Thursday, January 11, 2007

Day 7 - Capri

The alarm sounds off at 8:00 and we slowly wake up. The advantage of an excellent Italian hotel is that we are able to close every possible window and keep any hint of sunlight out of the room. We open the curtain and push the electronic button to raise the shade and the sun starts to stream into the room. It is cloudy day, but the earlier darkness is replaced with a new day. We enjoy another light breakfast at the hotel. Eating earlier means that we encounter more hotel guests and eavesdrop on their plans. Hearing nothing better than our own plan, we decide to stick it to take the ferry to Capri for the day.

After breakfast, Bill is off to the telephone store to complete his internet purchase and Austin, Norma and Suzy head off to find souvenirs in Sorrento. And souvenirs are exactly what a city like Sorrento is made for. One little stand after another with aprons, inexpensive ceramics and postcards. We find treats for everyone as we wander the streets. On our way back to the hotel we pass the Duomo Santi Fillipo e Giacomo and walk in. The church is not nearly as impressive as the ones we have seen earlier this week the simple façade is a result of modern construction. The choir stalls behind the altar are a beautiful demonstration of the local wooden inlaid artwork. There are a few paintings from the 16th and 17th century, but the church is not massive. A small group local woman are busily cleaning the individual altars and we remember that each church has its own special significance.

We meet back at the hotel and assemble on the hotel’s back terrace, which faces the Bay of Naples and is perched a hundred feet above the city’s marina. There we take a tiny elevator directly from the hotel to the port below. The elevator is small and shaky and halfway down we regret having stepped on, but soon afterwards the doors open. For some reason the elevator does not stop at ground level; instead we have to take stairs another flight down to the marina. The 11:45 ferry is about to leave, so we race to the dock and catch it, headed for the Island of Capri. The skies are a little gray but the view is still breathtaking as we head out. It is a perfect opportunity to see the sheerness of the cliffs and how the buildings are built directly into the side of the mountain. The ride is about 20 minutes and the wind is a bit chilly but we insist on enjoying the view from up top of the boat.

When we arrive we are greeted with a touristy dock of stands where you can buy tickets for boat rides, gelato, tacky souvenirs and guided tours. We head to buy tickets for the funiculare which is a straight ride up to the mountain to Capri town. The tickets are easy to buy but when we get to the funiculare it is locked up tight. We ask next door and they tell us to use our tickets to take the small orange bus to the top. We board the crowded bus and are treated to a wild ride on a windy narrow road.

When we get to the top we are ready for a break to catch our breath. The combination of the fast ride, the narrow road and buses passing on the opposite side have worn us out. As we enjoy our coffee and hot chocolate we read through the guide book of all that we should see. Fuhgetaboutit. It is time to enjoy Capri. The view from the main piazza is amazing. The sheer cliffs and the color of the sea below are a perfect combination. We wander the streets, enjoying the amazing collection of high end Italian shops throughout this tiny town – all of which are empty and opening again in March of 2007. Not a sale to be had, just empty. There are a few dedicated shops that are open, little perfumeries and clothing stores. We walk past gorgeous hotels and restaurants – all closed. We finally stumble upon the Canfora shoe store which is fortunately still open. Amadeo Canfora snc, Via Camerelle 3, 80073 Capri (NA) Italy, (39) 081.837.0487, In addition to a delightful collection of sandals, Canfora hand makes the Capri sandals made famous by many celebrities, most notably Jackie Onassis. We (Suzy) try on several pairs and finally ask if they have a certain style in her size. No problem – they can make them on the spot. She tries several bases and then we wait as they attach the straps she has chosen. After a few adjustments, they fit like a glove! The final alterations are made and we walk out with a perfect pair of sandals. I’m sure Suzy will be mistaken for Jackie Onassis or Sophia Loren when she wears them.

Fortunately the shoe shop has called around and found a restaurant that is open for lunch. We walk through the streets finishing our window shopping and never find an open restaurant. We go back to the main piazza and head down several side streets (not quite understanding the directions but knowing that somewhere there is an open restaurant). The Ristorante Buca di Bacco, Via Longana 35, is a sight for sore eyes. It has a small dining room with a little window looking out onto the water. We settle into our table and order aqua frizzante and naturale and a bottle of the local Aglianico red wine. While the pastas and seafood entrees look amazing we are all delighted to try the pizzas. Bill has the DOC, the authorized pizza with tomato and mozzarella, Norma has pizza with champignon mushrooms, Austin has pizza diavalo – spicy salami, and Suzy has the Siciliana – with tomato, mozzarella and eggplant. We split a mixed green salad and decide that since we are on the isle of Capri it is important to try the Caprese salad – sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. It is a perfect light, relaxing lunch and we enjoy almost every bite debating whether the restaurants in Italy should offer doggie bags so that we can enjoy more later or whether it is better to start over again at every meal. We all clean our plates so the discussion becomes a moot point. We finish with coffee and grappa.

We continue our window shopping – Bill’s favorite since everything is closed and all we can do is look and dream. We follow a little side street to get some shots of the water and then head up through tiny narrow streets. After a little way we realize we have no idea where we are and through the narrow maze it is impossible to do more than continue to follow the signs to Belvedere Cannone. The streets becomes steeper and steeper but we are committed and don’t turn back. We wind around corner after corner and go up higher and higher wishing that we were in better shape. Huffing and puffing we finally we arrive at a dead end, saved only by the fact that it is a beautiful view of the cliffs and the island from way up high (no surprise given the walk we have just taken.) Everybody snaps shot after shot – the boats sitting in the water, the sun setting, the trees, the houses built into the side of the cliffs – there is no limit to the number of spectacular shots we can get. Finally we remember that we have a ferry to catch, so it’s off we go. Downhill seems much easier than the uphill trip – we make a few turns and find a flight of stairs which leads us right to the bus turnaround. We buy tickets and quickly board the little orange bus with ten minutes to spare to catch our 4:25 ferry. Yeah right. The bus keeps waiting for passengers and despite the hair raising speed at which we descend the mountain, we arrive on the dock just as the ferry is leaving. We take deep relaxing breathes, remembering that we are on vacation with no set schedule and begin to check out the little souvenir shops along the water – nothing impressive although we can’t resist buying a few t-shirts and knick knacks. We settle in at a little bar gelateria and wait for the 5:25 ferry.

The ferry is more crowded on the way back. The last ferry leaves at 6:25 and the boat seems to have a larger share of locals returning from work and fewer tourists. Despite the drizzle and the breeze we settle in on the top deck for the ride back. We are entertained the entire ride by five young wise guys who holler at each other, wrestle, slap and generally carry on until the ferry is tying up in Sorrento.

We are all tired but decide a little walk before dinner is in order. Its almost 8:30 but the shops are still open and we wander in and out finding a few essential items to bring home. We are limited in our restaurant choices because so many are closed for the season. We opt not to eat sandwiches at a bar on the Piazza Tasso and head instead for a little garden restaurant we had passed this morning. The interior is full of plants and flowers making it a perfect indoor garden. We decide on pasta and vegetables for dinner. Not a traditional Italian meal – but this restaurant doesn’t seem to have too many rules. The pastas are adequate but not remarkable. Norma has the ravioli stuffed with cheese and served with tomato sauce; Suzy has the combination ravioli, pacchieri and conchiglia with mozzarella and tomato baked; Austin has the pasta carbonara spaghetti with bacon, egg and cheese; and Bill has a light bowl of minestrone. We also order grilled mushrooms, sautéed spinach, fried artichokes and fried zucchini flowers. The flowers are not in season, so we are not surprised when we are served fried dough balls with tiny bits of zucchini flowers in them. The food is perfect for the night. Not inspired, but a great atmosphere and an attentive server. Austin and Norma call it quits and leave Bill and Suzy to enjoy their coffee and grappa on their own.

As we turn in for the night, we reflect on how special a place Capri seems to be, even off season and how the relaxing uneventful day was a perfect antidote for the previous day’s day from Hell.

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