Friday, September 25, 2009

The Isle of Capri swimming in azure seas

You should have seen the views we had when we woke at the Hotel & Spa Bellavista Francischiello - oh, hang on a sec - you can! Thanks to the age of the digital camera. Before we went down to breakfast, we watched the sea get choppier and choppier from the other side of the bay. Out towards the Isle of Capri however, it was like a millpond.

Breakfast was served down in the restaurant and was sumptuous. Helen was commenting that it was the first time in ages that we have not had croissants and before we could blink, three were delivered to our table! The coffee was great and there was a functioning toaster so we could have dead set real toast - yum.

Once we had checked out, we got into the car and braced ourselves for the trip down into Sorrento from our wonderful hotel on the hill. By the time we get down there, we need to find a parking station - there is NO on-street parking anywhere for cars - just motorbikes, so it is in to one at €1.50 per hour which is much more reasonable than I expected. We head back to the main square which is really a very small roundabout around which cars zoom from 5 directions and look for the signs to the Porto.

From here we follow the signs that point down one of the narrow shopping streets and then away. Too late, we realise that the way down (and I mean down!) to the Port is via a steep hairpinned road, or a number of sets of staircases. Steep staircases. Too bad we did not have a map before we set out on this leg, we could have known to catch the bus down! So, down those blasted stairs we go. My hip is not happy and Hels has jarred her knee - not a great start to our island day!

Once we are down at ground zero, Michael and Helen head off to buy ferry tickets. Eventually the ferry arrives about 10 minutes late. I don't get a good feeling while watching them try to berth it - 3 goes it takes with the vessel tossing and lurching in the surf that is trapped inside the harbour walls being fed by a large swell! The poor fellow who is tossing the mooring rope has to rescue it, sodden, from the water twice. Not a good look at all! The passengers disembark and then it is own turn to board. There is a long line of people waiting and we slowly inch forward onto the pontoon. Then onto the gangways that have a mind of their own - sliding and jumping on the pier. They are each being held firm by two of the crew who struggle to keep them still while we all clamber to get on board. Once on board, it does not seem nearly as rough as it looks - ah, thank goodness for catarmarans!

The water is very choppy inside the harbour, but once we are outside its walls, it settles to a more reasonable roll very quickly. The trip will take a little longer than the advertised crossing time of 25 minutes as they are taking the boat further along the coast of the island to ensure a safe approach. So a little more than 30 minutes after we depart, we are docking at the Isle of Capri. People pour off the boat onto land. It takes a few minutes for me to get my land legs together and stop the rolling that they had just become used to. The crowd disperses into the island where there are loads of taxis waiting and one lone bus. Along the shore there are a number of ferry moorings and a small fleet of private boats - including some that would have very heavy price tags!

The bus up to the top of the Island is packed with people jammed on like sardines from the bay! There is no way that we can get on, so we wait for the nest one, supposedly sue in 10 minutes. While waiting we check out the cost for one of the taxis. Now, the bus fare is all of €3 and the cabbie wants €25! So you know where he can put that!!!
The taxis are all convertibles - and they must be a joy to ride the winding roads on a warm and sunny day. In fact, today is quickly going from drab to fab as the sun burns off the clouds that had threatened to dampen our spirits. He starts his negotiations for a 2 hour tour at €150, but quickly comes down to €120. He won't budge below €100 though and that is way over Michael and my budget for the day. So, back to wait for the bus we go.

The bus eventually turns up 20 minutes after the last one. A queue has grown again, but we are one of the first on and so manage to get seats on the small bus. By the time we leave about 5 minutes later, it is jam-packed again! Gosh, I know that the main tourist season is over, but in this shoulder season there should still be more services operating. And so, off up the hill we go. Now we have travelled on some narrow roads recently, but this one really takes the cake. At some point, we meet another bus coming down the mountain and things get very very tight - there is literally one inch between the side mirrors of the two buses and the side mirror and the rock wall we are passing - I kid you not. Helen actually took a video to show her kids, but the file is too big to upload here. Ask her to show you (and you will hear her in the background tell how she has been scarred for life while driving the Amalfi Coast roads that are about twice as wide as this road!)

Its only about 10 minutes to the top where we all alight into - streets even busier with tourists. We are hungry and so find a cliff top little cafe and settle in for toasties, pasta and milkshakes - mine was lemon - and don't knock it till you try it - amazing! As soon as we are finished we head over to the railing edge to have photos with the amazing beauty of the island and the Gulf of Naples in which it sits.

Shopping on the Isle of Capri will generally require you to have long arms and filled deep pockets. Especially in the resort town of Capri, the offerings are all up-market and up-price. Lots of high end fashion and jewellery on sale - and lots of Japanese tourists who have bags from these shops walking around here! Helen has been looking for a pair of Capri pants and had an experience much like Julia Robert's character in Pretty Woman (when she quotes "I tried to buy some clothes here yesterday, but you refused to serve me. Big mistake, Huge!") Many of the shop-keepers in Capri have a very disdainful attitude to the tourists. That might not be an issue for them in the summer months, but now that the main holiday period is over, you would think that they would welcome the sales income. So a rude, uncooperative seller who had shirts that appealed lucked out on what would have been a fairly major purchase. And in his place, we found another two shopkeepers in the quieter part of the tourist stretch at the front of the marina who could not have been more obliging. And guess what? They were rewarded with good sales when she found the elusive capri pants - we had assumed that they would be easy to buy here, but they were not! Thanks for being so lovely Vincenzo and Claudia!

Helen had been the one who really wanted to come to the island today with the hope of seeing the famous and beautiful Blue Grotto. But as the sea is so rough, cruises have been cancelled. There is one company who is selling tickets on a cruise around the isand, but as we watch, they cancel that and bring the people who had been waiting on the boat, off. The gangplank was bouncing even more than what it was on our ferry earlier. So, unfortunately, the closest poor Helen gets is to the poster outside one of the sales kiosks! And while we are there taking this photo, I turn to the harbour where we see some amusing warning signs. This one in particular took my fancy!

And all too soon, our time on the Isle of Capri is done. We have tickets to get the ferry at 3:45 pm. It's running late due to the seas, and then when they do berth they are frantically hurrying everyone to get on board - no doubt they are trying to rescue their timetable. The boat is full and we are all separated in finding seats for the trip back across the bay. All too soon, we are back at Sorrento later than we would have liked as we haved a 4 hour drive ahead of us to Roma. So it is a cab trip back to the parking station to save our (my) legs and some time. We leave Sorrento and drive further around the coast to join the motorway to Rome. And back on the motorway we pass again through the outskirts of Napoli - seeing smoke yet again, but this time we are witnessing a house fire.

On the road trip in to Roma, the changing sky tonight is very beautiful after the rain. We watch as the rays first shine on through the cloud layers before later they create an awe-inspiring silver lining on another bank of clouds before the night claims victory over the sun. And then as the lights in the City come on, we join the queues of traffic seeking entry!

We have opted to save some money by staying a little way out of the centre of Rome, but on good transport connections. And our approach has paid off! Our accommodation at the Hotel Domidea is a few steps from a bus that takes us to one of the main Metro lines into the City. They also have a shuttle bus that they use to ferry their guests to and from the station with prior booking. Both are convenient! And our room is a suite! Helen has her own bedroom for only the second time on her trip and we share a separate bathroom. But there is no restaurant on the premises. They suggest the restaurant next door - La Biga. It presents as more of a function centre than as a restaurant complete with tacky decorations, big screen with the ever popular 'booby' Italian game shows and musak blaring. The food is definitely the pre-packaged 'heat-in-microwave' variety. But food it is. Actually, my main course of Tagliolini al Limone is actually very good - ah lemons, one of the best fruits that Italy has to offer!

Off to do the Vatican in the morning, so not too late a night!

1 comment:

vincenzo celentano said...

hello maria!!!!
we saw the foto of us in the shop in capri
thank-you for your lovely comments
it was a pleasure to meet you
hope you come back to see us when you visit capri again
vincenzo and claudia xxx
via roma 69
via cristoforo colombo 77