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There’s a slight breeze riffling the evergreen oaks and pines which cling tenaciously to the chalky limestone cliffs… and it’s a welcome farewell to the baking heat of a Mediterranean summer afternoon.
It’s not quiet, though, as the demented cries of raucous seagulls (hadedas on speed, if you ask me) bounce off the sheer white rock walls.
But, as I sit, alone on a simple concrete bench more than 100m above the sea, I have to breathe deeply to take it all in. It’s so overwhelming in its majesty you feel you are dreaming, caught in a 1960s romance movie.
This has to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth, this rock thrusting out of the sea, this Capri, this “Blue Island”.
Looking down, I identify at least three different shades of blue as the crystal clear waters of the Med (no sandy beaches or crashing waves to disturb the picture here) and the kelp-bedecked rocks below the surface keep changing the image.
Azure. That’s the word which best describes the colour. No surprise. Azure comes from the Italian, the Latin.
The national football team is known as the Azzurri (the Blues) and here, on Capri, is the Grotta Azzurra (the Blue Grotto), an amazing sea cave which works miracles of light, shade and pulsating colour.
Go to this place and you’ll forever question the old belief that blue means sad. Blue means peace, it means freedom, it means love.
As you come to that realisation, you understand why Capri, and the adjacent Amalfi coast of southern Italy, are some of the most popular honeymoon destinations on the planet.
As I sit here, in the descending peace of evening, I am alone. This is a place to share – particularly at this time of day, when the day-tripper tourists have headed off the island.
No words, just a chilled white wine and two glasses… The solitude is truly surprising – although this cliff-side eyrie is halfway around a strenuous 8km round-trip hike – especially after the earlier throngs of tourists I swam through as I started my initial exploration of the island.
Thousands of people descend every day on the island (especially in summer), on day cruises or ferries from the mainland (Naples and the adjacent areas). And, like package visitors everywhere, they’re determined to see as much as possible as quickly as possible.
A much better way to is stay two or three days on Capri and then, after the tourist tide ebbs each day, you will have your own space.
And staying on the island is hardly a hardship.
There is a range of hotels and guest establishments where you can base yourself – ranging from five-star film celebrity pads to smaller, family-run hotels. It is at one of these, Hotel La Certosella, that I make my home for two nights. It’s a three-star hotel and priced at around the same rate as an equivalent place in SA… but the Italian grading system, I think, is better than ours, in that a three-star property would probably be worth four stars in our country.
At La Certosella, there is a quiet, understated Italian elegance in the decoration of the large double room. With attractive ceramic tiles on the floor (a must in the heat of summer), effective air-conditioning and a top-notch bathroom, the hotel offers everything you could wish for.
But, as they say in the Verimark ads, there is more.
La Certosella is not like any mainland European chain hotel. It’s on a property which has been there for a century and a half and is more like a family villa, with a cool, well-cared-for garden and a pool deck offering a view of the western side of the island.
Plus, the staff speak good English – and internet access is included in the price.
Eating out is what Italians – and most Europeans – do, and Capri has a host of places to indulge your palate. It’s not cheap, by SA standards at least – but you are getting top quality… and service to match. My advice: try the local seafood and avoid the clichéd pizzas until you’re back home.
Capri has had, and still has, a fascination for people from all walks of life – but the creative and artistic are attracted here as moths to a flame.
Swedish doctor, writer and naturalist Axel Munthe was enchanted by Capri and bought a local dwelling in AnaCapri (the upper part of the island) which hetransformed into his dream house, the Villa San Michelle. His book about that quest – The Story of San Michelle – is said to be one of the most translated books in history.
A visit to the villa will cost you n6 (about R64) but is well worth it. His story is fascinating – and nowhere more so than in his relationship with the Swedish Crown Princess Victoria, who later became queen of that country. Although the two never married, they were clearly a couple and spent much time at the villa.
As a doctor, Munthe served as a medic in the killing fields of France in World War I and is said to have been a proponent of euthanasia, often putting badly wounded soldiers out of their misery with overdose injections.
Perhaps Capri was the place he came to soothe and heal his wounded soul. From the balcony at the top of the Villa San Michele, even surrounded by clumps of tourists and their chatter, it is easy to see why he would have loved this unique island.
It is a place to sit, to inhale and reconnect with one’s soul. And one of the best places on the planet to share…
The warmer months – from Easter until about October – are best, but it can get extremely hot (up to 40°C and sometimes humidity as high as 90 percent) in the summer months of June, July and August. Take sun screen and drink plenty of fluids.
Moving around Capri is down to leg power – and you’re going to need quite a bit of it if you want to get to its most scenic parts. However, there are regular bus services to various places around the island, a funicular railway – and open-top taxis.
l Getting there: I flew Air France to Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, then on to Naples. You can hire a car or a scooter in Capri – but don’t bother… the roads are horrendously narrow.
Ferries run to and from Capri from Naples and the main towns on the nearby Amalfi coast, but you can take a trip with an organisation like Cassiopea-Positano, which is based in Positano and offers day trips as well as transfers to Capri. - Saturday Star
If You Go...
For good advice and assistance and customised travel packages, South African Dawn Klatzko is a mine of information and has wonderful contacts:
l www.positanovacations.it / email@example.com /
Tel +39 333 4635739 /
Flying there: www.airfrance.co.za