Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1920: Rome, Tuscany, Venice & Amalfi for Beginners
By nikkihop from USA, Summer 2011
Page 13 of 16: June 12, 2011 Day 12: Capri
No shoes, no shirt, no problem in Capri
Still recovering from our whirlwind week with the girls, we slept in a bit and missed the early ferry (again) at 10:30 to Capri (we had difficulty pronouncing this correctly as Kaaaaapree, instead of the Americanized caPREE. Too many capri pants out there to be able to adapt to the correct pronunciation.)
The noon ferry was packed with people -- standing room only, which is fine because we normally like to stand somewhere along the railing to catch the fresh breezes. This time, we had to muscle our way through the crowd, squeaking by the seated passenger's knees, and kind of wedge our way into a small 22" space off the railing, much to the consternation of an Italian man who wanted to be able to see the water from his comfy hard plastic seat a foot and a half away. We smiled and shrugged and he took it well. If it hadn't been us, it would have been someone else. We tried to squeeze together and move any time there was something to see. We saw him in Sorrento with his wife the next day and he seemed happy to see us so he couldn't have been too put out.
Turns out that with the haze and clouds, you couldn't see much anyway. As the island of Capri approached, the famous Faraglioni Rocks came into view and you could already see the long line for the funicular from the busy port where we docked. We got our bearings and bought our tickets for the funicular to take us up to Capri town (still saying it wrong in my head as I write.) The funicular was uneventful aside from some very pushy line jumpers who had to be just five more people ahead, like it made much of a difference in the crush. In our experience, this aggressive queuing up and line jumping was normal. In the central U.S., we have more space, therefore we respect personal space more and are generally more likely to follow the rules, whether written or unwritten. This is definitely true when it comes to driving, although I have to say, I enjoyed driving in Italy because it felt precisely like I didn't have to obey any restricting rules about center lines, speed or lane changing. (Tom Petty's Free Falling playing as a soundtrack to this paragraph.)
At Capri town, we bought a map for €2 at the main tourist office that had all the Capri island footpaths and hikes marked. DB has this amazing ability to eat, like, once a day, and he's completely happy. He's like a wild dog, gorging and then going for days without sustenance. If we were in the wild together, there's no doubt I would turn cannibal first, since I have to eat regularly or I become alternately like a three year old child or Alien vs. Predator. Feeling the latter coming on, I force DB to feed me at the Il Limoni Terrace Ristorante at the island's Best Western.
Il Limoni is not an obvious restaurant. You have to go up some stairs and walk through a lemon grove to get to the poolside wicker chairs and white tables. It was romantic eating under the huge lemons growing overhead. I had the special, a buttered spaghetti with shrimp and crawfish with cilantro and a light bianco salsa (white sauce that was more clear than white) recommended by our adorable sixtyish waiter who spoke only Italian. DB had the club sandwich, being all pizza'd and pasta'd out for the present. We lingered at lunch, and since there were only three people in the restaurant, no one minded.
After lunch, we hiked the long route out to the Arco Naturale, which had panoramic views of the Faraglioni Rocks and beautiful coastline. We paused a lot to watch and photograph the hundreds of seagulls gliding above and below on the hot air currents. My sensory memory of Capri will be the hot white stucco buildings covered in bougainvillea and trumpet vines and hibiscus, and the smell of jasmine. The hike was beautiful, but hot and steep on the way back to town, up about 400 steps. Once at the top, we walked by a fifty-ish woman sitting on a park bench enjoying the sun. She must not have enjoyed the sun too much because she was wearing hot pink pants and a nude colored bra with the straps hooked off her shoulders and nothing else. Her shoes, shirt and bag were laying next to her and she was calmly reading the paper as we walked by. Apparently, everything goes in Capri ... except the bra. I admire her guts, if not her outfit.
Once back into town, we took the short hop on the orange city bus for €1.50 pp to Anacapri, where we paid another €5 pp to see the amazing tiled floor of the Church of the San Michele Arcangelo. We walked around the wooden plank boardwalk admiring the artist's painting of Eden, complete with unicorns, lions, bulls and birds, all with very human eyes. We arrived just before a big tour group and found out one of the church's hazards. The big attraction is to climb a small circular staircase up to the tiny choir loft to admire the whole tiled floor from above. The hazard is that it is a tiny choir loft and there's only one set of stairs. After waiting 20 minutes or so at the top for the never-ending tourists on their way UP, we, along with several other trapped individuals, finally began to yell down "fermata! Sinora, fermata!" until someone was smart enough to let those of us who wanted out to come down the stairs, leaving more room in the clown car act upstairs.
DB and I walked a bit and took the chairlift called the Seggovia from downtown Anacapri to the top of Monte Solaro for its amazing views of Capri. It was a very cold and windy trip since it was four o'clock and the daily rain clouds had moved in. So, we ordered a coffee for me (very tasty) and a Gatorade for DB at the top, which he said tastes fruitier than those at home. Although we didn't get the best photos because of the clouds, it was still worth the trip.
It was getting late though, so we cut our visit in the clouds a bit short and headed down only to wait for 30 minutes or so in the line for the bus back down to the Marina Grande and the last ferry home at 7:00pm. We waited, and waited, and waited. Eight buses up and none down. In groups of two, the line shortened as people decided not to wait for the bus and caught taxis down the hill. I will admit, I have this irrational OCD thing about being late or missing trains, ferries, etc. I get it from my mother, who is always at the airport three hours before her flight. I start to get antsy. DB tries to be calming, which somehow, despite his sweetness, makes me even more anxious (now I have to be anxious for two people since clearly he is not using up his allocation of anxiety ... yes, I know it's crazy.)
So, I edge over to the taxis and get a quote. "Quanto costa per il taxi a Marina Grande?" I ask. "Venti," says the cabbie, sensing a sucker with OCD. I go back to DB and suggest we find another couple to share it with us. We're overheard by a cute Italian couple next to DB, who jump on the chance. So, at €5/pp we hire a private cab to speed us down to the wharf, thereby averting self-created crisis and the crowded bus, which eventually came, because we saw another couple who was in line behind us at the bus stop later on the last ferry. Hey, I'll bet they didn't get the added bonus of a near crash after a game of Italian taxi chicken on a hairpin curve above the steep, steep drop-off.
Not ready to give up my anxiety yet, we made a mad dash to several boat docks until we finally find the right one and then wait for 45 minutes. It all seems so ridiculous now, and yes, I am thankful every day for DB, who takes it all in stride.
Once on the ferry, three German girls sprint on without tickets and giggle their way right to the back of the boat (where we are standing). However, they are found by the captain and after much hand gesturing and stern looks (captain), and more giggling (girls), the girls tell him they will pay but it's the last boat back to Sorrento and they're not getting off. I am both shocked and incredibly impressed by their strategy. It's that whole follow-the-rules American thing. I never would have thought of it. We bought our round trip tickets when we boarded in the morning.
DB and I head back to the Abagnale to shower and change and decide on dinner at Trattoria Laterna. I have a cautionary tale to tell. As usual, DB and I watched all the plates coming out and served to others at nearby table (one of the perks of slow Italian service). I really like the look of this juicy roasted chicken dish that the guy next to me ordered. So, instead of ordering off the menu, I tell our business-like and straight faced Maitre'D that I'll have what he's (pointing) having. To be fair, the Maitre'D did say something about grilled chicken, but in my innocence, I just figured it was a language subtlety and merely pointed again at the guy's delicious looking plate and said, "Yes, that!" with a smile. The translation was wrong because the plate he actually brought me was a flat looking grilled chicken that didn't look nearly as good. My face fell, especially because the roast lamb that DB ordered (off the menu) looked fabulous and my grilled chicken looked like it came from Luby's. I decide to be brave and point out the error to our waiter, who then proceeds to shame me, arguing that he said "grilled" didn't he? I half halfheartedly say, but I wanted what he was having... And then give up and just wave my hand and say never mind, I'll eat the grilled chicken. Just to be perverse at that point and make a bigger spectacle of me, the waiter now decides to whip my plate away and bring me the other dish. In the looong ensuing wait, DB ate all his lamb chop with homemade potato chips and we split the insalata mista before the roast chicken finally, and grudgingly came out. It was very good, but colored the whole experience.
The same waiter then asked me if we wanted to put the tip on our credit card, and once he realized it would be me paying and not DB, he was very nice to me, giving me the first smile we'd seen all night. I did leave a tip, and now pass this tip onto you -- always order from the menu;)
DB and I stopped at the gelateria next door to the Abagnale (coffee flavored for me and black cherry for DB), then headed home to bed.
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