Capri was on our to do list, primarily because “you have to visit Capri dharling!” And I will admit to preconceptions; it would be over run with tourists, expensive, and probably endowed with magnificent scenery dotted with picturesque white houses. And we weren’t disappointed!
There are only a series of 8 o’clock ferries going and 5 o’clock ones coming back, some stop at Amalfi and Positano on the way. The journey was about an hour and a half and the return trip cost us €97! But at just shy of €25 each it was probably good value for money, not only getting us there but hugging the coast most of the way we had time to admire the fantastic scenery of the Amalfi Coast.
We arrived in Capri at just before 10. The harbour has a marina but it is reputed to be obscenely expensive and was crowded with boats doing some Rolex racing event.
The island is about 2km wide and 3 long with a mountain at each end and a high saddle of land between. Capri town is on that saddle of land and happily there is a funicular railway between the port and town centre. I was surprised to find that tickets for this and the buses only cost €1.80 each; however, we were brought back to Capri with a bump when we decided to have breakfast. We were up a 6, had a brisk walk to the station for the 6.50 train and then a 2 km walk to the ferry. We were peckish. And at €35 for a pair of the world’s smallest, meanest omelettes and a bottle of water it was just as well! Expensive had just become ‘overpriced’!
Capri is Tourist Central. But that is what the place is about and it is done very well. Watching the world pass us by as we enjoyed our hand crafted omlettes in Piazza Umberto was very pleasant. The streets are narrow and mostly pedestrianised and we took a walk across town to the south side of the island where the views are.
Our first stop was the monastery of San Giacomo. From the outside this is a rather plain building and quite extensive. Founded in 1371 the monks gradually came to own all the land and the hunting rights, making them quite popular with the islanders. Relations hit a low point in 1656 when plague struck the island. The monastery had been gradually fortified over the years and the monks sealed themselves inside and left islanders to it. In retribution the islanders threw their plague riddled corpses over the walls into the monastery!
Now the monastery houses an art Museum displaying the works of Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach. He painted massive, very dark, oil paintings. Up close it is almost impossible to make out the differences in ‘colours’, but from a few meters back you can make out the picture.
From there you move into the old church, empty now, but the walls were originally covered in beautiful murals, parts of which have been restored and give a glimpse of how beautiful the original interior must have been.
Then you go out into the gardens and the terrace over looking the sea offers amazing views of the south coast of the island. The Giardini di Augusto, just west of the monastery afforded similar views. This was exactly how I’d imagined Capri to be! Tree clad mountains, ravines, vertical drops and cliffs, dotted with white mansions and hotels. Beautiful, but pictures can’t do it justice.
The second town on the island, Ana Capri, is on top of the western mountain and the bus journey took us up a steep hairpin road along the cliffs above the port with just a fence between the side of the bus and oblivion; quite a surprise to suddenly find yourself looking out over the town a couple of hundred metres below and only the bus window in between!
Anacapri is similar to Capri, but a bit less crowded. Still wall to wall boutiques but a pleasant place to stroll around and have lunch. One of the ‘main’ buildings is the Casa Rosa, built by a Confederate Colonel who moved to Capri following the American Civil War.
We didn’t look around inside, lunch called, and this time we didn’t feel ripped off.
We also didn’t visit the Vila San Michele, but this was due to the time. It was 3 pm and we had 2 hours to get back down to the ferry, and it was just as well we gave ourselves that time. The bus back to Capri was easy enough but the world and his wife, and some of their kids were queueing for the funicular. But we had plenty of time, even enjoying a beer when we got down to the bottom.
Catching the ferry was, however, rather stressful as no one knew where it was going to leave from. The quays had numbered ferry berths and we were waiting at number 5 where we’d been dropped off, then we heard it was to be number 2, then 21, the other side of the harbour. So we rushed towards that ferry only to find an equally confused tour guide on the phone trying to find where to take her herd! Back to empty number 5 to wait for the ferry which was a half hour late!
At this point I was reflecting that it would have been nice to leave all the others playing ‘hunt the ferry’ as we strolled down to the marina and our yacht dharling for a Pimms. As we finally left Capri my delusions of grandeur we put firmly in perspective as 380 million pounds worth of Sailing Yacht A, newest and 9th biggest super yacht in the world, cruised into the anchorage fresh from Monaco.
On the trip back we called at Positano and Amalfi and arrived back at Salerno just before 7. A walk back to the station for the train and a walk back to the marina. Only 17 km walked today! Not bad visiting an island that is only 3 km long !!!!
Capri was nice, expensive with pleasant, if crowded, streets and some fantastic scenery. Worth visiting just the once and probably for a little longer than we did.