Europe Day 10: Capri
25 Sep 2012
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Sorrento, Capri, Florence, Pisa
Tuesday 25th September
Europe Day 10: Capri
The usual start to the day – an early one! Breakfast offerings were pizza, cakes, pastries and sweet tarts, along with the usual cereal, muesli, toast and hot drinks. Some of that will make for a good picnic lunch!
There is another optional tour today, for EUR55 each we can take in the Isle of Capri. We decide to go it alone as the ferry trip to Capri is already included in the tour. A very small, very noisy bus seats eight, the other 26 crammed in where they could find room, takes us down to the docks.. We soon see why the bus is so small, anything bigger would not get around the tight corners down the road cut into the cliff. At the dock a local guide takes over, and again the few of us not coughing up for the additional tour are shunted off with barely a word. We are given our ferry tickets and told to “wait at dock three, over there”. Tony approaches Mariella and the local guide is quite rude in telling him that he cannot talk to her, he must only talk to the local guide. As it happened it had nothing to do with the days’ events, so he ignored her.
We head down to the docks and wait as instructed, there is a good forty minutes before our ferry is due. The local guide arrives with the rest of the tour, and tells us we can all get on the next ferry, so we will have an extra half hour on the island. The trip doesn’t take too long at all, but little can be seen on the way as there are no forward view windows. There is not even a safety video, so Tony improvises one, pointing out the emergency exits that may be behind you, and how to put on an oxygen mask, and we notice another passenger up the front doing the same. There is a video, we have a lovely view of the water below the bow of the ferry and that is it. One would think they would at least point the camera up a bit so we could see where we were going!
As we arrive Tony asks the local guide where the visitor centre is, and is told the one at Marina Grande doesn’t have a lot on offer except maps for one Euro. The best bet is to find the Visitor Centre in Capri itself. We want to do the Blue Grotto, and are told it is over rated, and we would be better off doing a boat trip around the island. The ticket price is EUR16, and if we want to join the group when they go, we will be welcome. As we leave the ferry a guy on the dock announces that the Blue Grotto is closed due to bad weather, and a boat ride around the island is offered for EUR25. Tony tells the guy to get knotted, and makes sure his potential customers know there are cheaper boat rides available.
With Blue Grotto off the menu we head off to find the visitor centre, but it is not well signposted, and we wander off in the wrong direction, but the super yachts are down that way so we drool over those for a while. We turn back and find the visitor centre to buy a map, they have no English language ones, but we figure that won’t be a problem. We ask about walking tracks and other places we want to see, and the staff give very helpful advice. There is quite a hike up the cliff to the town of Capri, so we take the funicular to the top, it reminds us of the Wellington cable car.
Will has told us to go on the chairlift up Mt Solero, so we decide to do that first. We find the bus station and decide on a day pass for EUR8.60, but when Cynthea checks her change we have been charged EUR9.60. Tony goes back and queries it, and is told there is a refundable deposit when the card is returned, hmmm, funny they didn’t mention that when we bought the ticket.
We have a bit of a wait for the bus to Anacapri, and when it arrives it is another one similar to that we took to the docks in Sorrento, with seating for eight, and everyone else is crammed in. The roads are very narrow, and quite steep as we climb to the island interior. There is no announcement of stops, and we don’t have a clue where we are, and it is only that Tony spots a sign telling them they are in Anacapri. A few others had not been sure either, and several others follow us off the bus.
We are in a busy market place, very touristy and probably prices to match, not that we are looking anything in the way of souvenirs. We find a ticket office for the chairlift in the public toilets, where as well as selling a ticket for the toilet (50c) you can buy many other excursion tickets. Tickets for the chairlift were EUR10 each. We follow the directions to the chairlift, but still haven’t actually caught sight of it, which is probably just as well. When we do find the building we still cannot see anything of the chairlift, but the ticket office here is a bit more upmarket looking that the public dunny was!
As we walk out onto the lift platform we are shocked to see the set up, all we can say is that it is just as well there were no queues, and no time to think about it! We had visions of nice, safe, two or three seater chairs with a decent safety bar to keep you strapped in. Nope. A single seat, and the safety bar is held in place by gravity. There were no safety instructions given, so people had to use their commonsense. It was all pretty basic – you were instructed to “stand here” and that was it. When a chair hits you in the bum, that is the cue to sit down and drop the bar across, don’t look for a lock or a latch, there isn’t one.
The chairlift takes you to the top of Monte Solaro, at 589m this is the highest point on the island. When you finally get up the nerve to open your eyes and look about it is not so bad, just don’t look straight down. We pass over peoples’ back gardens and also a cemetery on the way to the top, the ride takes about 20 minutes, and if you dare to turn in your seat there are some nice views behind you. While we are exploring at the top of the mountain those on the tour arrive, but their visit is very brief. We head back down with them, and catch the bus back to Capri, the ride down is as hairy as the one going up!
We want to go for a swim, but we have also been told not to miss the gardens - Giardini di Augusto. We see Mel and Carissa, they have just been to the gardens and also say how wonderful they are. It is very hot, and for a short time Tony considers forgetting the gardens and swimming to sit down with a nice wine or three…
It is a bit of a maze to find the way to the gardens, but well worth all the effort. Looking at the map we are not too far from Marina Piccola, the beach where we want to swim. But we know maps can be deceptive, so we ask a local, and probably should have known better than to take it for granted that five minutes meant five minutes! To be fair we could see it was more like twenty minutes, and we did have the choice of walking back up the steep hill, in the hot sun, to Capri to catch a bus. But here was an amazing pathway to the beach, a steep and narrow zigzag, with dramatic hairpin bends down Capri's cliff to harbour of Marina Piccola.
This is a fantastic feat of engineering, known as Via Krupp, named after a German steel magnate, Friedrich Alfred Krupp, who, in the early nineteen hundreds, came to Capri to convalesce after an illness, and later commissioned both the Gardens of Augustus and the road that takes his name. Via Krupp, however, is not always open because of the possibility of falling rocks, but it looks ok today so we make our way down. We disturb lots of lizards on the way, they are darting everywhere as we pass by.
When we rejoin the main road we are by a bus stop, and momentarily contemplate waiting for the bus, as we have no idea how much further to go. It doesn’t look far on the map, so continue on our way. We soon come to a set of steps down the hill, it looks like it just might lead to the beach, but it could just as well end up in a private hotel yard or someone’s property. There are a few others walking the same way, and they take the short cut, so we figure we may as well follow.
By the time we reach the stony beach we are ready for our swim. Marina Piccola is quite steep, and is made up of large, round smooth stones. The bigger waves can really dump on you here. There are three swimming spots, not too crowded, and a few bright pink people are going to be suffering in the morning. We get changed on the beach and Cynthea goes in first, with Digby, and has a good swim around the rocks, and then takes her turn at guard duty while Tony has a swim. It is fun to sit on the edge of the bank as a large wave picks you up and dumps you up the beach. The brilliant sunshine disappears all to soon as the clouds gather, but by then it is time to make our way back. The bus takes us back up the hill to Capri, where we get on another bus for the port and are soon in Marina Grande waiting for the ferry. Yes, we remember to take our bus passes back for a refund, and made sure the others knew about it too.
We need to do laundry, and there is a laundrette across from the hotel with reasonable prices, but there is a wait for the machines. There is free wifi though, and there is a cheap liquor store nearby. Carissa and Mel go for drinks, and we have ourselves a laundrette party.
We have been instructed to be at the dining room by 7pm, as the meal will not be served until everyone is there. Tony is late because he had to wait a few minutes for the wash to finish, and then put everything in the dryer. Mel and Carissa were a bit later as their drying load was nearly ready. Nothing at all to do with the drinking! Thankfully there was not too much delay serving the dinner, not that it was anything to rave about.
In fact the meal tonight, included as part of the tour, was another cheap one, plain and small portions. There was a choice of vegetable soup or pasta, again, as a starter. The mains was cubed potatoes and tinned peas, with a couple of slices of veal. There was something for dessert, probably fruit salad, but we can’t remember, it was that forgettable. Tony left part way through to collect the laundry, and we had a fairly early night.