the time – we ended up sitting there for well over an hour – passed surprisingly quickly. Apart from watching how close the boats could get without hitting each other, there were other distractions, like Mr. Numero 1, the cool dude who pulled his ultra luxury craft next to ours and proceeded to ogle my daughter.  (She and I were the only ones at the back of the boat and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t leering at me.)

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As the name of the boat says, Grotta Azzurra Numero Uno.

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While my daughter undoubtedly enjoyed the attention, she studiously ignored him. Brava!  Eventually he backed up.

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If I’d known that in addition to ignoring the dude she had been busy taking photos like this one I would have been even prouder of her.

After a while I noticed something.  One of the fellows rowed his boat around a lot, but he never seemed to pick up any passengers.  I pointed him out to my daughter and we started to watch him more closely.

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Eventually we figured it out.  He was the Vigile!  Vee-gee-lay. The traffic cop.

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He lacked the elegant uniforms and whistles of Italy’s city traffic controllers, but he was definitely in charge of the boat activity in front of the cave.

It was one of those times I wished I had a better camera and could have taken a video.  I don’t understand napoletano, the local dialect here as on Ischia, but the gestures were pretty self-explanatory.  He got really agitated when one fellow with a huge barge of a boat tried to cut in.

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In the interests of maintaining a level of decorum, some gestures are better left untranslated.

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Don’t even think of it!  The fellow on the right is not happy either, but I think it’s best to leave his gesture untranslated as well.

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Finally the capo had everything under control again. For the moment.

Finally everyone was back on board and we set out again.  A few minutes later we rounded the north-west tip of the island, Punta Carena, where a real faro has been guiding  the way since the late 1860’s.  Every three seconds it sends out a white flash with a range of 25 nautical miles, which is why, although it is clearly on terra firma, in the mysterious ways of seafarers, it is considered an ‘offshore’ lighthouse.

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I had hoped to walk to the lighthouse later on, but as things turned out this was as close as we got.

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The traffic jam at the next grotto was much smaller, but with no capo to keep things on the up and up, the captains showed how aggressive they could be.

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One small boat went right through the opening, but for the rest of us, it was unnerving and satisfying enough to come this far into the grotto.

In 29 B.C., while returning from a trip to the Far East, Cesare Ottaviano disembarked on Capri. The future Emperor Augustus was so enchanted with the island, which had been under the rule of Naples for three centuries, that he swapped it for the larger and more fertile island of island of Ischia.

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One of the island’s main attractions for the future emperor was its inaccessibility.

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The Pompeii red villa built for Curzio Malaparte, one of Italy’s leading authors, is considered by many to be one of the finest works of modern architecture. Most locals hate it.

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Grecian white is the colour of choice on Capri. Just one question – how do they get groceries up there?

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It blends so well into the landscape that you have to look hard to spot the path of the Via Krupp up to the Garden of Augustus.

There are three ‘lighthouses’  –  Stella (Star), the highest at over 100 metres and the only one still attached to the island, il Faraglione di Mezzo (Middle Lighthouse), perhaps the best-loved, and Il Faraglione di Fuori, (The Outside Lighthouse) which, despite its prosaic name, is the only place in the world where the spectacular lucertola azzurra – blue lizard (‘Podarcis sicula coerula’ for the initiated) – is found.

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The same wave action that has eroded the rock, cutting the ‘stacks’ as geologists call them, off from the island, has also created a tunnel at the base of the Faraglione di Mezzo.  When the sea is calm, astute captains, perhaps looking to increase tips, drive their boats through the Galleria dell’Amore.

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Kiss your loved one as the boat passes through the tunnel and you will enjoy lifelong bliss. Getting the timing right and a selfie – in focus – to prove it can be tricky.

By the time we got back to the marina we were famished.  We made our way to a simple trattoria I had discovered on a previous trip. Since we were on the island it came from, I suggested we start with an insalata caprese. My daughter is a bit of a foodie so I was surprised to learn she didn’t know that caprese meant ‘of Capri’.  One of the blindspots, I’ve discovered, of learning another language is that you sometimes lose sight of what you didn’t used to know.

Like so many of Italy’s sites and dishes, the origins of the humble salad are surrounded with legends and urban lore.  The most likely theory is set in the secondo dopoguerra, the period of hardship and extreme poverty following the second World War, and involves one of the island’s stone masons.  Extremely patriotic, he took the colours of the Italian flag and made a simple sandwich of them –  tomatoes for the red, mozzarella (preferably mozzarella di bufala from the region) for the white and fresh basil leaves for the green.

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Capri’s patriotic salad. Ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella di bufala, basil leaves, and a sprinkling of oregano and olive oil.  Deliziosa!

Next – when going down is a lot harder than going up

 

 

 

 

 

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A Piece of the Continent – Part I

I had always assumed that Capri was volcanic.  Vesuvius isn’t far off, and Ischia, which is even closer, is part of the Phlegraean archipelago of islands strung out on the western edge of the Bay of Naples.  All volcanic.

The easter Faraglione, one of two rocks which over time have become the symbol of Capri.

The Faraglioni on the eastern tip of Capri certainly look volcanic.

So I was surprised to learn recently that not only is Capri not the result of a volcanic eruption, it isn’t even, in John Donne’s immortal words, ‘an island, entire of itself’.  It’s a limestone-based ‘piece of the continent’.

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Take a boat ride around the island and you’ll see no end of fantastical ridges and towers.

It’s what geologists call a ‘continental’ island, or Karst,  ‘a land formation underlaid with limestone which has been eroded by dissolution over the years forming fantastical ridges, towers and sinkholes in the rock’.

Amongst all the 'fantastical ridges' there is even an elephant.

Amongst all the ‘fantastical ridges’ there is even an elephant.

Whatever its origins, the result of all that geological dissolution is an island that is, ‘a dir poco’ (ah deer poe-koe) – to say little – utterly charming.

Unlike the Marina Grande in Sorrento, the one in Capri really is grande.

Like the Marina Grande in Sorrento, Capri’s Big Harbour oozes with charm.

Caesar Augustus was so taken with its charms when he visited in 29 BC, that he promptly made a straight swap for it with Ischia.  From a purely economical point of view, this was a very poor trade – Ischia is larger and more fertile – but such are the charms of the island.

Then he had a villa built, so he could enjoy its charms whenever he wished.  After Augustus came Tiberius, who, demonstrating a more refined sense of natural beauty and architecture than he did of other things, commissioned a total of twelve imperial villas scattered around the island on the most spectacularly beautiful sites. 

Augustus and Tiberius may have taken up the island's prime locations, but villa builders in more modern times still manage to find some pretty good sites.

Augustus and Tiberius may have taken up the island’s prime locations, but 20th century afiçionados still manage to find some pretty good sites.

Augustus and Tiberius may have taken up the island's prime locations, but with all those craggy outcrops, villa builders in more modern times have still managed to find perfectly acceptable sites for their refuges.  The villa of nick-named Il Ferro (The Iron) by locals not enamoured of the style.

Villa Malaparte 1939, aka Il Ferro (The Iron) by locals who are not not enamoured of the Italian Razionalismo style.

Nowadays most visitors have to content themselves with a day trip.  So every day, huge ferries from the mainland disgorge thousands of them, all bent on getting off those ferries as quickly as possible.

..but unlike Sorrento's harbour, this one really is grande, just the place for enormous ferries to dock and unload the hordes of tourists that invade the island every day.

Unlike the Marina Grande in Sorrento, this one really is grande.

This of course has a tendency to make the arrival anything but charming.  It’s even less charming if you’re a woman travelling by yourself and get hit on by a local the moment you step off the ferry.

Arriving for the first time on your own is xxxx

Even if you’ve done your homework, it’s easy to miss the entrance to the funivia.  It’s the arch behind the striped, red awning.

Hoping to make the arrival on this return visit somewhat less disagreeable, as soon as we entered the harbour I left the upper deck with its gorgeous views and positioned myself as close to the gangplank as possible.  Who would have guessed this was where all the smokers hung out?  In any event, I experienced slightly less jostling, although it never ceases to amaze me how many adults are evidently still at the  developmental stage – I think the child psychologists put it around age 2 – during which,  if you don’t see something – because you have covered your eyes or you don’t make eye contact – it’s not standing there, right in front of you.  On the plus side, there was no sleazy come-on this time.  (Age has to have some benefits.)  And the delivery vans, that some local admin people obviously think are fine to let mingle with the half-dazed tourists, weren’t quite as unnerving.

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Reminding myself of the plaque I’d seen at Villa Maria – ‘Even paradise is not for the faint of heart’ – I made my way to the biglietteria and was soon on the funivia heading for the town the island is named for.

Piazza Umberto was as crowded as ever.

Piazza Umberto, aka la Piazzetta, was as crowded as ever.

In 2012, the mayor of Rome passed a law prohibiting eating on or around the monuments of the Città Eterna.  Apparently things had gotten out of control.  Tourists had no respect for the ancient treasures.  They had been caught chopping watermelons in the fountains of Piazza Navona; setting up dining tables, complete with table cloth and cutlery, on the Spanish Steps.  The prohibition is strictly enforced by the Roman vigili urbani, who routinely hand out fines, ranging from 25 to 500 euros.

The police in Rome vigilantly enforce the prohibition against sitting and eating on the Spanish Steps, but evidently their  counterparts in Capri take a more laid back approach.

According to a plaque next to the steps in Piazza Umberto, a similar law had been passed even earlier in Capri.

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But it would appear that in Capri the vigili take a more laid-back approach to such things.

Given the abbondanza of charms found on the island, it’s surprising how small it is – just over 6 km long and, at its widest point, less than 3 km.  You would think it wouldn’t matter where you stayed, you’d be close to everything.  Accordingly, for my first visit, once I discovered that the town of Capri was even more expensive that it was charming, I decided to stay in the slightly more reasonable and down-to-earth village of Anacapri.

Capri may only be a few square miles, as the crow files, but down at ground level, it's another story.

Capri may only be a few square miles, as the crow files, but down at ground level, it’s another story.

What I hadn’t taken into account was how difficult and time-consuming getting around 10 square km. can actually be.

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With space at such a premium, there is little room, even in Capri’s most luxurious hotels, for private courtyards, far from the prying eyes of the passing hoi poloi. But maybe that is part of the essence of Capri.  To see and be seen.

So on my return visit I was glad when I managed to secure a room at a very simple, but lovely hotel only 5 minutes from Piazza Umberto.

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I loved the trumpet vine blossoms lining the path when I first arrived. Sadly, the next day when I returned in the evening someone had ‘tidied up’ the path.

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Paradoxically, the views from the little terrace of this simple hotel were absolutely wonderful.

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And as promised, the hotel really was just a few minutes walk to the Gardens of Augustus…

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I arrived in the middle of a photo shoot for the local dance school.

…and the terrace overlooking one of my favourite views – the Faraglioni.

One of my favourite views - The Faraglioni viewed from the Giardini di Augustus.

It’s surprising how mesmerizing it can be to watch boats flit around a few hunks of rocks.

A mio parere (a me-oh pah-reh-ray) – in my opinion – without a doubt, the perfect way  to start off one’s first morning on Capri is un giro in barca – a boat ride around the island.

We leave the Marina Grande and head east.

Leaving the Marina Grande and heading east…

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…past the rocky outcrop on which the statue of a little boy waves hello to all visitors.

The statue is of lo scugnizzo Gennarino (low skoon-yeats-so jen-nar-ee-no).   Scugnizzo is Neapolitan for ‘street urchin’.

Gennarino waves 'Benvenuto'.  Welcome.

Gennarino waves ‘Benvenuto‘. Welcome.

Augustus may have traded Ischia for Capri centuries ago, but both islands have remained in essence, napoletane.  With me the locals speak in italiano, but amongst themselves, always in the incomprehensible – at least to outsiders, which includes not just me, but Italians from other regions as well – Neapolitan dialect.  How strange that this small, upscale jewel of an island and the sprawling, gritty metropolis of Naples would be, in fondo (at the heart of things), so closely tied.

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This young couple gets ready to kiss – for buona fortuna –  as we pass under the arch in one of the Faraglioni.

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If I hadn’t seen Via Krupp from above on a previous trip, I had a feeling I might be wondering why everyone got so excited when we came to this zigzagging stone wall.

Via Krupp from the terrace of Augustus' Garden.

View Krupp, seen from the terrace of Augustus’ Garden.

The Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto) may be the most famous, but on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate some of Capri’s other grottoes a lot higher for overall viewing experience.  For one thing, as I explained in Una Passeggiata a Capri (Feb. 16, 2014), after you’ve handed over the supplement for the Blue Grotto tour, there are no guarantees you’ll even see it.  All it takes is a bit of wind and the small entry hole may be submerged.

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As a confirmed landlubber, I was somewhat taken aback at how close our captain took us to the entrance of the first grotto we came to.  But he was obviously as comfortable on the sea as I was not, and watching him, I got the feeling he took great pride in his prowess at the tiller.

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There might also have been a touch of competition and showmanship going on among the captains of the various boats as they vied for the best positions for their passengers.

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Marina Piccola, the only section along the south shore where the cliffs don’t drop precipitously into the sea.

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Il Faro di Punta Carena at the south-west tip of the island.

From the lighthouse we continued up the western shore of Capri.  The light was now all wrong, but I’ve included these shots to give you an idea of what the Blue Grotto experience is really like.

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All those boats jostling for position and all those people on the steps are waiting for their turn in the small, low boats that can fit through the opening of the grotto.

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The specially built boats can handle only two adult passengers, and, in a pinch, a couple of their offspring, at a time. This is because everyone aboard has to scrunch down to the level of the gunwales when they get to the entrance.  Is it just me, or does the fellow with the cell phone seem somewhat unimpressed with the whole experience?

The trip around the island takes about an hour and a half, so by the time you get off the boat, stroll around the harbour a bit and then take the funivia up to Capri, it’s time for  an aperitivo – and what better place than the social centre of the island – la Piazzetta?

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It’s hard to spend any time on the island without coming across some serious bling.

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I’d seen countless tourists walking around with bags decorated with this watch.  Curious, I finally went into one of the stores. It was packed with people who were not just gawking like me, but making substantial purchases.

this woman and I may have been the only people to enter the store and leave empty-handed in a long time.

The man in the orange shirt was, I’m pretty sure, this woman’s husband.  I overheard him encouraging her to buy something, but she seemed as mystified by the Capri Watch thing as  I was.  She and I may have been the only people to leave the store empty-handed in a long time.

and the stores surrounding la Piazzetta ...

It’s all about your priorities I guess.  Ironically, in spite of my ignorance when it comes to high-end shopping, I do have in my possession – it’s sitting on my book case – a pigna identical to the one in the window of this luxury store. I bought mine (it’s the blue, pine-cone) in Sicily, where they are considered a symbol of friendship and welcome.

Obviously this is a place where some serious shopping goes on, but it’s all beyond me, in more ways than one.  What I’m on the hunt for is a table where I can sit for a while and enjoy one of the most fascinating shows in the world.  I’m here for some serious people watching.

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A waiter and an elegant signora.

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Four young guys having a chat.

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But wait! One of them is a cop.

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There was something terribly intriguing about this fellow.

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He went back and forth, visiting with friends seated at the various caffès lining the piazza.

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I took this elderly man for a widow, who’d come out to the piazza to read his paper for a bit of company.

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A few minutes later, a group of well-dressed signore arrived, one of whom was his very much still alive wife.

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After a few kisses and words of greeting, he got up and left them to continue a very intense conversation.

After about an hour’s worth of people watching and having long since emptied my wine glass, I decided I’d better get a move on or I’d be tempted to order another glass and would end up spending the rest of the afternoon there – which is exactly what a lot of the people I was watching seemed to have every intention of doing.   But they were Italian – for them it was just a typical Sunday outing.  We tourists on the other hand don’t have time to sit around indulging in la dolce vita.  We have sites to see.  Photos to take. Things to check off lists.

I asked the waiter for the bill.

TBC

 

 

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.