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!

3 thoughts on “O Sole Mio

  1. I remember the Blue Grotto and I promised the good Lord that I would never go again, if I got out!!! The water was a bit rough that day but I certainly remember the rowers singing and laying down in the boat on top of us!!!! It was beautiful!!! While we were waiting to go in, our boat driver took us around to a few other places that had the same beautiful azzurra waters!!

    Well, my travel to Italy today was been fulfilled until tomorrow!!

    Love, V

    • It is quite an experience isn’t it! It all happened so quickly, there was no time for fear. I would love to do it again, but swim next time. I will return with family in tow.

  2. Imagine my surprise after reading this post, as I turn to leave my computer, that I am at my house and not at the Grotta Azzurra. Your words transport me! Loving keeping up with your adventures!

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