Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Capri and Cool Breezes

While there is no doubt that the Amalfi Coast has one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world, it’s really all about the water! So clear and the colour of Persian Blue, everyone who visits in the heat of summer are overcome with the immediate urge to either get in it, get on it or enjoy the cool breezes that come off it! Along the coast, thousands crowd tiny beaches while slightly off shore, hundreds of boats take to the water to enjoy Amalfi’s waters. We had already been out to sea once since arriving, but we were keen to find another excuse to further enjoy the Mediterranean, so what better way than to take the boat over to the renowned island of Capri that lay just over 30 minutes away.

Having been on board quite a tiny craft a few days before, we were quite surprised by the size of the boat that would be taking us over to the island. Clearly its large capacity was an indication of the amount of people that normally head over to Capri during the summer months, so we began to brace ourselves for the type of tourist onslaught that is normally reserved for major Italian holiday hotspots. Fortunately, in the end the boat was well below capacity by the time we departed Positano, so we could position ourselves nicely along the gunwale to enjoy the views and of course the cooling sea breezes. As we powered along, we skirted the three small rugged looking islands collectively called ‘Li Galli’ that apparently have a history dating back to ancient times. It was here that mythical sirens were said to lure sailors with their beauty and lilting voices, causing boats to be shipwrecked onto the rocks. More recently the islands have became famous for being once owned by Rudolf Nureyev, proving that not only was he a great ballet dancer, but also had a keen eye for breathtaking real estate.

As we approached Capri, I must admit to being slightly under whelmed. Despite its reputation as one of the playgrounds of the rich and famous, it provided nowhere near the same visual impact of Positano and other towns along the Amalfi coast. When I made this remark to Jules she reminded me that what I was actually looking at was the port and the real town of Capri was to be found high up in the hills above. The port itself was all that we were expecting with hordes of tourists and tacky souvenir shops. Queues seemed to be everywhere … for the funicular heading up the hill, for novel open-top taxis, for tiny buses that tour the island, for boat trips to the famed ‘Blue Grotto’ and for other boats heading back on the water to get away from all the chaos.

As recently experienced hikers, we thought that we might provide the exception to the rule by actually getting to the town of Capri by following the 20-minute walking trail that leads you up the hill. Amazingly, we were pretty much by ourselves! So by the time the other visitors below had reached the head of their queues, we were already there, a little puffed but fitter for the experience. Just as it was below, the town was very busy but to be fair, it was a whole lot nicer. There was clearly a touch of sophistication here with narrow alleys filled with quaint Italian buildings converted into all manner of high end shopping. Restaurants were abound, each proudly displaying photographs of the various high profile celebrities who had previously dined there. Considered to be somewhat of a fashion centre, Capri boasts an extensive range of boutiques for the style conscious, as long as you are prepared to wear either white, off white or a pale shade of beige as these colours seem to be the official uniform of the well healed.

Like many such places we have visited in the past, Capri had everything but seemed to lack something! It was like looking into a glossy picture book world that wasn’t quite real ... a little too manufactured for our liking. What we thought might suit us better would be the nearby Anacapri, only a short distance away. This is often unfairly considered to be the down market version of Capri and over the years has tended to live in the shadow of its more famous neighbor. So being a little too far to walk, we boarded a bus for one of the most hair raising 10 minute trips of our lives. With narrow winding roads traversing steep cliffs and with an almost vertical drop below, there were quite a few audible gasps from the passengers. It seemed that disaster was imminent with every turn, possibly resulting in a repeat of the final scene from the movie ‘The Italian Job’ … but somehow we made it!

Anacapri had a totally different atmosphere from where we had just been. It was much smaller, with far less crowds and was decidedly less pretentious. We sensed that in all the hype that revolved around Capri, such smaller towns had all but been forgotten, yet as a community they were desperately trying to jump on board the tourist bandwagon having seen its obvious economic benefits. It was quiet and gentle in comparison; an ideal place for a gelato and a pleasant stroll before heading back to the chaos of the port.

Indeed by the time we had made it back by late afternoon, the scene was even more manic than we had experienced earlier. Day-trippers such as us were by now all converging back to the boats and clambering to get themselves back to the mainland. So there was a slight sense of relief when our boat (much fuller than when we arrived) finally upped anchor and began to set sea bound for Positano. It had been an interesting and enjoyable visit, despite all the crowds. Jules and I were glad to have experienced Capri, as it is one of those much talked about places that we felt had to be seen. As we bounced along on the afternoon swell, holding our hats and admiring the coastal view as our boat pushed into the wind, we knew that this was one of those travel episodes that would remembered as much for the trip as the destination.

No comments:

Post a Comment