The life raft service man e-mailed John to say that he will be able to bring the life raft back early next week. We had hoped it would be back this week, but it was good that he let us know. The weather is due to turn warm again for the weekend, but we cannot sail without a life raft. John did some research and reckoned that at this time of year we go to Capri for the weekend and stay in a hotel for not much more than it normally costs us to rock and roll in the marina there. I did not need much persuading. We packed our small backpacks and set out walking into town, caught an early train to Sorrento, where we paused for coffee, crossed on the ferry and had lunch at around two in Lo Zodiaco on Capri watching the turmoil in the harbour and keeping out of the crush ashore. It is one of the restaurants near the marina and we have enjoyed eating there before of an evening. We shared stuffed courgette flowers and I had fish cooked in ‘crazy water’. I asked the waiter what the crazy water was, but he misunderstood me and just said ‘sea bass’ and was obviously very busy, so I still don’t know. John had a fabulous mixed seafood linguini. Fortified by all this we set off shrugging our way through the milling crowds; up the funicular, through the square, along the avenue of posh shops and down a side street to our hotel, immaculate in its blue and white tiles. Our room overlooks the pool and one of the Faraglioni Rocks and had a bath. I had a long soak before going down to have G&T’s on the terrace prior to heading out to a restaurant, which on booking had offered views of the sun going down on the famous rocks. Sadly from my seat a man in a red sweater obscured them, but we were soon plunged into an inky blue night and I did enjoy the combination of mussels, saffron and linguini. Half a day and two meals in to our stay in Capri wandered back along the narrow streets.
Day 2: John heroically offered go up the chairlift with me to the top of Mount Solaro. I love the chair lift, sitting with my feet dangling in space being drawn slowly up and up above the wildflowers and gardens with just the quiet hum of the machinery and all the busy bother of humanity melting away below. John is not at all keen on it. To get to the chairlift we took a taxi to Anacapri, a thrill ride in itself not even Top Gear have tackled. When we arrived the mountain was swathed in cloud so we went for a coffee at one of the cafes by the steps. The owner quietly suggested we change table, as a tour guide was due to address her party from a table just behind – in Danish. We moved and sat in the sun drinking coffee for a while. Then we explored the shops. Finally John decided to bite the bullet and I had a lovely ride up in front of him and he enjoyed arriving at the top. The cloud mostly still obscured the Faraglioni Rocks, though we were afforded glimpses as vapour streamed up from the cliff edge of the whole toe of the island with boats speeding towards it from all directions. I bought John a well earned Peroni and we had a wander round the stony garden at the top before queuing to catch a chair back down, which is even more exhilarating as the chairs fly over the edge into space. An added bonus of taking the trip at this time was the many sparrows nesting in the hollow horizontal sections of the pylons. Each approaching support was heralded by a cacophony of cheeping, with adults darting in and out and at one point two youngsters poked their heads out of an end to have a look at me. Once back at Base Camp 1 we headed off to the Villa San Michele, to wander in the lovely gardens and have bruschetta on the rooftop terrace, where a wedding party was in full sway.
The Villa is so peaceful, even with a wedding on, that it was a shock to come back into the throngs milling about the steps at the foot of the chairlift. There was a relatively short queue for the bus, but as each tiny bus arrived already packed to the gunnels and either only took on a couple of people of drove straight past without stopping, this line steadily increased. After another tour of the nearby shops we joined the unruly scrum waiting for a taxis, which came in feasts and famines. A shiny blue bridal car arrived for the happy couple from Villa San Michele, its’ driver cheerfully repelling would be boarders. A collective murmur of appreciation broke out as the bride in her stunning frock cut a glamorous passage to her carriage. Then the wedding photographer set about stage management of the scene, pushing back the crowds and dictating terms of departure to the bride and groom, but his reign was cut short by the arrival of four large open top taxis. A large bearded man, responsible for allocating taxis to the waiting throng set matters straight as to who was actually in charge, the muddled crowd milled forward under his direction and John and I were allocated a taxi right on the edge that managed to whisk round and set off down to Capri at speed leading the charge. The centre of Capri town was heaving with people, so we headed back to our hotel and a very relaxing afternoon by the pool, sunbathing as the olive trees dropped tiny flowers onto us and swimming in the bracing waters looking across the infinity drop to the Faraglionis.
That evening we made our way back into town, in the peace that follows the departure of the main ferry services. We had a table booked at Da Giorgio a ristorante with a wood fired pizza oven and a stunning location overlooking the harbour. This time our table was right on the edge of the fabulous view. We shared a saffron risotto and baked fish and it was all so good we reserved the same table for tomorrow night.
Day 3: After breakfast we set out into the early morning peace, mindful to move aside for the silent but numerous electric vehicles weaving around making deliveries up and down the steep street. Most places were still closed, so we paused for a coffee in the square, being careful to pick the café where all the old locals were sitting over their morning espressos. I’m sure we paid triple the amount they all did. As we sat the first tour parties began assembling at the head of the funicular, so we set out to have a look at the garden before it became overrun. The doorways of the designer shops were still furnished with bin liners and the bougainvillea draped passage to the garden the province of dog walkers. We paid our 2 Euros strolled around until the place became besieged by a large group with a strident guide. Following the garden we had planned to walk down the snaking Krupps road to Marina Picola, the other smaller harbour on the island, but the way was barred to us. A notice sited the danger of falling rocks. Undeterred we decided to find the alternative path from the square, but before that headed off to look round the monastery, which we can see from our hotel room.
Entry to the monastery was free on account of the building work going on. A large bank of seating was being erected on in the cloister over the meadow. We will have to look and see what event is in the offing. The sound of power tools and hammering rather shattered the usual peace of the buildings, but the half abandoned gardens were still an oasis of calm. We celebrated with a selfie in front of the Faraglionis, not easy given how far below us they were. We went to have a look in the exhibition rooms, but they were between shows, though the passage through the empty spaces was pleasant. The overgrown courtyard garden could have been a show garden at Chelsea; full blown roses, citrus trees, swathes of sage and rosemary set in a matrix of feather headed grasses and tiny wildflowers set inside mellow walls. Clusters of green embryo grapes were beginning to hand from the pergola, perhaps when we come again there will be fruits.
Onwards to Marina Piccola, retracing our steps back to the square, out along the road to Anacapri and down onto the footpath leading steeply down to the far shore, just us and a few locals heading home with their bags of groceries. Eventually the steep path gave way to sets of steps and we met the end of the road, cobbled area where the buses and taxis could turn round. It was hard to see the shore below for the terraces of swimming platforms and restaurants, but we found a way down to the tiny harbour and a pebble beach reminiscent of Cornwall. We sat on the edge of the path in the sun calmed by the rhythm of the sea. Next to us sat a chap swigging a bottle of cold beer, so after a while we went in search of our own. The nearby beach-bar was clatteringly busy and we were avoiding the young man at the harbour trying to inveigle us onto one of his deckchairs as we passed on principle, so we went back up the cobbled square. The bar there looked more interested in avoiding custom, the waiter topping up a wine glass at one empty table and a woman talking incessantly on her phone holding the back of a chair at the other one. To our right a hot looking man in a starchy white uniform stood holding a menu at the entrance to a beach resort. We looked over the edge to the lido below and a stout individual in shorts waved for us to come down. This went slightly against our principles of ignoring those who tout, but the restaurant and looked busy and a man was chiselling away at an interesting mound of salt crust, so we went half way. “We just want beer”, I said, very firmly, “No Problem”. We were waved through and passed baton-like through a series of smiling young men as we wound our way down the steps and onto a wooden platform to a table in front of the full glory of the Faraglioni Rocks. It made for the ultimate beer photograph. After a respectful interval our young man sidled a snacks menu onto the table, “In case you want “. There were variations on sandwiches, wraps and toasties. We opted for Crostoni, which he explained as being big versions of Crostini. It was a round of toast on which had been piled a chef’s salad of rocket, tomatoes, mozzarella, tuna and olives. After coffee he offered to take our photograph in front of the rocks and I swapped my seat accordingly. It is definitely somewhere to go back to for a full meal in the shaded restaurant, but we had a date with Giorgios for the evening. We climbed up to the cobbles square and stumbled into a taxi, which spirited us up to the top. Mindful of the forecast of rain to come we bought umbrellas, which proved very necessary. Our early evening drinks stop was called short as the rain began and we arrived at Da Giorgios half an our early, but they had our table ready and nodded sympathetically about the poor weather.
Day 4: Raining steadily. We set off straight back after breakfast, passing sodden tour groups making the best of it. The connections came thick and fast and we were soon speeding across a slightly bumpy sea to a dripping Sorrento. We had just missed a train, so waited about an hour, but at least were able to secure dry seats. Back on board it was as if we had never been away.