Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Misadventures on Capri

We had three days and decided to stay close rather than trying a big trip with air travel or long drives or lots of planning. So off we went to Capri (pronounced CAH-pri, not Ca-PRI, like you'd say "capri pants"). While Capri is fairly close, it's not that easy of a journey. Rather than leaving our car at the port parking lot in downtown Naples, we use the metro line closest to our house, a 30 minute trip into town and then a 20 minute walk (if we move fast) to the port. Then the ticket buying process, waiting for the boat, and jockeying for position in order to the snag best seat - which for me, is as close to the front, but next to a window, as possible. The boats are typically fully enclosed, so there's no fresh air. While the front may bounce around more, the back is where all the sickos head when the vomiting starts. As long as I don't see, hear, or smell it, I'm golden. I always forgot just how very happy I am when that infernal ferry ride is over.

We'd booked a hotel room in Anacapri, the "other" town on the island. Most people visiting Capri on a daytrip don't ever make it to Anacapri. And I can see why those folks are not inclined to visit the island again. However, a hair-raising, 15 minute bus ride during which you see only open ocean out your bus window as it edges along the cliff takes you straight into lovely, quaint Anacapri, so adorable with it's brick streets, white buildings, and cats running amuck that you're sure you've landed on some Greek island instead. Since the town itself has virtually no views of the ocean, we'd picked Monte Solaro B&B up the mountain a bit with a lovely, ocean view terrace. Key word in that last sentence: "up." Now our booking instructions said the hotel had a shuttle from the piazza. But we like to walk, we're light packers, and I had cleverly printed off GoogleMap instructions. So we walked up and up and up. Then we thought we were off track, so down, down, down. And called the B&B to ask where exactly they were on the road. Turns out, my Googlemap instructions were offbase - as is so common here in Italy. It's why the GPS hardly ever works efficiently, too. As Nathan puts it, "Perfectly good, Italian maps were produced 200 years ago. Why do they need new ones?" After some discussion with our good-humored host, Costanzo, he walked down to get us and escorted us to the piazza where his father then drove us, in about 90 seconds, up to the hotel. Thankfully, one look at our front terrace pulled me out of my funk of a plan gone awry. The small B&B has several rooms in a row, each opening onto a stunning terrace with sweeping views. What a winner! The building itself is three stories, with a pool on the 2nd story (way too cold to use it) and on the 3rd, an open air terrace with a swanky lounge set and even more picturesque views. It helps that the B&B sells bottles of wine! We immediately added "sit on terrace with wine, prosciutto, cheese, olives, and M&Ms" to our weekend's itinerary [I'm currently craving peanut M&Ms nonstop].

The afternoon was gorgeous, so we headed to the chairlift up to the top of Mount Solaro. For those of you who've been following this blog awhile, you'll remember this chairlift from two prior Capri trips - yet neither of those included Nathan. I also wanted the chance to hike down from top, about an hour's walk. We wandered around enjoying the views before settling into a couple of lounge chairs to soak up the sun on top of the world. After a little lounging, we began the hike down. We only had one false start by following a faint, barely there path rather than the clearly marked sign. Easy mistake.

Things were going well until we reached a T in the path, the right path heading to a hermitage. We couldn't figure out how long a detour it was, but as we stood there, a guy on a tractor full of wood and another guy passed by, telling us it was only five minutes' walk. We decided to take a peek, and a few minutes down the path, we passed the tractor fellows...and some of their friends, all carrying guns. Lots and lots of guns. And I might have seen a chainsaw and some knives. This explained that "car backfire" I'd heard and then proceeded to marvel at how sound carries on an island. I faltered a bit, remembering the guy's enthusiasm that we visit the church. Was it a trap? A plan to lure unsuspecting tourists into the woods? Kill Nathan and sell me into some sort of slavery ring? Wait, I'm too old to be of any use - so we'll both be killed. Or kidnapped. Held for ransom. Accused of spying...wait, this isn't Iran, it's Capri. I'm overreacting...and hyperventilating. We passed by with big smiles, making eye contact and loudly saying "Buona sera!" with way to much enthusiasm. They probably thought we were on crack. We could see we were approaching the church, and just at the bottom of the hill was a pretty, little picnic area, filled with more men, guns propped everywhere and a couple of dogs running around. By now, we had reached the hopeful, and much more obvious conclusion, that these were hunters, not kidnappers. But I was quite disconcerted to know they were hunting this close to a walking trail, especially since I was wearing a black jacket. Nowhere in the Capri Tourism literature does it say, "Don't forget to bring your neon orange vest." Nathan kept insisting they were just maintaining the trail. Which then begs the question, if they need that many guns to maintain the trail, SHOULD WE BE WALKING ON IT? Frankly, the hermitage of Santa Maria a Cetrella was much less interesting. I haven't seen that many guns since I moved out of my parents' house in 1996. [My dad "showing" Nathan his guns after our engagement is a story for another day.]. Anyway, we saw the hermitage, took the picture, and got the heck out of there, heading back through the gauntlet, with increased smiling and over-enthusiastic greetings. I might have jogged a little bit once we were out of sight.

Back on the original path, we continued down...and then noticed a disturbingly ominous cloud. We'd diligently checked the forecast on three different weather sites (yep, majorly OCD), and there was to be no rain. We watched that cloud sail on by, only to have a worse one follow it. Despite our positive attitude, "It's not going to rain; those clouds are going to pass us," and the like, we soon realized that we were about to be in the mother of all thunderstorms. Now there was actual, full out running. Thankfully, as the skies opened up, we ran past a familiar looking building. It turns out, Monte Solaro B&B is so named because it is ON Monte Solaro, and our hiking path went right by it. Awesome! Just in time to avoid a soaking, we grabbed fleece blankets from our room, a bottle of red wine from the B&B offerings, and our Kindles, and then settled on our terrace to enjoy the show. Shortly thereafter, a pretty, little kitty appeared and jumped straight into Nathan's lap. This kitty was so confident that we would offer love that it just settled right in for a comfy nap, and there it stayed for the duration - pretty much for our entire weekend.

The storm gave us an incredible sunset.
After the storm and our long bit of relaxation, we decided on TripAdvisor's top rated, Anacapri restaurant for dinner. Now the restaurant information indicated they offer a shuttle from the main piazza. But we like to walk. Famous last words...actually, not last words. Because we already made this very same mistake...this very same day. Thankfully, the night was beautiful, the air was fresh and clean post-rain, and Anacapri is magic at night. This went a long way towards helping salvage the evening as we walked in the newly freezing air in our completely inadequate, summer clothing, for about half an hour and dodged speeding motorcycles on dark, narrow roads in pitch black darkness. Incredibly helpful was my handy, flashlight app on the iPhone - bless you, Steve Jobs.
Oh...the dinner was excellent, and the shuttle ride back up  into town just as delightful. And this time, we walked the appropriate route up to our hotel and met Costanzo there, asking why we didn't call him for a ride. After explaining that we'd needed to walk off our large meal, Nathan headed into the lobby for limoncello and soccer watching, while I collapsed into bed with mental exhaustion.

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