Daytrip Sorrento and Capri

Tourist trap par excellence

tl;dr: Capri and Sorrento are both beautiful, quite expensive and overrun if you stick to the main sites – and a little less than glamorous if your budget is that of a foot-soldier. But if you’re in the area anyway and can spare the fare for the boat, do it.

Sorrento seen from the harbour.

Sorrento seen from the harbour.

Ok, I admit it, I really didn’t want to do Capri, but my travel compagnon and better half insisted and I couldn’t really field any arguments that she didn’t blow out of the water, after all Capri has been the dream destination for generations. And admittedly Sorrento and Capri both have a glamorous ring to them I couldn’t resist in the end. So I set my imagination loose and dreamt of 1950s beauties zooming down the coast and dapper gents ordering Vodka Martinis.

Backyard in Capriwhere there are still traditional fishermen keeping and their

Backyard in Capriwhere there are still traditional fishermen keeping and their

The reality was a little less glamorous, but back to the start. After leaving our rental in a tiny garage built directly into the cliffs on which Sorrento is built we buy a return ticket for the hourly jet boat (35,00 €) and kill some time in the harbour café barely avoiding the aquisition of another straw hat for me. Strangely enough the Espresso is reasonably priced and the walls are adorned with set-photos from the 1955 Sophia Loren hit movie “Scandal in Sorrento/Pane é Amore“, so we knew to be on the right track.

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After a short ride we arrive in the Marina Grande on Capri, and decide to not spend another 30 € each to see this bloody blue grotto that everyone is so excited about – and no, we didn’t see the Villa San Michele, so if you look for pictures or descriptions for either of them, you got to look elsewhere. Instead we decide to take the bus to Anacapri halfway up the hill in a very cute little bus, that blasts around the switchbacks at neckbreaking speed while we anxiously try not to look down the 200m vertical drop about 6,5 cm away from our windows.  Before we embark on a rather exciting journey with a small one-seater chairlift we have decide to have another coffee at a cute little plaza surrounded by tourist-trap souvenir-shops, selling exclusively tasteless bric-a-brac made of seashelles. While we still feel distinctly unglamorous at least the coffee is priced at a fitting 3 € and the waiter is sufficiently grumpy and unfriendly to remind us lowly footsoldiers of our station in life.

No, this picture of a bus in Capri is not photoshopped, they really look like someone squeezed very hard so they can corner the narrow streets.

No, this picture of a bus in Capri is not photoshopped, they really look like someone squeezed very hard so they can corner the narrow streets.

The chairlift itself is a real joy (7 € for a single ticket), flimsy old-school one seaters levitate directly over private residences and gardens where people eat and talk like being put on display by the local tourist board. Some of of them look like they were type-cast as weathered Italian country-folk sitting on their verandahs. At the top around 600m above sea level, we find a small restaurant with a spectacular view over the whole island, Ischia and the Amalfi Coast. The walk back into town takes us about an hour during which time we don’t even meet a handful of people –  It seems walking is not really on the list of approved acitivities for the high-society seeking visitors of Capri. The air is clear and the macchia blooms with a million flowers, occasionally small lizards dart in and out of the shrubbery, and we’re almost a little sad when we come back to Anacapri.

Graveyard in Anacapri

Graveyard in Anacapri

On the edge of town we stumble upon a small typical cemetry with a friendly caretaker who is so happy that someone shows interest in the places that he takes it upon himself to show us around for half an hour. Curiously a lot of the graves bear English names. Originally part of the Bourbon kingdom of Naples, the british ruled for a few years in early 19th century and since then it had always been a destination for well-off Brits and artists of all nationalities, who came to the island for its natural beauty, perfect climate and archeological wonders. Sadly though this interest – and the building activities of the British navy destroyed a lot of the findings. Now most of the more interesting stuff is scattered in museums worldwide.

Casa Rossa, the red house in Anacpri, built for the American Colonel John Clay MacKowen in late 1800s

Casa Rossa, the red house in Anacpri, built for the American Colonel John Clay MacKowen in late 1800s

A few exceptions can be found in the Casa Rossa or red house, an eclectic contraption built for American colonel John Clay MacKowen. Mac Kowen retired on the island and collected everything he found, from 16th naval guns to roman mosaics and his house shows all of indiscriminately. It really is a house of wonder and we feel like children again exploring it. Looking at it from an educated, style-conscious perspective I am appaled by its evident lack of focus and playful disregard for historical authenticity. Nonetheless I can’t help being utterly enchanted and we both imagine how wonderful it must be to live in this bright-red fairy-tale mansion.

Church of San Michele Arcangelo in AnaCapri

Church of San Michele Arcangelo in AnaCapri

After visiting the small museum with paintings of Capri that’s part of the exhibtion we decide to walk all the way down to the harbour instead of taking the Micky-Mouse-Bus. We are rewarded with some particularly stunning views over the roofs of Capri itself, by some amazing sweets in the old-town and try not to be too dissapointed in ourselves for not seeing the Villa Michele and Punta Carena. This keeps being a constant problem on my journeys; no matter how much you see and experience there is always more that you miss. There is never enough time to see it all, and I’m just starting to learn to let go and accept that, otherwise the list of places I have to revisit just keeps getting longer and longer.

Once upon a time.... Sadly though, no signal.

Once upon a time…. Sadly though, no signal.

A dove and boats in a bay seen from the top of Monte Solaro

A dove and boats in a bay seen from the top of Monte Solaro

The interior of the Casa Rossa/ Red House in Anacpri, now a museum with many paintings showings the island and an eclectic treasure trove of bits and pieces the colonel collected over the years, from roman columns to french cannons.

The interior of the Casa Rossa/ Red House in Anacpri, now a museum with many paintings showings the island and an eclectic treasure trove of bits and pieces the colonel collected over the years, from roman columns to french cannons.

On the top of Monte Solaro, even on a hazy day the view over the island and the Amalfi coast is stunning.

On the top of Monte Solaro, even on a hazy day the view over the island and the Amalfi coast is stunning.

 

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