Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The isle of Capri (Sorrento log 7B)

We had seen the weather forecasts with some trepidation: today would be cloudy with a fair chance of rain. My wife was somewhat disappointed that we had penciled in the trip to Capri for today; my defense was that at the beginning of the week, today was supposed to have good weather.

We dressed suitably: I wore long trousers and took in my backpack my new umbrella and a sweatshirt which I have yet to wear this holiday. My wife left her straw hat behind and took her jeans jacket. In the taxi on the way to the port, we asked the driver about the weather, and he said that if it did rain, we could expect only a short shower of maybe 20 minutes duration.

There was a hydrofoil boat leaving Sorrento shortly after we arrived at the port, so we were in Capri reasonably early (the trip takes only 20 minutes). My wife's guidebook had warned about dangerous roads leading from the marina to Ana Capri ("upper Capri") and advised to travel in a taxi and not by bus. So we took one of the many taxis waiting (a very stylish red convertible) and rode to Ana Capri at the cost of 20 euro. When we arrived, we looked at each other (and at the taxi driver) and asked ourselves what was so dangerous about the road. True, the road is on the mountain side so one theoretically might go off the road and thus off the mountain, but that side of the road had a large fence. Maybe the fence had been erected after the guidebook had been written.

The taxi driver dropped us off right by the chair lift ride to the top of Mount Solaro. We were about to buy tickets but the driver told us that the chair lift was temporarily closing as the weather was inclement. It was fairly cloudy, so presumably the operators knew what they were doing. Although we were disappointed, we realised that there was a good chance that the chair lift would shortly return to operation. So we turned around and saw that we were standing outside the large shop which we were looking for. While we were inside the shop, it started raining heavily, but fortunately we were otherwise occupied. By the time we had finished with the shop, the rain had stopped.

We then went outside and followed the sign to Villa San Michele which was only a few hundred metres away. The house itself wasn't that impressive, but it has a fantastic garden. My wife was in seventh heaven looking at all the trees and flowers and how they were arranged; I enjoyed it as well. The story of Dr Axel Munthe seems very interesting and I might even seek out his book when we come home.

The rain seemed to have scared off the tourist groups so we were pretty much alone in the villa. As we left, there were several groups preparing to enter, so we knew that it was time to head for the chair lift. As opposed to the chair lifts in Switzerland, here everybody rides on their own. The first minute was slightly scary but after that, it was possible to relax and enjoy the ride, which takes just over ten minutes.

The view from the top of Mount Solaro to the gulf of Naples and the gulf of Salerno was breathtaking. As we had heard one of the guides saying earlier, the north side of the island (where the port is located) is nothing special, but the view from the southern end is divine. I totally agree. We spent maybe an hour at the top, reveling in the view. I should point out that after the rain, the clouds dispersed and it became very hot. I had to apply sun tan lotion when we were on Mount Solaro and I'm not sure that it was that effective.

After we came down (both literally and metaphorically), we had lunch in one of the many restaurants, picked up my jacket then took the bus to the village of Capri. The buses on Capri are very small (probably necessitated by the narrow roads and sharp turns) and the drivers try to cram as many people in as possible. We were the last ones to board but fortunately had enough breathing space. We disembarked in the centre of Capri, a place which isn't really worth writing about. After the traditional gelato, we took the funicular down to the port (more shades of Switzerland).

Most people, when they arrive in Capri, take a boat trip around the island and visit the blue grotto. The description of this in my wife's guide book was so unappealing that I suggested that we skip it and not ruin the wonderful impression that we had of Capri. I know that I was being contrary, but she agreed with me. Friends of ours who had visited Capri had not been very enthusiastic about the grotto. So we took the first boat back to Sorrento and arrived just before five pm, tired and slightly dehydrated, but very happy.

Tonight is our last night in Sorrento. Tomorrow we have to pack, but instead of returning to the airport, we travel to the port in Napoli, where we will take the overnight ferry to Catania in Sicily. We will be a few days in Catania then a few days in Palermo before coming home.

I'm not sure whether today was better than yesterday, but whichever way one ranks the past two days, they were the best of our day. We very much enjoyed our stay in Sorrento. I should mention at this stage that almost the entire economy of the Sorrento peninsula and the Amalfi coast is based on tourism. That said, we never had the feeling that we were animals being herded around; apart from yesterday and today when we came into a certain amount of contact with tour groups, we had easy access to everything. The people here are very warm and very helpful; no tourist is taken for granted. I can definitely recommend Sorrento as a prime tourist destination.

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