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Capri Island

Italy, Greece & Montenegro Diary - Day 17 -18th May 2018 :

Positioned near the southern tip of the curve of the Naples Bay, to the left of the Sorrento Peninsula,  is the desirable Island of CAPRI (pronounced KAAPRI) This mountain shaped island initially consisted of a single rock made of limestone & sandstone.  It lies at a minimum ferry distance of about 45 minutes from the City of Naples.  Inhabited since the 8th Century BC with an interesting history backing up its origin, the Island today is a tourist retreat loaded with limitless possibilities of exploration.

The route map for the day

Its astonishing natural beauty and striking vistas causes many celebrities and other prominent personalities to anchor their private yachts at the Marina Grande (refer video of the route map for location), throughout the year.   The Summer season bans usage of cars on the Island. Nevertheless, the excellent public transport system steps in during that period, to ensure unhindered navigation.  Capri is an easy & unbeatable day tour from Naples city.  Our Halldis accommodation in the city  (read Naples & others) was at a 5 minute walking distance from the SALVATOR ROSA metro station.  Getting around the city was therefore easy and inexpensive.  


It was our Day 2 in Naples.   A metro train from SALVATOR ROSA,  after purchase of  one way tickets at the counter,  got us to the MUNICIPIO station in about 10 minutes time.  A short walk of 7 minutes or so, thereafter, saw us at the MOLO BEVERELLO pier,  from where we were to board the ferry to Capri. 


Getting to the Metro station







A slight confusion at the pier caused us to run hither-thither.  It was due to a misleading sign board at a pathway leading to the pier,  that wavered our minds.  We headed towards the wrong pier in search of the ferry, when the initial spot where we had reached was indeed the correct one - the MOLO BEVERELLO.  We had to rush back. With just 8 minutes in hand for the departure, we were short of missing the ride.  The tickets were booked online from India, on their website.  We produced the booking confirmation at the ferry entrance, when the staff nudged us to have the paper exchanged for the ferry tickets at the SNAV counter.  

The long queue at the counters posed another challenge.  We managed the feat successfully and boarded on time.  

The ferry was stylish and similar to the interiors a huge airplane, except for its bigger ground area. Fitting at least 200 passenger seats, placed in rows covering the entire floor, this ferry is the fastest one can find amongst its peers. It reached Capri in 45 minutes time. It is also a comfortable and cheap option that one should definitely consider.  The return journey was booked for 5:30 pm, giving us almost an entire day to explore the island.  A few of us managed to bag window seats while the others were forced to occupy empty ones wherever available. The occupancy was on “first come” basis.  The ferry was running full capacity that morning.  


The Smiling Island of CAPRI welcomed us at 10:30 am to a bright and sunny day.  The tour around the island was simplified by booking a private cab service, online, from India, well in advance,  for the entire day, accommodating the 8 of us.  It took a while at the pier to figure out the whereabouts of the vehicle operator.   There were yachts anchored everywhere and the streets looked similar.  This made it difficult to find the 'pick up point'  described on the booking confirmation.  We finally succeeded.


The Mercedes Vito was a comfortable one.  The Vehicle was at our disposal for the entire day.   The Driver gave us a rough idea of the itinerary  (refer video of the route map).   Without wasting much time, we raced towards our first stop - the GROTTO AZZURA or the BLUE GROTTO.   As I mentioned earlier, the island is split into two towns - CAPRI and ANACAPRI. 


We headed towards Anacapri town and stopped at a point from where the descend towards the Blue Grotto began on foot.  We were excited about the adventure of a life time.  The Vito reached the GROTTO AZZURA parking lot in less than 10 minutes.  All along, it sped up winding roads & offered incomparable views of the island that stood above the luscious Tyrrhenian sea. The shaded blue sky merged with the equivalent blue waters making it difficult to distinguish between the two.

The Grotto Azzura       (Anacapri)


The Island  is famous for its sea caves and grottos,  many of which still lie undiscovered.


The Blue Grotto or the Grotto Azzura is one such cave, carved into a perpendicular, rocky cliff,  in the Anacapri town. It opens up to a cavern of dimension 60 x 25 metres approx., that is completely lit only by the gleaming blue water which fills it. This much raved about natural phenomenon is caused due to a unique angle in which the sun rays filters itself through the mouth of its narrow opening.  It ensures passage of only the blue rays while filtering out the red.  The cobalt waters do provide an unusual feel. This is the reason it attracts millions of visitors throughout the year. 

Our taxi sped from the pier and reached a point above this cliff where it dropped us off.  We followed a descending path towards the mouth of the Grotto, to join a queue.   The aerial views of the dense blue waters of the Tyrrhenian sea, decorated with various shaped boats, carrying passengers to the mouth of the Grotto,  was colourful & exhilarating.   While few visitors followed the sea route, we simultaneously got there on foot.  The grotto, however, can only be accessed using small boats that facilitate entry through its narrow mouth measuring not more than four feet, both in height and width.  We witnessed people shifting to smaller boats before entering the cave. 

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As our queue grew closer to the mouth of the Grotto, we witnessed boats continuously passing through the narrow opening  on the rock.  The entry to the Grotto alternated between the queueing visitors and the ones who got there by boat.  It felt intriguing to watch visitors follow instructions of the boatman & lean backwards in sleeping position, before entering the cave.  We were somewhat next in queue while one of us managed to capture a short video of this process. 

The queue ended beside the mouth of the Grotto.  It was our turn soon.  Our group was split between two boats.  We hopped on and sat comfortably, with the respective boatmen manoeuvring it slowly towards the pitch dark vent.   It was more narrow than we expected.   The boats were so low and were balancing themselves at half a feet above the water.   We sat dunked in the them while the boatman tugged on an iron chain that was fitted to the cave entrance. At the blink of an eye, he swiftly landed the boat inside the cave.    


We were awe struck by the Shimmering blue floor of aqua that welcomed us inside.  It was unbelievable that the cave was lit naturally. While we waded around in total admiration, boats were continuously entering the enclosure one after and another.  Due to lack of space inside each boat was allocated just 5 minutes of wading. Time was very short. We hardly heard our boatman who summarised the phenomenon.   Most boats found themselves in a game of "dashing cars" barely managing to escape collision with each other. 


The History of this place attracted our attention.  Emperor Tiberius, the step son of Emperor Augustus (the first ROMAN emperor),  is said to have been so smitten by this cave that he moved his base from Rome to this island. We could clearly see why he chose it.  It also served as his holiday retreat.  The Grotto was extravagantly decorated for his personal pleasure and it is said that he swam for hours in the glittering waters but never got bored of it.  After his time, the grotto remained undiscovered for a short while.  Few of the artistic statues of Roman Sea Gods that were once installed in the grotto during Tiberius’s time, were discovered later and shifted to a museum in Anacapri, where they remain till date.

It didn't take long to get out of the Grotto. The venture was over even before we realised.  The boatman dropped us off at the steps and demanded a tip.  We paid him and climbed our way back to the parking lot where our hired vehicle stood.   The driver wasted no time.   


Anacapri town

Breezing once again past the Anancapri town we reached the Piazza dela Vittoria, a vibrant part of the town.  It took us approximately 10 minutes to get here from the Blue Grotto. We were to access the  Chair lift to get to the MONTE SOLARO mountain peak that stands towering over the Anacapri town. 


The Petite town of Anacapri  stands at a height above Capri town.  The word ANA means 'ABOVE' in Ancient Greek, thus giving the town its name.  The square was delightful with beautiful flowers blooming in every possible corner. Bright green trees stood proud under a perfectly blue sky.  The town was mostly populated by tourists.  The area was filled with branded shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars and cafes. It was nothing short of  paradise.  With little time to cover the entire town, we walked around the square before getting through to the chair lift station, by climbing our way past many restaurants. 


THE SEGGIOVIA MONTESOLARO - is the chair lift station.  We bought our return tickets at the counter.  The journey consists of an inclined ride on a single seater - suspended chair lift, lasting 13 minutes each way.   A cable-rope pulls an array of such chairs placed at regular intervals from each other.  The engines running these cable ropes are placed at both stations -( at the hill top and ground level).  

It was a sight to watch the chairs with passengers, continuously moving upward and a similar line running parallel, carrying returning passengers to the ground.  The mountain peak was nowhere in sight. We queued up and soon reached the ramp where the 'moving' chairs landed one after another. A staff member helped me board the next available empty chair. Though the seating was comfortable,  I grew a bit worried when I realised that the metal bar running across the chair was not of 'lockable' nature.  The bar moved easily and offered no comfort whatsoever to a feeble soul like me, but there was no time to think.   Luckily, the acceleration was slow. Even then, as the motion  began, my expensive goggles fell off. I was half way up in the sky when I helplessly watched it being picked up by a person.  The chair gently lifted us at the pace of a tortoise. The fear of falling off the chair and the "Goggles worry" took a back seat for a few minutes at the sight of the beautiful green forest that carpeted the mountain side.  It felt heavenly to glide above the forest in mid air, surrounded by the perfectly blue sea and sky.


The  thought of the hand-bar coming off with the probability of  pushing me to an accidental fall worried me. I held on to the chair as tightly as I could.  The rare mix of the feelings - fear and bliss gave way to a new experience.  I incidentally witnessed one of the visitors losing his camera during the ride.  It just fell off his hands and was gone.   I held on to my precious camera with my life. 


I managed to click photographs and decided to avoid shooting videos though  every scene on the way was worth a lifetime memory.   We soon reached the top.  I requested the person at the station to check with his colleagues on the ground, regarding the whereabouts of my goggles. Fortunately, the person who had picked it up had handed it over to the office personnel at the ground level. My mind fell at peace.  I had also successfully ridden the chair to reach the top

Monte Solaro


Arriving at the topmost point in the Island, I left my fears behind. We were greeted by white cobble-stoned flooring and an array of colourful flowers and greenery. The viewing balcony adjacent to the station was delightful and offered breath taking, exquisite views of the encircling blue waters and much more.   The mountain crest was large in area and neatly maintained. Standing nearly 600 metres above sea level, the MONTE SOLARO peak offers views of the Island's unmatched beauty in entirety.


The frondescence stretching across the craggy cliff sides high above the glittering blue Tyrrhenian Sea, with views of the Island's settlements scattered on the rocky surface below, mostly in white, provide enough and more photo opportunities.  The remains of the ancient fortress - FORTINO DI BRUTO  can be seen here. The edges of the mountain top are secured with white metal fencing in some parts while the other bits display the well maintained fortifications.  A part of the ruined fortress beholds a statue of EMPEROR CAESAR AUGUSTUS overlooking the sea. The emperor was the first to discover the island in 29BC.  It is said that he traded the nearby island of ISCHIA for Capri with Naples city, even though ISCHIA was extremely fertile.  The statue today symbolises the Island, showcasing it to the world. 

There are also definite hiking paths from Anacapri town to get to the top of Monte Solaro.  If you have more time on your hands,  try exploring Monte Solaro by foot.  


A Hilltop bar & restaurant provides refreshments and a unique experience of snacking under the sky.  We spent a while looking around before gorging on some hot coffee, snacks and ice-creams.  


Elegant furniture adorn the floor, with some of them offering more breathtaking views than the others. People are free to relax and savour some refreshments or re-discover the well maintained terrace gardens and orchards.

Imagine being able to cup clouds in your palms. This is a reality here. Thick clouds often shroud the mountain top covering the entire area. Monte Solaro is therefore popularly referred to as a CLOUD CATCHER . We hoped to experience this.


Exploring the fortress and Orchards


The panoramic 360degree view is sure to leave anyone spellbound.  It did that to us.  We held on to the railings as we savoured views of the deep blue sea turning green on its edges, the beautiful boats busy in their private journeys, the green mountain side forming a colourful border.  It was magical.


The cool wind blew perpetually The clear sky suddenly turned foggy instantly blocking the great views.  We tried our best to click as many pictures as possible but failed to race against the moving clouds. The mountain was living up to its pseudo name - cloud catcher indeed !  There were many pending view points to be visited in a short while.  Nevertheless, capturing the beauty of foggy clouds by itself was challenging.  We managed to catch a glimpse and also capture the famous FARAGLIONI ROCKS standing embedded in mid sea, before the clouds completely covered it.  That was real victory.


Capturing the clouds


Faraglioni Rocks

The Faraglioni is a three rock combination embedded in the Tyrrhenian Sea , just a little away from the shores of Capri.  A tunnel runs right through one of them (the middle rock)  forming a natural sea cave. The name FARAGLIONI is derived from an Ancient Greek word "Pharos" referring to a light house.   Fires were lit on these rocks to help sea vehicles find their way and hence the name fell.   This feature of using rocks as 'light houses' by lighting fires,  was common around the Mediterranean area.  However, the ones in Capri were known for unusual beauty, described in various literary works and so stood out among its peers.  The three rocks are in fact named individually - the SAETTA, STELLA & SCOPOLO.  A rare species of  ''blue lizard" is said to be found on top of the SCOPOLO. It camouflages itself well with the sea and sky, even when a few of these may not be actually blue in colour. Today these rocks are celebrated as 'natural monuments' of the Island.  The magnificence of these rocks can be viewed from various view points on the Island.

The FARAGLIONI ( just when the fog began setting in )





We were fortunate to view the FARAGLIONI from the MONTE SOLARO peak in Anacapri, just before the fog set in. We were also able to view them yet again in the Gardens of AUGUSTUS in Capri town, from a closer angle.   The visitors are also free to come up close with the rocks by a boat ride. A few smaller boats also help visitors pass through the sea cave of STELLA.  We, however, were happy with the land route around the Island.  If you compare the boats in the picture to the rocks you can get a fair idea of how tall these rocks actually are.  


In matter of minutes, the fast approaching thick clouds completely fogged the entire scene in front of our eyes.   All we managed to sight after that was 'pure white' surrounding the Monte Solaro. We caught the clouds.  We grabbed a few more refreshments and walked around before getting back to the CHAIR LIFT STATION.  We ferried ourselves back to the ground.    I was happy to collect my missing 'goggles' at the 'chair lift' station office.  

Back on the ground, we walked around the town and the surrounding paths diverging from the Piazza della Vittoria. The kind driver allocated to us an hours time here.  The vehicle had been parked near the piazza for sake of convenience.  We had our packed lunches by a corner at the Piazza before we made our way to our next stop in Capri Town.  


Capri Town

The Isola di Capri (Island of Capri), as you can see on the map, is divided into two towns, the right half of it being CAPRI TOWN and the left half - ANACAPRI TOWN.  This hand drawn, tourist map caught my attention in Anacapri town, where it is displayed in the town centre for navigation purposes.   Parts of the rocky surfaces of the island slowly developed into the current day commercial towns of Capri & Anacapri.  Its striking vistas have attracted prominent poets, artists, writers, celebrities and VIPs from all over the world.  Said to have been inhabited since the 8th century BC , the vivid description of the island has been discovered in many poems and literary works.


Capri welcomes millions of tourists at the Marina Grande pier.  The town  of Capri is well connected by buses, funiculars, private taxis from here.  There is no dearth of activities.  The town hosts a popular hiking path, a centuries old stairway - the PHOENICIAN STEPS, consisting of 921 steps, etched out in stone. This leads directly to Anacapri town. The glamorous  town is also well known for water sports.   Tourists may hire boats to tour the entire Island from the Marina Grande.   The town centre celebrates delicious cuisines and world class shopping.   Blessed by mountainous landscapes, surrounded by the sea, the town exhibits vibrant culture and embraces crowds.  Getting lost in the maze like narrow streets can be an inexpensive fun activity in the otherwise expensive town.  The funicular is said to offer panoramic views while passing by well laid out terrace gardens.  A bright sunny day can bring about  promising views of a life time.  There is something indulge everyone - the water lovers, the food lovers, Nature lovers, shopaholics, photographers, adventure explorers, lovers of history and culture or one can just simply relax.  


After being dropped off at a parking lot in the PIAZZETTA DI CAPRI in Capri town,  the driver suggested that we take a walk around the Capri town, including the GARDENIA DI AUGUSTUS (GARDENS OF AUGUSTUS ). He also guided us on our return path. The time allocated for the hike was more than enough to cover the entire town comfortably.  The town square seemed more crowded than the one in ANACAPRI.  


We caught sight of thick cumulus clouds literally engulfing the nearby mountain and  floating so close to the ground.  It felt like we could almost reach it. We watched in fascination as the humongous white moving cluster covered a large part of the immediate atmosphere almost blocking the entire view above our heads.  We continued on our walk once the clouds cleared up.


The   Capritown walk


Chiesa Di Santo Stefano


Though  ITALIAN by nature, the town of Capri has an exquisite character of its own.  The Island is capable of maintaining its unique features even though it accommodates crowds of  global tourists all year round. This big, green, hilly mound amidst the turquoise blue waters leaves no stone unturned to satisfy its visitors. The place thrives on tourism.  A cool mixture of  wide promenades but not so wide streets, a complex branch of narrow lanes and criss-crossing by-lanes, boutique hotels at every corner flaunting their vertical gardens & fresh blooms of varied colours,  shrubs & fruit plants growing in pots at unexpected corners are what make this Island unique.  We clearly followed the instructions from our driver, winding our way into the lively, bustling town.  The suggested path covered the heart of the town.

The Cheese Di Santo Stefano is a white coloured, Baroque styled, Catholic Church that stands at a height , occupying a corner near the Piazzetta Di Capri (Square).   We walked in amazement through the winding, stoned pathways, getting a 'first hand' feel of the town.  We gulped down a few SLUSHIES ( A glass of crushed ice, distinctively coloured  & layered in different fruity flavours ) to beat the exhaustion.


Hotel Qvisisana

A te'te-a-tete with HOTEL QVISISANA in a corner got us to appreciate the idea of big possibilities in small spaces.   The Hotel stood celebrating each of the EU countries with their flags on its balcony.   This added colour to the entire street.   The narrow lane to the right of this hotel led straight to the Augustus Gardens.   After a short photo shoot stop at the Hotel Square, we moved on to the bylane.   


The lane seemed more lively than the others.  Short trees elegantly arched over the narrow pathway, connecting the walls on either sides. The blue sea could be spotted at a distance. The crowds seemed relaxed navigating around.  We hit the dead end and turned right to enter the Gardens.


Gardenia Di Augustus


Narrow winding lanes homogenise into ravishing, terraced, flower gardens with definite stone hiking paths running high and low covering various view points. We didn't need to pay any entrance fee.  The main track snakes around the mountainside providing exquisite 180 degree views of the blue waters.  Bunches of thick greenery cover the water sights in most parts all along. Nevertheless the main trail leads to fantastic views of the FARAGLIONI ROCKS yet again.  We managed to take a peek at the rocks through the curving trees and planted shrubs & flowers.


The garden is equipped with rest rooms at regular intervals.  There are few interesting shops all along.  We were amazed at the sizes of various species of the lemon family.  We stopped by at a boutique selling handmade soaps, skin care products and yummy candies made of sugar & nuts.  We couldn't resist purchases. We walked the gardens high and low with no clue of what to expect.   We lost track of time.  The never-ending pathways promised more than what we could cover.  We missed the views of the VIA KRUPP - a 100 metre long road that winds its way downward with steep hair pin bends &  stretches vertically on the mountain side.  The gardens are supposed to offer the best aerial views of this curvy road.  We found our way back to the parking lot.  The driver dropped us off at the Marina Grande and bid farewell.   

Back at the Marina Grande


A cool stroll by the pier side of the most happening part of Capri town was inevitable.  We walked almost the entire length of the promenade exploring shops and souvenirs.  We had a while before our return ferry to Naples.   We were invited into one of the shops for a free tasting of Italy's very own  'LIMONCELLO ' (pronounced LEEMO CHELLO) - a lemon based mild alcoholic drink.    It was bitter , sweet, tangy all at the same time with a dash of alcoholic feel.   The rich growth of lemon trees at throughout the country is proof enough of why this drink is almost labelled as Italy's National drink


We stopped by a seaside restaurant for a few refreshments.  We tried the Italian Pizza and few other vegetarian delicacies followed by beverages.   The restaurant service was beyond compare.  The waiter came up with great suggestions and served yummy food with warmth & smiles.  The decor was simple and elegant.   Rows of wind chimes tinkled in the breeze.  We chilled out and occupied the large table for a long time, much after we were done with eating. Breathing the sea, relishing the blue sky, feeling the vibrance, savouring good food, we couldn't get enough of the Island.  It was sad that we had to leave.


Bidding a fond farewell to this lively island was difficult.  We definitely hope to get back there someday and spend more than a day.  We caught our return ferry on time and headed back to Naples city.  Back in the city we boarded a metro train to get to Salvator Rosa yet again.  After a bit of grocery shopping, we called it a day.  This was end of day 17 of our tour.

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