Saturday, April 9, 2011

Across the Sea, to Capri

From our Glass House, we look across the sea to Capri. In the last week of rest, I've taken to the habit of heading up in late afternoon, sometimes with a champagne cocktail, to watch the light fade. At this time of year, with the sun at the perfect angle, there is a particular window on Capri that flames up, sparkles, and glows like beacon. I watch that window and wonder if the people behind are sitting as I am, watching the shore of Naples, and thinking of life, past and present, or are they entertaining friends, pointing out landmarks on our shore just as we point out their landmarks to our guests. Perhaps the people belonging to the glowing house don't even live on the island year round - that house is their summer playground, just as Capri was for the Roman emperors, beginning with the very first one, Augustus.

For Paige's birthday, we planned an overnight trip to Capri. Thankfully, we made the sea crossing the day before her birthday as the day did not start out auspiciously. We'd planned on a 10:30 ferry from the Naples port, which meant an early rise to catch the Metro into Centro, then a 20 minute walk, with our luggage, to the port. We woke to rain. Hard rain. On a day that no rain was forecast, the skies did not show any evidence of obeying. In hopes that the rain would clear during our 30 minute Metro journey, we set off. No luck. With it still raining, our quick walk to the port was hindered by shoulder to shoulder, morning crowds, all carrying umbrellas. Wanting to just get on the ferry and out of Naples, we hurried on, rushing to make the 10:35 ferry, only to arrive at the port and find the 10:35 ferry was not running. How disheartening to know that we'd rushed through rain for nothing. With an hour before the next ferry, we headed to the nearest bar for some fortitude - coffee...blessed, hot, delicious coffee. First in line to board the ferry, we watched in awe as the Italians pushed up front, and then, out of nowhere came the Japanese tour group. Paige, she of many Grateful Dead concerts, knew exactly what to do, and by the time Julia and I got on the boat, Paige had secured us three seats in the front row of our hydrofoil catamaran, meaning we looked out the front windows at the water. And why is this important? Because 15 minutes into our 45 minute ferry ride, crew members came around passing out seasickness bags. And then we became aware of the sounds and smells around us. By getting front row seats, we could not see a thing, which would have sent both Paige and I over to the dark side as well. The last 15 minutes of the trip were with scented lip balm rubbed up our noses and fingers in our ears.

Our hotel, Il Giardino dell'Arte, Anacapri
We watched Capri's mountainous silhouette grow larger and larger with more relief than excitement. One breath of the fresh, sea air gave us back our thanks to be able to visit this special island, and we headed off to the Farmacia, our meeting point for the hotel owner to pick us up. We'd booked a room in the beautiful, small hotel, Il Giardino dell'Arte, located in the town of Anacapri. Franco picked us up in his minivan and we headed off, having no idea of what the roads on Capri were really like. Curving and hugging the edge of the mountain, Franco gave us one of our trip mottos, "We make it," uttered as we rounded a curve in an alley to come head on with a small pick-up truck, both coming to a screeching halt with bumpers almost touching. Both backed up a few inches, edged a few inches over, and miraculously passed. These things happen often in Italy, and I attribute it to magic. It's the only explanation for how two cars that both fill up the entire width of a "road" can edge over and pass one another without a single, kissed mirror.

Our hotel was gorgeous and Franco a delightful host. Our room had it's own patio overlooking the sea, and the next morning when we awoke, our patio table was set with the breakfast dishes. Food arrived soon after we made an outdoor appearance. We'd decided that after a week of hard hitting tourism, we needed to relax. To that end, we did not make an effort to visit all the sites on Capri, instead enjoying the wandering and exploring. We did happen upon the Chiesa di San Michele, which we remembered Franco highly recommending. Popping in for a quick look, we found a stunning, painted tile floor covering the entire church and depicting the Garden of Eden. What a surprise! The church has risers on the first floor, so you can get an up close look, then a spiral staircase winds to the upper balcony for the overview. We took a bus to the town of Capri, and while it certainly has an incredible view from its piazza, we found it to be overcrowded and underwhelming. We preferred quieter Anacapri, with it's beautiful, white buildings and winding, paths through the neighborhoods and town.

The Blue Grotto was closed due to high waves, leaving us with extra time, so we decided to take the chairlift up to Monte Solaro. As someone in our group commented, or possibly my aunt the following week on the same chairlift, "OSHA would not approve." I've never seen anything like this chairlift. It's just a one person chair, attached to a moving cable, and the bar that comes down in front of you does NOT lock. Not even close. The bar just lowers in front of you. You don't know this until you are on the chairlift and looking up, up, up at a long, slow lift, your destination so far up that you can't actually see it from the bottom. But gracious, the views. Absolutely phenomenal. Views to Naples and Ischia and the Sorrentine Peninsula. Views of the Faraglioni, the three rock stacks off the coast of Capri. We reluctantly boarded the chair for our descent, wishing we had the time to do the hike down. After a little more shopping, it was time to meet Franco, who had so generously offered to deliver our luggage to the port for us so we didn't have to carry it around all day. Lovely, lovely Capri, I look forward to returning.

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