Domenica a Sorrento

Sunday, in most places, is a day to relax, a day to be with family. Here in Sorrento, that is no different.
I woke slowly this morning knowing the only item on my agenda was to eat, lunch or dinner, at Trattoria da Emilia. Waking at B&B Belvedere is much like waking in a home. You hear clanking of dishes, conversations (albeit in a number of languages), the smell of coffee. I lay there just enjoying listening to others begin their day. When I do emerge from Room 4, I am greeted in the kitchen by Ian and Mary; a couple from Australia that I met on the roof last night. They are about my parent’s ageish and very friendly. I was also finally introduced to Alfonso, the proprietor of this B&B. Alfonso is personable and very loud. Or maybe it is just my name that booms in an unfamiliar way off the italian tongue. PAJJJ. Anyway, Alfonso asked me if everything about the B&B and Sorrento itself was to my liking. I shared with him a few of my escapades and also mentioned Pizzeria da Franco. “Oh…thees-a eees-a our number one!” I tell him it is my number one too! For a leisurely Sunday, Alfonso suggested to both Ian and Mary and myself, that we visit Peter’s Beach…”Theesa-ees-a my beach.” he declares.
After a quick cappuccino from the kitchen…

20130630-221958.jpg I’m off.

Peter’s beach is reached by taking a lift from the terrace you saw me standing by yesterday. Although I arrived early, the area was already buzzing with both tourist and locals.
This time, I bite the bullet and pay 17 euro for a chair on the furthest pier and an umbrella. Walking and window shopping again today does not interest me, so this is a nice way to relax somewhere besides my room or the roof.

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I love these little cabanas where you can change. There are rows and rows of similar ones locals rent. They use them to store their beach necessities during the summer months.

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20130630-222619.jpg My view looking up at the terrace.

20130630-222653.jpg Vesuvio in the distance.

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Thank goodness the young local’s hangout is separated by a cove of water. There are constant shouts of “oooohhhhh! aaaaahhhhhh!” as they try to impress by diving from the pier.

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Fredda di cocco fresco an unexpected treat.

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I enjoy several hours on the pier; people watching and reading my book. I am reading “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern. Although unrelated to travel at this point, there was a passage that I felt applied to me and this adventure-

“It was something to be explored. He investigated it the best he could although he was woefully unprepared. He did not know what tents to choose out of the dozens of options, each with tantalizing signs hinting the contents. And every turn he took through the twisting striped pathways led to more tents, more signs, more mysteries.”

As I left the spiaggia, it was overflowing with sun and fun seekers.

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20130630-224530.jpg My little spot was totally worth the 17 eruo!

Now time for lunch!

20130630-224659.jpg Finally, Emilia’s.

20130630-224721.jpg Gnocchi di Mamma

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Although lower key in the fishing village, locals are still out enjoying a family day.

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20130630-225008.jpg I was trying to be sneaky taking this sun god’s photo. He’s obviously out…all out….a lot!

20130630-225122.jpg There are carts and carts overflowing with fishing nets.

20130630-225215.jpg Lest you forget.

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After lunch, I walked and walked. Soccer seemed to be the focus of many. Italy vs Uruguay was written outside many bars.
After my walk, I took the time to gather my thoughts and paperwork for tomorrow’s departure.

In the evening I walked Piazza Tasso one last time and ended up at Pizzeria da Franco (go figure). I ordered a small pizza to go. One last evening on the rooftop. The murmur of the piazza crowd was punctuated by shouts and car horns presumably when Italy scored a goal.

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Questo e Quello

First, a correction. I had mentioned yesterday that I would be leaving Sorrento on Sunday…I know my mom has read that and said, “Oh no, there is a problem. I thought Paige spent 3 nights in Sorrento.” So, rest easy…yes I do.
My late afternoon espresso kicked in about the time I laid my head down to go to sleep…that wasn’t happening, but that is when it hit me, I do not leave Sunday, I leave Monday….that gives me another day to enjoy the Amalfi Coast.
As I said, I did not sleep well. Mostly because I was struggling with having to get up and be out the door (down the 85 steps) and to the station by 6:00. On one hand, I wanted to see Amalfi and Positano. Securing a seat on the bus would be most certain at 6:30. On the other hand….I did not want to get up. So when I woke at 5:30 to the sound of thunder, I hopped on the bed and took a look out my skylight.

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20130629-220633.jpg Problem solved! I left the window open until the pitter patter of rain began to fall. Loving the sound of the (Italian) thunder and allowing myself another hour of rest.

20130629-220840.jpg When I started to see blue behind the clouds, I knew it was time to go.

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Bottle of water, crema pastry from Rita’s and a window seat. Andiamo!
The early morning light mixed with the cloud cover and the grimy bus windows did not allow for the best of photos, but suffice it to say, anything you have read or seen about the Amalfi Coast is that and then some.
Driving out of town, you notice garden after garden. Some are haphazard, recognizable only to the planter (much like Franco’s). Some are beautifully organized and tended. Perfectly spaced out, straw or nets galore.

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I know this photo is not quality, but the wooden poles created levels or stories in the trees. Each would have nets that could be unrolled. I am assuming this made harvesting/gathering easier. At one point there was a fig tree, a lemon tree, an orange tree and olive trees, and that was in a small plot in the middle of the road. These farmers know how to utilize their space. Like Sandy said regarding Antonito’s pulley system, necessity is the Mamma of invenzione.

20130629-221852.jpg Meet my seat mate. When she sat down she said, “Sit by you?” Sure….just don’t sit ON me. On turns she would be in my lap!

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I feel like visiting these beautiful towns in a day is disrespectful. Much like those who say they have been to Capri, if only to hop in hop out. However, a major purpose of this trip was for me to discover places that I would want to return to. A place or two that I would want to spend more than a few weeks. Although the Amalfi Coast is stunning, I feel like movement around this area is difficult.
There are some amazing spots though. Check out the Il San Pietro Hotel in Positano (on google). Romantic or what!! Just be sure your guy likes to lay around, walk a bit (up hill) eat, lay around and eat some more.
Here are some sights of Amalfi.

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The Cathedral of Amalfi
Amalfi was one of the four powerful Maritime Republics in the Middle Ages (839-1135 AD). This monumental complex is a testimony to Amalfi’s glorious past. It includes;

20130629-223130.jpg The “Cloister of Paradise”.
This is the ancient cemetery for the noblemen of Amalfi, built between 1266 and 1268.

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20130629-223413.jpg The bell tower (1180-1276) is decorated in the Moorish style with polychrome majolica tiles.
There are also several frescos in small chapels off the Cloister.

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Then you enter The Basilica of the Crucifix.

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The starkness of this space, the shadow cast by the wooden, suspended crucifix, creates a power focus in this diffused light.

20130629-224334.jpg Images of The Holy Spirit are very moving to me.

20130629-224443.jpg Other pieces in this space (which dates back to 596 AD) include this exquisite fresco,

20130629-224542.jpg Relief of Madonna and Child

20130629-224702.jpg This Mitre created in 1297 for Ludovico, son of King Charles II and Bishop of Toulouse. It has a background of over 20,000 pearls!

20130629-224951.jpg 13th Century Chalice

20130629-225033.jpg And these small reliquaries. If you look closely, you see areas in the center that hold physical remains of these holy people.

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The Crypt is the heart of Amalfi because here are preserved “the head and the other bones” of Saint Andrew, Jesus’ first disciple. The bones reached Amalfi on the 8th of May, 1208.
The large bronze statue is by Florentie artist Michelangelo Naccherino (1604). Naccherino was a student of Michelangelo.
In the Cathedral…

20130629-230049.jpg You guessed it, there was a wedding going on. Do you think I am going to hear an organ playing “Here Comes the Bride” and NOT check it out?

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Everywhere you look there are beautiful dedications to Saint Andrew.

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20130629-230319.jpg The Get-Away Car

20130629-230401.jpg Not exactly sure what this is, but I thought if I do not take a photo of it, I’ll see it somewhere down the line and wish I had. I am sure it has been there for years!

20130629-230520.jpg Time for a pick me up…it is still early enough.

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20130629-230625.jpg And of course, the spiaggias!

20130629-230713.jpg ELVIS is in Italy!!

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Time to board a bus again and start back.

20130629-230831.jpg At one stop, a warm welcome!

20130629-230949.jpg I wonder if the band knows?

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When we get back to Sorrento, I am starving. I know Emilia’s will be closing shortly so I must look for a pizzeria Rick Steve’s suggests.
I ask a shopkeeper, “Corso Italia e qui?” Si he tells me, I am on the correct street. I am looking for 265. I tell myself I will go a block or two more. And then I see it.

20130629-231528.jpg Looks like a happening place. Rick says it is a favorite of locals. I have not really had a pizza yet. I have had a couple of street slices but that’s all. Inside it is quite crowded…Rick Steve’s has quite the following.
I look at the menu and decide on the

20130629-231832.jpg Sausage for Dalton and Peppers for Avery.
The pizza arrives

20130629-231951.jpg I take my first bite.

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I cannot tell you how happy I was at that moment. It was amazing!! With every bite I am so excited. I am determined to eat the entire thing…should I inhale, should I take small bites? What method will maximize my intake capacity?
I noticed in the kitchen, there was a tile painted with a saint on it. I ask the wild eyed cook, “che è il santo in cucina?” He is hard to understand but I am pretty sure he tells me Santo Antonio. I wonder if he is the saint of fire? I later learn he is the patron saint of Sorrento. Well, kudos to Santo Antonio and his cooks in la cucina.
I notice a family of four is just receiving their pizzas. I watch them expecting to see the ecstasy after their first bites…but no, they don’t even discuss it. They just sit and simply…eat. If my family were here, we would be going on and on….what is wrong with these people. Talk about undeserving.

20130629-232954.jpg One piece left…

20130629-233218.jpg Perhaps if I put more pepper flakes on it…I hear that burns calories….

20130629-233304.jpg Finito!

20130629-233354.jpg Tavolo cinque, I will remember you fondly!
Before you judge me too harshly, at least I did not order AND eat

20130629-233522.jpg The giant Nutella pizza being made as I left…but I still have one more day!

20130629-233609.jpg Poor photo quality, but I had to give it up for Santo Antonio!

20130629-233646.jpg Perfetto!
Now to walk it off a bit. By the way, I do have 85 steps each time I come to my room…that’s got to help a little don’t ya think?

20130629-235224.jpg That’s my place at the top!
Although I won’t be eating this evening, I think the lighting at Marina Grande should be nice, so I head that way.

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20130629-235356.jpg This seemed to be some sort of test. The wads and wads of fishing net, the young ones with their needles, attempting to mend and the elders just seated and laughing.

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20130629-235510.jpg These two were enjoying their evening chat. One from a Vespa, the other from the window.

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20130629-235624.jpg I decide a limoncello and a few minutes people watching in Piazza Tasso can’t hurt. I made some notes on “Holiday Wardrobes” . We’ll cover that on a “slow news day”.
Later I went up to the rooftop, Piazza Tasso below now.

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And when it got nice and dark, one more surprise to this day,

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Again, this photo does not do the experience justice, but those little lights are the red “Wish Lanterns” being set off from the park where I stood earlier. It was beautiful. I attached my wishes to theirs and watched them vanish into the night sky.
Buonanotte.

Sorrento

After reading a bit in my Rick Steve’s Guide, I was ready to take a look around.
I thought it would be best if I first prepared myself for tomorrow. The plan is to catch the early (early!) bus to Amalfi. So finding the station is a must.

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Ok. Found the station. Also picked up the times for my train on Sunday morning. In Roma and Capri I had 5 days to sort things out. In Sorrento, my time is already seeming short…

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I went ahead and bought a 24 hour bus ticket for tomorrow.

20130628-220847.jpg Bus Stop…check.

20130628-220921.jpg Place to grab a bite to take on the bus…check. Notice the name! Ciao Mamma!
Now with tomorrow’s morning lined up and ready…I am starving. The yogurt and espresso at 9:00 am has long worn off. Rick Steve’s suggests a few places but I like the sound of the most “homey” place down by the Marina Grande…of course it is the furtherest. Andiamo!
Sights of Sorrento streets-

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Yes, I am aware that these are all food. I said I was hungry. However, I could not pass this place up. It was so crisp and chic.

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20130628-221646.jpg I know you cannot see in very well, but the walls are a lavender with the robin’s egg window. This is the little room where they make the coffees. Can’t you see opening a place like this in that house on the corner of Austin and ….whatever that street is that goes to HEB by Market Platz. The entire time I was there, I was imagining that. Anyone in?

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20130628-221905.jpg Although I was hungry…I am thirsty too.
I walk on….

20130628-222054.jpg Oh no, a tunnel. I am NOT a big fan of tunnels. I have scary dreams about them. I start in and then decide it is long and I do not know where I am going, so I turn around. Then I see a young boy and his father starting in and I think…ok….I’ll just walk fast. So I did. And on the other side…

20130628-222301.jpg The local spiaggia and a fishing village.

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Now to find Trattoria de Emilia.

20130628-222502.jpg Found it!

20130628-222543.jpg I know it is a cruddy photo, but that HAS to be Emilia in the booth!! But guess what…chiuso….until 7:00….my long face does me no good here. I do however find another route back….and…

20130628-222725.jpg more tunnels, but shorter.
On my way to my 2nd choice, Inn Bufalito. But first….the spiaggia!

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And finally…

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In the trattoria I see this photo…man can I relate! I love the fact that she still cares though…the title was “Broken Beauty”.

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20130628-223216.jpg An espresso and time to roam a bit more.

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20130628-223325.jpg Look who’s here, “The Loren”…

20130628-223358.jpg The inside of this church was the softest pink and white, like the icing of a beautiful cake. The crucifix and stations were created with inlaid wood. This type of woodwork is a specialty of Sorrento.

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20130628-223558.jpg At Saint Francisco’s I walk by in time to see the bride exit and the couple’s first kiss.

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20130628-223824.jpg I think this is a hotel…magical.
Now back to the pastry shop for a bit of dessert and find a spot to watch the sun set.

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20130628-224010.jpg A Dali exhibit is in town.

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As I walk back to the hotel, I am going against crowds of beautifully dressed people. Their perfumes and colognes fill the air. This is the time of day that I miss my family. I return to my hotel, go to my rooftop and secure a ledge for one. A beautiful, sweet ending to a day in Sorrento.

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Arrivederci Capri! Ciao Sorrento

First, let me apologize for any mistakes in my first entry this morning. I usually try to read over and make a few corrections before publishing, but I was in a bit of a rush. My plan was to catch the hydrofoil to Sorrento around 10:00.
I first settled my bill with Franco…375,00 euro for 5 nights! That converts to $489.00. $97.80 per night. That includes, waters, wine, limoncello, breakfast, laundry, shuttle/accompaniment, all the ciliegie and cetriolo (cherries and cucumbers) one could want, not to mention Franco and his famiglia!! “My GAAWWWDDD, can you imagine?” to put in Franco’s words.
I secured this reservation through Franco back in November 2012. He told me I was the first reservation of 2013 and that he would give me the 2012 rate and the very best room. I never knew until this morning what that rate would be.
Franco asked that I write a nice little recommendation on “The Trip Advisor”. “Can you imagine, Paj how nice-a your writing will be since you-a are-a a teacher!” I look forward to doing just that, but in the meantime, if you are in Capri….you know where to stay, Il Giardino dell Arte….and ask for Franco! Be sure to tell him Paj sent you.

20130628-122935.jpg Pietro loading my bags.

Franco accompanied Melinda (a young Swede) and me to the boat….all the way to the boat.

20130628-123108.jpg The boat from Sorrento arrives…

20130628-123131.jpg The boat to Sorrento departs.

20130628-123221.jpg One last look way up at Tiberio’s Villa. See the tiny, skinny statue sticking up on the edge?….yes I walked there! Molto pedi..

20130628-123332.jpg Melinda and…some Italian boat guy…he was working her very hard…you can tell she is trying not to laugh. She took a photo of him earlier, he asked to look at it. She told me (she speaks Swedish, Italian, German, French and English!!) he said he looked like a model in it and could she send it to him…he wrote down his email for her!

20130628-123645.jpg Arriving in Sorrento.

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From the port, I grabbed the bus as my hotel had suggested. Asked if it were going to Piazza Tasso, Si. Hopped off at Piazzo Tasso. Asked a shop owner, “Scusi Signor. Quale strada Via Maio”? I followed the hand signals there…look for number 14 and Ecco!

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oooo, I get to get buzzed in…

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When I buzzed in Antonito asked, “You-a have-a big-a luggage?” One I replied.
Slap, slap, slap the flip-flops hurried down the stairs. Antonito arrives. He takes my luggage and says it will be brought up because the B&B is on the 6th floor (Just like in Roma, but no elevator). Then, Antonito tells me to follow him to the courtyard. He introduces me to his Mamma pointing up…”Ciao Paj! Buongiorno!!” Mamma is yelling down from the terrace above.
Then I see a rope with a hook and another rope with a small bucket. I follow the ropes and they lead to Mamma.

20130628-124445.jpg Antonito finds nothing strange about this….except my laughter….

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I am to meet my luggage and Mamma on the 6th floor.

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When I arrive, Paola, aka Mamma, greets me at the door. She shows me my room and then around the B&B.

20130628-124756.jpg My room.

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20130628-124827.jpg My entertainment center?

20130628-124855.jpg musica e film….

20130628-124947.jpg The shared kitchen. “Everything-a is free-a. Wine, snacks, a lemon…”

20130628-125033.jpg View from the terrace off the kitchen.

And then Paola encourages me to go to the rooftop, “Look, go, prego!” she says pointing to her eyes. My 360 view.

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I know nothing of Sorrento, so it is time to read a bit, look at a map and then Andiamo!!
ci vediamo tra un po ‘

Conversazioni con Franco

This is the last morning I will enjoy my breakfast on this side of the Bay of Napoli.

20130628-085147.jpg Pietro is confused by my request of only fruit, yogurt and espresso. “Basta?” he questions.
Franco will be accompanying me to the port in about 45 minutes, so I will try to make this quick. Just a couple of notes before I leave Capri.

As I would walk to and from town each day, there was always a scattering of workers “working” on some aspect of the “road”. Imagine my surprise, and his utter confusion at my surprise, when a worker I had seen every day (very solemn guy) turned and I was greeted with…

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He kept motioning me to get out of the way because there was another “truck” trying to get through. No way I was not going to get a picture of him….so Roll Tide from Capri. Oh they are going to miss me here…
Back to the guesthouse….
When I arrived yesterday, Franco was just finishing some work in his garden. “My Gawwwdd Paj! You see me like this….You don’t mind!?” He had on jeans and a white undershirt.
I asked him if I could get a photo with him this evening. “I go change imejiately Paj. Francesca will take our photograph!” Francesca rolls her eyes (often).
Franco reappears.

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Then the conversations begin. Again, I cannot begin to share everything with you…during his speeches, I would tell myself to remember what he said, how he said it…I even took some quick notes afterwards, but I am “enough silly” and I cannot remember it all. Here is just a sampling-
I asked Franco what all he grows in his garden, “Come! I will show you.” While showing me, there is a story for everything. How “The Great Grandfather” told him to put the oils on the figs so they will ripen 15 days early. “Fifteen days Paj…can you imagine!?” I asked him if he does that every year, “I will tell-a you-a the truth Paj…..no.” Fair enough.

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When I see the grapes, I ask if they make wine. “Yes, but I will tell you the truth Paj. Here in Capri, we make our wine, and we drink-a our wine….but I will tell you, here in Capri…we are ashamed of our wine…we are ashamed to offer to others.”
As we pass apricots, “Here…Paj….I pick-a this one for you….wait….no…this one is better….ok…both”

20130628-090540.jpg At this point I notice Franco has a little Kirk Douglas going on no?
Then the conversation turns to golf-a….sore subject….”I tell you Paj, these people of Capri are enough silly….we are enough silly I tell you. ” He goes on to share the “Revolution” of some wanting a golf-a course-a….a gentleman’s sport-a and then some silly, stupids do not.
I tell him maybe he should run for Mayor……”Oh my GAWWWD no Paj, I tell you….I cannot go to the square for five minutes….I do not have stupido written here.” Pointing to his forehead…
And my personal favorite…the conversation regarding his battle with Anacapri and better lighting for the road to the guesthouse. First he is told he can put in a private line….he tells the man that is crazy. Then the man suggests that “Since Franco…you only-a have five-a rooms-a,…why do you not buy five torches and give them to your guests?” To this Franco replies, “Well….I tell him, if theesa were Africa…yes that would be a fine solution….but we-a are-a not-a in Africa!”
I laughed and laughed.
It is now time for me to pack up and be accompanied…..I have LOVED Capri and I will return!

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l’ultimo Giorno on the Isola of Capri

I sit on my terrace, a shawl helping me with the cool breeze. I have decided not to walk to the town this evening. I am tired but also want to soak in my view and the quiet (birds chirping, racing, beeping vespa’s in the distance) of Il Giardino dell Arte.
On my first night in Roma, I had dinner and was seated next to two older women from Australia. I might have mentioned this, I do not remember. We talked briefly, both saying they usually travel alone but this trip was together. They asked where else I would visit and when I mentioned Capri, they grimaced. They underscored this later by saying it was the end of their holiday and of all their stops, Capri was the worst, Rome their best. Their thoughts were that Capri was too crowded and not a very personal experience. I thought, “Oh great.”
But my experience here has been just the opposite. Yes, Capri proper is tight and crowded with tourist (“a market” says Franco), but it is still a thrill to walk through and see. The escape up to Anacapri is what many do not experience. Although there are absolutely beautiful hotels in Capri, hopping on the bus, getting off and having room to roam is special. Day after day and evening after evening passing the same children and locals heightens the experience for me.

Yesterday, I was hell-bent on finding the bakery where I had purchased the fried calzone. I had been looking for it ever since. This time, I was smart enough to take a photo of the bag to show people. I first gave it a hard try on my own. I would turn a corner, get hopeful and nope…not there. I even tried to make myself happy with a different treat, but somehow zucchini and tomatoes does not equate to prosciutto and formaggio! So I showed my photo. This way, that way…I still seemed to be crisscrossing. Finally I asked a little lady, she pointed the way. From a distance she called, “signora! signora!” and pointed for me to go left. A little later, our paths crossed again. She looked at me hopeful, I held up my prize in victory. She laughed and smiled.
I doubt that happens in Capri.

This morning my intention was to just hang out here; enjoy breakfast, write you, read, etc.
By the way, a tip for enjoying every last drop of your morning espresso, put your vanilla yogurt in the “empty” cup.

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After I had done just that, I read a bit more about Capri and can you believe there is a spot I have not walked to (many in fact!). Off to Il Faraglioni. Andiamo!
I hopped a bus to Capri, walked through the city center, window shopped along their “Rodeo Drive”,

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20130627-202249.jpg Not familiar with this one, but could not resist. Could it be??? No, My Blaine would NEVER have a weenie dog as his logo.
At this point, I am planning ahead. Perhaps I will need a bite to eat along the way.

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20130627-202726.jpg It is important to taste the local treats! I put them in my borsa and continue on.

20130627-204730.jpg OK, on the right track.

20130627-204757.jpg “Movers…moving everything from bottled water to mattresses! Think about it, it has to be done.

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Another beautiful walkway.

20130627-204920.jpg Swanky!

20130627-204943.jpg I have arrived.
I can either pay 20 euros and sit to my right,

20130627-205026.jpg Can you see the blue and white umbrellas beyond? On the rocks are beautiful white mattresses covered with towels…and beautiful people.
OR, I can pay 20 euros and sit to my left, (or ask if I might look around first and snapped a couple of photos),

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OR…I can sit on the walkway in between the two, same view and enjoy the lunch I brought instead of buying theirs… I choose “C”.

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20130627-205424.jpg I think this boat has it’s own beach on the back…wonder who is in town?

20130627-205517.jpg And of course I will need extra energy for the hike back up the mountain.

20130627-205555.jpg Lemon Squares, lower your heads in shame!! Meet

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Now, back up way beyond that reddish house…

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Il Faraglioni leaves us with one last thought…You will miss us….so true!

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With the money I “saved” by squatting, I bought the perfume I have been wanting. Many in Italy, men and women, smell of this earthy scent. Mi piace moltissimo!

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And the walk continues.

20130627-210223.jpg I wonder if I could parlare my way on to this terrace this evening. Can you imagine!?!

20130627-210351.jpg Look Blaine, painting is necessary even in paradise!

20130627-210448.jpg To look this bad, yet this good….
Back on a bus up to home.
The streets of Anacapri are much quieter. Daily I have passed by young children selling what looks to be their old toys…kinda like little garage sells. These are not street urchins, just local kids.
As I pass a group of boys today, one walks with me and says, “Please Signora” as he motions to his finery. “Please Signora, mangia gelato, Signora…mangia gelato” he says while holding his hands like a beggar. I laugh, say no and continue walking….but then I think, why not. So I dig in my borsa for coins that seem to have little purpose, walk back and tell him, “OK, but…” and I motion that he must pose for my photo. He grabs his friend and gives me his best (the one on the right). I give him the coins. They all get a big laugh out of this and I get shouts of “Grazie Signora! Grazie!” I hear them laughing all the way down the street….

20130627-211147.jpg It’s a WIN/WIN!

More “Conversations with Franco” in the morning.
Ciao!

O Sole Mio

I woke early(ish) this morning to see that “the sea-a, she-a ees-a not-a too rough-a”. The Bay of Napoli stretched out before me. Enjoying my breakfast, Franco bid me “Buongiorno Paige!” I asked him if this morning would be a good one to visit Grotta Azzurra, The Blue Grotto that Capri is famous for. “I will call for you imejiatley Paige.”
The report was good. “It will be a lovely and gorgeous experience for you today. You-a will-a say-a WOW!” “Come, I will accompany you to the bus stop.”

I had read that the morning is best to visit the Grotta Azzurra because the boats from the mainland have yet to arrive (Capri changes at night when the day trippers leave.) and also because the light is better. I caught the bus halfway between Anacapri and the grotta. Usually when you see the buses pass, they are packed and I mean packed with riders. This bus only had 4. We were all headed to our first experience with the grotta. During the ride, the other 3 women on the bus who were seated apart, had been chatting in Italian, mostly about the traffic or laughing when a branch entered the bus and almost whacked one in the head, “mama mia!” So it was difficult to determine whether they were traveling together or not. As we exited the bus at the small turnaround, they were giddy at the site.

20130627-100438.jpg One turned to me and asked me something. “Io non capisco” I replied with an accompanying look that I am sure conveyed I hardly understood what I was trying to say as well. She asked if I was French, in French. No. “Aaaaah, Americana?” Si…that’s me. So then she asked in english, was it open today? I told her my hotel had called and yes it was supposed to be open. She excitedly conveyed that the American had said yes it was open. Claps were shared by all!
Emma, is a bit younger than me, the other 2, a bit older. As they were about to board the small, wooden boat, (at this point I am confused…I have yet to buy a biglietto) Emma turned to me and said, “uuhmm, eeeh, (that is her finding her English words) does the Signora want to go with us?”
It appears more fun with others so I say “Si!”

20130627-101615.jpg Boarding our boat…ticketless.

20130627-101655.jpg Ah, allura! You buy tickets on the water…silly me.

20130627-102000.jpg Emma taking my photo as we are told to lay in the boat. I tell you, it is nice to have someone to look at like…”um OK!” through this adventure. Emma and her friends just laughed and laughed.
At this point, our rower gives us a bit of direction in Italian then english. He says it is important-a that I-a keep-a my hands-a in the boat-a. Then he maneuvers us in the line with others, grabs hold of a chain and begins to pull, at the last moment, lowering himself, in a back bend, just under the stone arch. The entry itself is no more than 2 and a half feet high. This answers why the sea-a, she-a must not-a be rough-a!
Inside, again my breath is taken away! My photos cannot, do not, do this experience justice at all. I was trying to punch as many buttons on my camera (in the dark-a) as I could hoping that at least one function would work out….not so much.

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The grotta is larger inside than I expected….and darker! While we float around, we are serenaded by a crude round of “O Sole Mio” sung by all of the rowers and bouncing off the grotta walls. Quite humorous, and unforgettable. Afterwards, I look up to see what “O Sole Mio” means.

What a beautiful thing is a sunny day!
The air is serene after a storm,
The air is so fresh that it already feels like a celebration.
What a beautiful thing is a sunny day!

This makes perfetto sense…Our rower tells us that the color is natural. It is the blue of the sea because these rocks do not touch the bottom of the sea. The sunlight filters in through the water, under the rocks and gives it its color. He shows us a few natural forms in the rocks. One looks like a lions head. He also points out where it is believed a tunnel existed. This is where Tiberius would enter to ….let’s say….swim in the grotta. There also have been statues found below on the sea floor.

At one point, our rower asked me, “Signora, you swim?” I stammer, no…I mean yes but… he motions to jump in! Are you kidding me….sure I would love to but….and at that point he shows me one of Emma’s friends is going in! This tickles me to no end. She is obviously prepared, a swim suit on and in she goes. Clap, clap, clap! I am only brave enough to swoosh my arm around in it, thinking if the kids and Blaine were here, they would be in in a second!…..next time. The water is cold and such a beautiful Azzurra! The whole experience is very surreal! You want it to last, but it is fleeting. As we lay down in the boat again, we emerge to the sound of more clapping by all!

20130627-104149.jpg I have a souvenir bump on the side of my head…a gift from a heavy wooden oar!

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20130627-104355.jpg This experience is not complete without admiring the way these rowers communicate. Mere photos cannot capture the shouts, inflections and of course hand motions out of exasperation. Meet, “The Team Leader!” With the job come the prettiest boat and the shirt!

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I

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I am fortunate to have seen the Grotto Azzurra with such lively people. Grazie mille Emma for the invitation. This too is where once on land again, we all hugged, congratulated each other and I received my first kiss on one cheek, kiss on the other! (Emma and her friends are floral designers. Emma is from Venice.)
As I mentioned, when you are in the grotta, you feel alone, that this moment will not come back, you look around in wonder…AND THEN, “Paj, Paj…you-a want-a to see-a a how you say…funny picture-a!?” uuuhh…not really Emma, but ok….and then Emma shows me photos, she has captured me in all my open mouthed wonder…bene…just bene. Her favorite is the one of me (like I have of her) pictured between our rowers legs….laugh, laugh, laugh…clap, clap, clap.
We chatted some more throughout the day, running into them here and there. They even invited me to join them for dinner later that evening (which sadly, did not work out. I looked for them while the sun was still up 9:00, but I think the location was lost in translation. I also began to get nervous about finding my way through the quiet streets back to my B&B in the dark….I know, I am a…how you say in Italian?….a wimp-a.)

I rode the bus back to Anacapri roamed around a bit and them decided to visit the Villa San Michele.

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The Villa San Michele was built around the turn of the 20th century by the Swedish physician, Axel Munthe, on the ruins of the Roman Emperor Tiberius’s villa. It is where Munthe wrote the book, “The Story of San Michele”.

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20130627-105754.jpg It is said that Munthe had a fixation regarding death. Around him are reminders to taste and drink life in, death is always lurking.
Also,
“Happiness we can only find in ourselves, it is a waste of time to seek for it from others, few have any to spare.” Axel Munthe

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20130627-110528.jpg Axel’s view.

20130627-110619.jpg From the gardens.
From there, more roaming about town, then back to the B&B.
Later, I decide to walk (silly Paige) to a spiaggia. Not sure why I thought it would be any closer than the bus ride’s trek earlier….but I did. So I walked. Along the roads, I would stop people for directions, “Scusi, per favore. Dove spiaggia?” They would look at me, I would repeat “spiaggia”…they would look at me and then say, “aaahh spiaggia.” uuummmm….isn’t that what I just said? Guess not. Anyway, they would go on to tell me, complete with hand signals for stairs, for walking, etc, where the spiaggia was. I would thank them, walk off no more enlightened than I was before, but at least I “knew” I was on the right track.
And allora! I ended up back at the Grotta Azzurra. As my mother would say, “This is not tiramisu.” but I am not italian. I end up talking my way into a private solarium and enjoy some sun there. I wanted that chair out on the rock, but, as the hotelier told me, that is not their property.

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But still, not a bad view…

20130627-111603.jpg Ruins above…

20130627-111625.jpg The sea below.

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20130627-111811.jpg Me and my ombra enjoying the warm, Capri sun.

Afterwards, I ride the bus back, clean up and grapple with whether or not to meet Emma and company in town for dinner. I love the idea of being out when the lights in the town twinkle (I love my Big Fish lights!) and although super comfortable now walking to and from town…not so much in the dark. So, I decide to get dressed, go in, look for them, explain and then maybe just stay for a glass of vino or so…
I walk in, sporting my new Antonio Viva sandals, pull out the address on the card that Emma gave me, find that restaurant (I have passed it a million times), wait a bit, wait a bit, recheck the card, and it is then I realize the address is in Capri not Anacapri. At this point, my decision is made for me. I am pretty sure there was a translation issue. I am “certain” they were staying in Anacapri as well, but maybe they were taking the bus to Capri for dinner. Anyway, as I watch the lights begin to come on, I decide it is time for me to head back to Il Giardino del Arte. On the way, I stop at a small grocery between town and the B&B. I grab a few things

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20130627-112708.jpg And call it a night. Buonanotte!

Oh, by the way….if you see-a this-a bird-a….there are signs posted around town…call this number.

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Oh…and another thing, during my roaming today, I once again passed CapriSuite…they had left the door open….silly people…don’t they know Paj is in town!

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20130627-113610.jpg Definitely a place to check out!

Allora, Buonanotte!