Isle of Capri
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On Day Three of our Barcelona 2009 Cruise, our ship will pull into Naples in southern Italy.

This stop will definitely be one of the highlights of the trip.  It will also create a massive headache for our guests:

Do I visit Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii? 

Or do I go see the wonderful beauty of the Amalfi Coastline?

Or do I visit the stunning Isle of Capri?

Rick and Marla have already decided it's going to be the Isle of Capri.  Our friends Kurt and Jean Wind told us this island is not to be missed.  They visited the Isle of Capri several years ago and can't wait to go back and see it again. 

As you see Kurt's eyes light up, you know he isn't kidding.  It's tough to pass on something as important as Pompeii, but this time Rick and Marla are going for the beauty! 

We hope many of you will join us for the day-long excursion.  With this in mind, Marla did some serious research.  Here is what she discovered!

The Isle of Capri
Written by Marla Archer

Italy’s most romantic getaway, the Island of Capri is one of the most scenic islands in the world.  Beautiful whitewashed luxury villas draped in bougainvillea, rugged cliffs extending down to the sea and ancient alleyways through medieval villas, Capri’s blissful attributes are enchanting.

The Isle of Capri is only accessible by boat.  This little island on the Bay of Naples near the Amalfi Coast attracts glitzy jet setters that flock to the Piazzetta, just as Jackie Onassis and Audrey Hepburn did when they helped popularize the island in the 1950’s and 60’s. 

Many of you have heard of Capri Pants. Capri Pants ("capris") are a style of pants usually worn in warm weather.

Capri pants were first designed by European fashion designer, Sonja de Lennart in 1948.  Thanks to the jetset crowd, they grew in popularity during the Fifties throughout Europe. Capris became popular in the United States during the 1960s, largely due to the influence of the popular television series The Dick Van Dyke Show. The character of Laura Petrie, the young housewife played by Mary Tyler Moore, caused a fashion sensation – and some mild controversy – by wearing snug-fitting capri pants during the show's run. 

The Piazzetta

he legendary Piazzetta opens out on to a fabulous view of Monte Solaro.  The Piazzetta is the center of the island of Capri for tourists and locals alike. All those arriving in Capri have to pass through the narrow passages left between the tables outside of the various bars.

In the courtyard of the town hall there is the trunk of a column and a fragment of a circular marble base, discovered in the 1920’s during the construction of the port, and probably belonging to the Villa Augustea of Palazzo a Mare.  The Piazzetta was the center of local life, where vegetable and fish markets were held and, where, very infrequently considering the rarity of the product in times past, meat was sold. It was not until 1938, when the young Raffaele Vuotto decided to place a few tables in the square, that the Piazzetta began to take on a more fashionable appearance. From that moment onwards the Piazzetta became the focal point of island social life, which had previously been carried out predominantly in the town’s hotels and in private houses.

The Faraglioni Rock Formation

The island of Capri is also home to mysterious natural wonders.  and the massive rock formations of Faraglioni.  The Faraglioni are three blocks of rock that have survived coastal landslides, erosion by the sea and all manner of atmospheric corrosion. The rocks have each been given a name: the first, still attached to the land, is called Stella, the second, separated from the first block by a stretch of sea; Faraglione di Mezzo and the third, Faraglione di Fuori or Scopolo, in other words the head or promontory stretching into the sea. The Faraglione di Fuori is the habitat for a famous species of blue tinted lizard, the Lacerta viridens faraglionensis, and is the only place where it can be found. It is thought that, following the separation from the mainland; a sort of protective chromatic adaptation resulted in the lizards’ scales assuming the blue tones of the sea and sky. The height of the Faraglioni is, on average, 100 meters. The Faraglione di Mezzo is characterized by a cavity, a natural tunnel that has become famous throughout the world.

Blue Grotto

The renowned Blue Grotto is an incredible underground sea cave that continues to amaze visitors with its brilliant almost iridescent waters Capri’s Blue Grotto is known throughout the world for its size, the intense blue tones of its interior and the magical silvery light that emanates from the objects immersed in its waters. Visitors to the Grotta Azzurra can arrive either by bus or taxi from Anacapri; or by boat from Marina Grande in one of the tour boats that stop at the entrance of the cave during the trip around the island. In order to enter the Grotta Azzurra visitors climb aboard small rowing boats, with a capacity for two, maximum three, passengers and, lying on the bottom of the boat, enter the low and narrow mouth of the cave.

Entrance to the cave is not possible in the presence of south westerly and mistral winds.  A small natural opening in the rocky wall forms the entrance to the Grotta Azzurra, roughly 2 meters wide and 2 meters high. The roof of the entrance is situated approximately 1 meter above the level of the sea and, for this reason; passengers are obliged to lie down in the boat whilst passing in to the cave. The boatman sets down his rows and maneuvers the boat inside with the aid of a chain attached to the vault of the entrance. 

The Blue Grotto’s interior is effused with magnificent blue tones. The vault, known as the Duomo Azzurro, has an average height of 7 meters rising to 14 towards the back of cave. The erosion cavity is approximately 60 meters long and up to 25 meters wide. The cave continues with the Galleria dei Pilastri, three connecting branches which flow into the Sala dei Nomi, the name of which was inspired by the numerous signatures left by visitors on the walls of the cave. Then there is the Passaggio della Corrosione, and the Sala della Corrosione, the furthest accessible point.  The blue coloring of the Grotta Azzurra is created by the daylight, which enters via an underwater opening located immediately below the entrance to the cave.

The light is filtered by the water, which absorbs the red tones, leaving only the blue ones to pass into the cave.  A second phenomenon creates the silver appearance of the objects immersed in the water: given that the index of refraction of the bubbles of air which adhere to the surface of the objects is different to that of the water, the light is allowed to egress.  It is believed that, in the Roman period, under the rule of Tiberius, the interior of the Grotta Azzurra was used as a marine nymphaeum.

There have been those who imagined the cave as the habitat of Nereidi or of Sirens or believed it to be the realm of devils that bewitched all who dared to enter.

The Tragara Hike

Great history, nature, and culture have made Capri one of the most desirable tourist destinations of all times.   Capri has followed a really unique path, from Roman emperors villas to soul-travelers, and intellectuals of ‘800 and beginning of ‘900, up to the worldly holidays of the international jet set during the Fifties (which made it famous all over the world.) Capri is full of natural beauty and charm.

Tragara is the most famous and best liked walk in Capri. 
Via Tragara is a road of ancient origins built in Roman times, now a favorite route along which tourists stroll and the address of a number of luxurious villas.

There are many elegant villas scattered along the way.  A walk not to be missed is to the left, at the end of Via Camerelle.  There is a steep but short path that leads to Via Tragara, a road that dates back to Roman times.  The road is flat and well kept, lined with hotels, high-class restaurants, and magnificent villas, of which passers-by can catch only a glimpse of the entrances amidst the lush vegetation that screens the property from indiscreet eyes.

Buildings of particular note along Via Tragara include the German Evangelical Church, built in typical transalpine style and most unusual for Capri; Villa Discopoli, residence of the writer Rainer Maria Rilke; Villa Lo Studio where the poet Pablo Neruda stayed, and the Hotel Punta Tragara, said to have been designed, if only in part, by the architect Le Corbusier.

Via Tragara ends with a panoramic terrace with a fabulous view over the Faraglioni rocks. To the left you can see a part of the Amalfi Coast and to the right, you can see houses clinging to the slopes, the castle-topped Monte Castiglione, Monte Solaro and the bay of Marina Piccola. From Tragara belvedere, you can enjoy a wide view of the island’s southern side.  You will see Marina Piccola that over hangs the steep face of Mount Solaro, including the big opening of the Fern’s Grotto in the center.

Monte Solaro is the highest part of Capri, towering 589 meters above sea level, and boasting a 360° panorama of the island of Capri.  Monte Solaro is also called “Acchiappanuvole” or “cloud catcher” after the thick blanket of fog, which forms around the summit, especially at dawn, when the thermal difference between the sea and the rock is accentuated. The warmer, damper sea air condenses in a dense mist on the ground, the temperature of which has notably diminished during the night. Where its path is obstructed, the vapors rise upwards generating a characteristic crown of clouds. This phenomenon also occurs in the evening, especially in the autumn. The wind clears away parts of cloud, randomly revealing various segments of the beautiful island landscape below.

The Tragara Hike takes you to the top of Monte Solaro. 
The summit of Monte Solaro can be reached by foot in approximately an hour and a half.  However, for the footwork-challenged, as an alternative, visitors can take the chair lift, thereby arriving at the peak in just 12 minutes. 

Here one finds the ruins of the Fortino di Bruto built at the start of the 1800’s, in the period of the battles between the English and the French.  In the distance one can identify the mountains of Calabria, the Pennines and the Amalfi coast, the Sorrentine peninsula, the Gulf of Naples, and the islands of Procida and Ischia. 

At Cape Massullo, the wildest area of the island, we find Casa Malaparte.  It was the residence of the Tuscan writer Curzio Malaparte, who called it “Casa come me”.  Malaparte’s house is really a unique architectural event in Capri context.  It doesn’t follow any of the island building manners, it doesn’t do anything to camouflage into surroundings and nevertheless we can’t imagine any other place where it could have been built.  So much it had entered into collective way of viewing that it is considered an integral part of the landscape:  in fact this area is simply called “at Malaparte’s” by people from Capri.

On the northwestern promontory of the island, overhanging two capes of Vertereto and Arcera, we find another Roman imperial villa called ‘Damecuta’, name of unknown provenance that also indicates the whole headland’s area.  For its outstanding, solitary and defensive position, it recalls Villa Jovis and is probably another Villa by Tiberius.  From Damaecuta you can enjoy a long range of vision towards the gulf especially Cape Miseno and Phlegraean islands.

Visitors to Capri are often surprised by the quantity and variety of walking routes on such a small island. Along these pathways, tourists can choose to immerse themselves in the authentic atmosphere of a coastal village, inhabited by fishermen and sailors; explore the marine caves; walk through masses of sheer rock and peer over precipices which drop dramatically into the sea; saunter through the patches of land cultivated by the country dwellers, planted with olive groves and orchards of lemon and orange trees; or stroll through the center of Capri with its ostentatiously luxurious boutiques, elegant hotels, artists studios, churches, and the remains of Roman villas.

One of the magical things about Capri is that, even in peak season in August, when the roads are crowded with tourists, one can always find a solitary spot in which to rest, or a hidden bay where to take a romantic swim in the crystal clear waters. 

The enchanted Isle of Capri is indeed a magical place to visit for a day because so much beauty can be seen wherever your feet wish to take you!

(Rick and Marla's Note: We hope you all will join us for the trip to Capri!  This sounds like a perfect adventure for people who get tired of being dependent on guides.  For once, we can go where we want and bask in the sun on the most beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea!)

The Piazzetta

The massive rock formations of Faraglioni

Blue Grotto

Tragara Hike

Restaurant at the top of the Tragara Hike

Fortino di Bruto

The island of Procida as seen from Monte Solaro



Barcelona 2009 Home Barcelona Day One Barcelona Day Two Isle of Capri Day Three Evil Map of Rome Day Four
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