The isle of Capri in the Bay of Naples is a gem of Italy, and a perfect day trip from the county’s southwestern coastal city of Naples. A one hour ferry ride whisks us to the island. The hilly terrain is dotted with whitewashed grand villas glistening in the sun. Yachts galore come into view as we near the Marina Grande dock – not surprising as Capri is known as a playground for the rich and famous taking a few days off from sailing to nestle in one of the upscale hotels. Further out cruise ships are anchored, their passengers no doubt enjoying the beaches.
Upon disembarking, my husband Rick and I see several handy kiosks to purchase a variety of tours around the island coastline. Our focus is a tour to the most famous Capri draw – Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto). This cave illuminated by unearthly blue light is said to be most vibrant on a sunny day – like today. Our choice of time when the sun’s rays are strongest (noon to 2pm) gives us several hours to bop around Capri Town.
A steady line of novel taxies line the water front; the vehicle tops lobbed off and rigged with a canopy for a breezy yet shady ride. White tablecloth restaurants and outdoor-seating cafes are in the mix of eateries. Settling in one of the latter for lunch, we shared a gigantic panino caprese – thick tomato slices, slabs of mozzarella cheese, basil and olive oil; the flavours absorbed into fresh baked Panini bread. Okay, we lack resistance and follow up with an ample slice of tiramisu – each!
Duly energized, I breeze through boutique and souvenir shops, coming away with a dozen packs of naturally scented lemon soaps for folks back home.
Back at the dock we locate our thirty-two passenger boat and within fifteen minutes are near the Blue Grotto …but not that near.
Our captain informs us that our boat, along with a dozen others, must wait in a que and when it’s our turn a fleet of small rowboats will come alongside, each taking 2 to 4 persons into the grotto. We note people lined up on steps descending from a hill near the grotto entrance are also vying for the rowboats. The chaotic activity of jostling, bobbing, and bottle-necking of these small crafts provides entertainment for our more than an hour wait.
Although long known to local fishermen, the grotto was put on the world map in 1826 by two Germans, writer Augustus Kopisch and painter Ernst Fries. Subsequent research, however, revealed it was once the private swimming pool of Roman Emperor Tiberius who built a quay in the cave circa 30AD with a shrine to the water nymph. Statues of sea gods, Neptune and Triton recovered from the floor of the grotto in 1964 are now housed in a museum. Tiberius had many villas on the island, the ruins of one is a 45 minute walk from Capri Town.
Our turn at last! Luigi, our rowboat captain instructs us to “lie flat” so as to clear the low entrance into the grotto. He also lies back grasping a chain affixed to the opening and pulls us through to the other side, calling out “now you can sit”.
An unforgettable sight! We are encased in astounding blue light, both eerie and magical in this 54m by 30m cave. This anomaly of nature results from sunlight entering through a small underwater aperture that is reflected through the water, combined with the reflection of light off the white sand seafloor. Our heads twist and turn absorbing the vivid azure tones from the cavernous ceiling to where it morphs into shimmering sapphire waters.
Stranger still is any movement that ripples the water, as from the boats and ores, creates hues of polished silver. I dip my hand in and sure enough, I am seemingly wearing a sparkling metal glove. Of the nine boats in the cave some of the captains, including Luigi, break out in strains of “O Sole Mio…” their voices echo off the rock walls. All too soon we lie back to exit, and although our breathtaking time in the cave was a mere ten minutes, my finance minister Rick agrees it was worth every Euro.
Back in Capri Town we sit with our faces turned towards the sun sipping a cappuccino. We do not budge until it is time for the very last ferry of the day, wishing we had longer in this charming bit of paradise.
IF YOU GO:
More info: NLG Ferry Naples to Capri – www.navlib.it
Capri Tours – www.motoscafisticapri.com
PHOTOS: Rick Butler
1. Isle of Capri
2. Moving toward Capri Town action
3. Taxi anyone
4. Rowboats queuing for cave entrance
5. Getting closer
6. Inside the Blue Grotto
7. Blue hues extraordinaire!
8. Alas, time to leave
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