We woke up just early enough to get all of our stuff packed up, eat breakfast, and make the 9:50 boat to the Isle of Capri (pronounced “KAA-pri”, not like the pants), so we rushed to make it. We got in our car, and rushed down to the marina (not really knowing for sure if the way we were heading was the right way) and we made it with 4 minutes to catch the jet boat.
I’ll also point out that I switched from wearing my super high-tech Columbia hiking/running shoes into my tried and trusted Lucchese boots, today. I was so uncomfortable in those super cushiony shoes… but those boots have been worn on every business trip, and many long Sundays… and are 13 years old… and I couldn’t have had a more comfortable shoe. Those Lucchese’s got me through many more steps in Italy, and I wished I’d have worn them the whole time. Lesson learned for next time
We parked the car, right next to a bunch of other cars… bought our tickets and headed to catch the jet boat. Here’s a quick little video of us driving to the marina (note: the video is taken on the road that does the switchback in this photo). The words at the end will come back to haunt us later in the day…
As we stood in line, this nice little man approached us and said “Are you with a tour group?” and we replied “no”. He then said “well, just go to the front of the line then” … so we did, and we got on the boat.
A few minutes into our trip, and our little friend found us an pitched us on his tour-guide services. He said he already had a few other customers, and that we could join his little group. We talked about it on the boat ride over to the island and decided that it was probably a good idea to join him, as the price he was asking sounded like a good deal. His name was Jerry, and he lived on Capri, and this was how he made a living… finding wayward travelers on the mainland, and giving them his own little personal tour of Capri.
Once we landed on Capri, Jerry got us on a bus. There was Christine and I, an Israeli couple, two Swedish couples, a French couple and a German couple. The first stop on the tour was Anacapri, which was just up the hill from Capri-town. And when I say “just up the hill”, I mean it was up this crazy windy one-lane for the most part road, that hugged a cliff all the way up. Back in the past, the only way to get to Anacapri from Capri-town was to walk up 900 steps that were cut into the side of the mountain.
Jerry jokingly told us that if we saw someone coming down those steps, they wre probably American. If we saw someone going up the steps, they were probably a local. And if we saw someone going up then, then later coming down them, they were probably German. Germans love to hike all over Capri.
We’d wanted to visit the Ruins of Jovis, which is where the Emporer Tiberius set up his first residence outside of Rome because he was worried about being murdered (like 27 A.D.), and made Capri a retreat for the Roman Aristocracy. When he pointed out how far the ruins were from the main towns, we agreed that the trek to the ruins was probably best left to the Germans.
Also, on the way up the hill, an ambulance came screaming down the road at us, and passed us. As they drove by, Jerry remarked “See, there goes another German… he probably died hiking”, which brought a laugh from the group.
After getting off the bus, Jerry walked us past the cemetery in Anacapri, and explained that we were welcome to come visit him at his home in Capri anytime in the next 10 years, but if we wanted to visit him after 10 years from now, we’d need to come find him in that cemetery. It was gorgeous… covered in flowers, as the local residents bring more flowers than usual on All Saint’s Day, which had just passed.
We rounded the corner, and found the Chairlift Monte Solaro to the top of the peak on the Anacapri side of the island. We took it up to the top.
To our dismay, the overcast day, meant that the entire western side of the island was shrouded in clouds, so we couldn’t see “the most beautiful part of the island” where all of the celebrities have their retreat houses. We were actually above the clouds that were rolling in off the ocean, and as they hit the peak of the mountain, they were being pushed up past us. It was pretty ethereal hearing the birds call from below us, but not being able to see them at all.
Since it was off-season, the bar that was normally open at the top was closed too, so we didn’t spend much time at the top.
We took the chairs back down the hill, so we could find Dr. Axel Munthe‘s Villa San Michele, that overlooked the northern and eastern side of Anacapri, all the way back to Capritown. He was a late 1800′s/early 1900′s Swedish psychiatrist who is famous as a humanist and author.
After a tour of his residence, we met Jerry and the rest of the tour group and had lunch at a local restaurant on the way back to the bus. We sat with the Israeli couple, and had a wonderful lunch while making friends from the other side of the globe. There names were Achiva (he went by Kiki) and Iris, and they lived in Tel Aviv, and they were on this trip to celebrate Iris’s birthday (I can’t remember exactly which one… must have been her 29th ). We traded stories about our kids (theirs are close to our age), the military, education (Kiki is a professor of statistics), about how they love to come to Italy as often as they can (it’s only 3 hours by plane for them) and about the economies and political climates of our two countries. We really enjoyed sitting with them and getting exposed to their culture. Also, loved learning that many moons ago, Iris was a paratrooper in the Israeli Army. Love that!
After lunch, we boarded the bus again, and went down the mountain to Capri-town. Jerry got us a free sample of Lemonciello and then bid us adieu, to let us explore Capri ourselves. We had about another hour or two until our boat left, so we window shopped, and sat down for a cafe latte and cappuccino overlooking the bay of Naples from the Capri La Piazzetta. It was very nice.
We met up with Kiki and Iris again for the ride on the Funicular (cable car) down the hill to the boat docs, where we shared pictures of Danielle that Evan has just sent me on my phone. Iris told us that her father was only about 1 pound when he was born, and he made it just fine all those years ago, and that he’s still kicking it in his old age, which made us feel better about how tiny Danielle is, and how Evan and Shadel are coping with having a premi baby (she’s adorable, and doing fine, btw).
On the ride back to Sorrento, we sat outside, so I could take some photos of Capri as we left it, and of the coastline of Italy as we approached it. It was just a little chilly up on top of the boat, but not too bad.
Back in Sorrento, as we were walking towards the car, Christine said “Man, I hope our car didn’t get towed.” I think that jinxed us.
When we got to where we’d lost the car, we couldn’t find it… Christine didn’t look happy with me.
I asked a few people where I could find my car and they all said “Polizia” so we looked for the local police.
We found the Polizia Stradale, which wasn’t the local police (they’re more like a national version of the State Troopers). After realizing they didn’t speak English, and we didn’t speak Italian, I whipped out my iPhone, and using the translation book I’d bought, I asked “Dove la automobile?” which is “where is the car?”
The policeman that was driving pulled out his phone and called on of the local police, who was having coffee or something in the restaurant across the street. After talking to him, he tried to explain to me that my car had been towed, because it was in a no parking zone, and that I’d need to find a taxi to go get it, pay the tow, then pay the ticket to the Sorrento police. I think I understood about 1/2 of what he was telling me.
So, we found a nice taxi driver that thankfully spoke fluent English (he’d lived in California for about 15 years, as a marble installation contractor before returning to Sorrento years ago). He found the local police man, got the story, and then explained everything to us, and of we went in search of our car.
Our car was in S. Agata di Golfi, which is a picturesque little Italian town that straddles the moutain between the Gulf of Naples and Gulf of Salerno on the Sorrento Peninsula. It’s only about 4 kilometers from Sorrento, but that ride cost us about 70€, but, it was actually kind of fun. Beacuse the driver spoke English, we got a little mini-tour out of it.
We learned that the local farmers put nets over their lemon trees to protect the lemons from hail storms, as the hail will damage the skins of the lemons, which isn’t acceptable, as the skin is the part that’s used to make he local lemonciello. We also learned that the nets under the trees meant that those were olive trees, and the locals want any olives that fall off to fall into the nets, where they are more easily gathered than onto the ground. It also protects the olive skins more than letting them hit the ground, which means the olives will be a little less acidic than if their skinds are bruised.
We stopped at an ATM machine on the way to pick up our car, just in case the tow truck driver wasn’t kind to us, as they pretty much set their own rates. Luckily he only charged us 150 €, and we were free to go… though we now have a parking ticket from Sorrento that we haven’t paid, and I’m not even sure I know how to go about paying it.
We did get to see the sunset from the tow lot, and amazingly it was gorgeous.
We got into our car, and made our way towards Positano and the Hotel Villa Franca… which, let me tell you… if I thought the drive into Sorrento was tough, the drive into Positano was insane. That highway is called the Blue Ribbon Highway in the guide books, and that’s pretty accurate, I think, because if you stray off the ribbon of road that they call a highway, I could see how easily your body could be found the next day, and it’d likely be all kinds of shades of blue.
Luckily we made it to our hotel without driving past it (the road in Positano is one-way, once you get into town and driving all the way back around to our hotel would have taken at least thirty minutes).
We checked in, and headed up to our room to check out the room and the view. It was night-time, but we could tell that it was going to be gorgeous during the day (it was already pretty enchanting at night).
We put on some clothes that would be suitable for dinner, and decided to walk down to the town square for dinner.
We headed down the hill towards the square, taking the steps, and I tried counting how many steps we’d made. After about 100, I stopped counting, and in another 100 or steps, we hit the main road again, and realized we were at most 1/2 way down the hill, and taking the steps were killing my legs (and Christine was wearing heels… likely not the best choice for trapsing around this town). So we walked down the rest of the way on the main road, which was much less of a grade, and thus was a little easier, even if it took longer.
Once in the square, we found a few little shops to poke our heads into, and then ran into our friends from Texas.
We decided to eat dinner together, and headed down to the water to eat at a restaurant on the beach. We chose Chez Black.
Christine and Tobin ordered the Sea Bass. I had the seafood and pasta dinner, and Lee ordered pizza. It was GOOOD. When we were done, we asked for our check, and the guy said “why… nothing else is open… there’s no where else to go… wait here, I’ll bring you something” and a few minutes later he showed up with some lemociello and roasted chestnuts for us. We ordered another bottle of wine, and enjoyed the evening some more, before heading back up the mountain to our hotel.
Lee thought it’d be fun to walk up the steps, so I cussed his name for a good thirty minutes while we trudged up the hill… vowing to take the bus next time, no matter what.
We turned in for the night, with our balcony doors open, hearing nothing but the sound of waves hitting the beach. It was pretty awesome.