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Postcard - An Unexpected Swim in The Blue Grotto

Colleen Kochman (ColleenK)

On our brief trip to Capri in late September, my husband and I were not sure if we wanted to join the hoards of tourists to experience the famous Blue Grotto. On the other hand, if we missed seeing this unique natural phenomenon would we always regret not seeing it? Our main reason for visiting this enchanting island was to do some hiking to view the beautiful vistas as a contrast to all the driving we had done in Umbria the week before.

So, on our last afternoon in the town of Anacapri, we donned bathing suits under our clothes and thought we would hike down to the Blue Grotto and take a bus back. If there was a spot to take a swim nearby, that would be great. If we reached the Grotto entrance while the rowboats were still running, perhaps we would indeed get to see this mega tourist attraction.

My husband Jim is a terrific navigator and loves maps. He can barely go three blocks in an unfamiliar city without pulling out a map so he knows exactly where he is. I, on the other hand, am brain dead when it comes to maps, have a terrible sense of direction and need huge landmarks (as in the Florence Duomo) to find my way around. Somehow this has worked for us in our almost 30 years of marriage and I trust Jim's sense of direction implicitly. So when Jim chose an obscure looking and winding dotted line trail down to the Grotto from Anacapri, who was I to question his choice?

At first our route is fine. It is on a main, if untrafficked, road and there are even some lovely hand painted Azzuro Grotto (Blue Grotto) signs along the way. As time goes on however, there are no more signs, and we are following a very unused, overgrown path. The crumbling rocks are difficult to navigate, it is hot and mosquitoes are buzzing around us.

Jim is convinced we are heading in the right direction but 30 minutes into the hike all I can think is "please God, let us end up somewhere near civilization so we can find some transportation back because I am NOT going back UP the way we came!" Before true panic sets in (on my part anyway), the path becomes more manicured and we can see water in the distance. We can also hear happy English speaking voices and our marriage is once again back on track.

The path becomes civilized

The path becomes civilized

Forty-five minutes after setting out we have reached the Blue Grotto bus stop and are happy to see a lovely wooden walkway leading down to the Grotto. On the way down we meet two adorable French girls and ask them how one actually gets into the caves. At this point there are no rowboats to be seen. It is about 5pm and they stop operating at 4pm at this time of year. In perfect English (with a charming French accent of course) they exclaim that we MUST go swimming in the cave, as it is fantastic! We look at each other and smile, thinking why not?! We hadn't gone through all the trouble of getting here to chicken out now and miss seeing the island's biggest attraction. This was, I might add, after assurances that that the current was mild and the water was warm (I am not that brave).

So that is how two adults who have passed the 50 year threshold found themselves swimming in the Blue Grotto with several English and American 20 year olds. The French girls were not exaggerating, it WAS absolutely fantastic! There is a small ladder at the end of the wooden walkway to ease yourself into the water and then a chain to hold onto as you enter the grotto. The water was surprisingly clean and refreshing after our somewhat treacherous hike. And of course once inside the cave looking out, the water is every bit as breathtaking as people say it is. The light on the water really is eerie but at the same time incredibly beautiful. My face hurt from smiling so much as we swam to our heart's content. It felt almost otherworldly to be actually swimming in this incandescent water.

Swimmers leaving the Blue Grotto

Swimmers leaving the Blue Grotto

I am told that swimming in the Blue Grotto is officially forbidden. I imagine if the current is rough, it could be very dangerous. But the fisherman and locals who were there did not seem fazed by the swimmers. It seems that many people indulge in this swim before and after tour boat hours.

Happily, after our swim of a lifetime, we were able to catch the bus back to Anacapri. To top off our momentous day, we had one of our favorite "only in Italy moments" on the bus ride home. As a passenger stepped onto the bus, the driver began congratulating him on the birth of his new baby and asking him questions about her. The passenger then whipped out his cell phone with a picture of his new baby girl to show the driver. It seemed to me, in my meager comprehension of Italian, that this passenger was both well known by the driver and other passengers or perhaps he too was a bus driver. While this exchange was taking place, another bus was approaching us from the opposite direction making its way down to the Blue Grotto. Our bus driver stopped our bus, motioned for the other driver to stop and handed him the phone through their respective windows to show him the new baby's picture! The whole bus erupted in laughter and there was not one impatient honking horn as this exchange took place on the winding roads of Anacapri. Only in Italy!

So our Blue Grotto day ended with another moment that we will never forget and together these events will become part of our family's travel folklore. Our swim was surely an experience of a lifetime and one that I will always remember with a smile and a sense of awe.

Photos

Slow Travel Photos: Colleen's photos from her Blue Grotto walk.

Resources

Colleen Kochman's Member Page: The articles and trip reports that Colleen has published on Slow Travel.


Colleen Kochman lives in Cambridge, MA, is a pediatric nurse practitioner who loves all aspects of travel.

© Colleen Kochman, 2005

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