Wednesday, October 12, 2005

My Italy Diary: Capri, Part 2

We woke this morning to beautiful weather. After breakfast, our first since arriving in Italy consisting of more than croissants—interestingly they serve grilled hot dogs, bacon (not grilled, baked perhaps?), salami, ham, cheese, and watery scrambled eggs—we went to meet Mauricio on the dock for our tour of the island. His boat was outfitted with a padded deck with pillows for our comfort, the wind was mild, and the sun warm. A wonderful day to spend a couple hours on a sail boat.

Mauricio is quiet, speaking little English, and points out areas of interest. He tries not to be intrusive, but engages with our encouragement and offers to take our picture. He watches for my intent to photograph things and slows the boat to enable me to get the shots I want—even ducking out of the way if he believes he is in my line of focus. The island is bigger than we thought, with imposing cliffs raising out of the sea. It is amazing that anyone ever imagined settling here except that it is as beautiful as it is imposing. There are many
large private villas with long stone stairways cut into the cliffs that lead down to the sea—a private swimming area for the owners. Mauricio tells us that the maker of Moet Champagne lives in one and an author in another.

We visit each grotto, pulling as close as out boat mast will allow. The sea is the color of deep sapphire and clear and cool. In shallower areas the color changes to emerald green and sometimes turquoise. At the blue grotto, Grotto Azzuro, we stop and join the que with all the other tourists—a large boat of Japanese tourists and a boat of Americans. We are transferred to individual row boats with a guide and after paying a fee, he guides us into the grotto. The entrance is mostly under water, forcing us to lie back in the boat in order to enter. It is dark inside, but the water glows an incredible turquoise from light reflecting underneath. It is truly amazing. Unfortunately, my camera battery exhausts after taking only one picture, but I feel fortunate to have at least gotten that. Our guide is disappointed with his tip of €3,00, but we ignore his pouting and rejoin Mauricio on his boat for the remainder of our tour.

We make a quick stop at Marina Grande so that Mr. Man can use the Bancomat. I try to catch Mauricio’s eye, but he busies himself with the boat; seeming very shy to be alone with me. I ask about the weather and the tourist season; he gives me short answers and doesn’t elaborate. It is cooler on the side of the island shadowed from the sun, but still glorious and the water becomes a little choppy.

Mauricio returns us safely to our hotel (and Mr. Man gives him a generous tip) where another couple is waiting for their tour. We decide to take the ferry to Sorrento where we planned to take the bus to Positano, but once we arrive in Sorrento we realize that it will take too long to get to Positano to be able to really see anything before we have to turn around and come back in order to catch the last ferry back to Capri. So, instead we have lunch and then wander the streets of Sorrento. Unfortunately, all the shops are closed from 2pm-4:30pm for lunch, so we were disappointed, but realize this is our fault for not planning the day better.

We returned to Capri to wander the town and gaze in the windows of the designer shops (Prada, Valentino, Gucci...) all way out of our price range, but is is fun to pretend for a little while. Back at the hotel we ordered wine to our room—we are still not used to how inexpensive a bottle of wine is—and just spend some time reading, drinking and listening to the sounds of the water. Later we return to town and have dinner at
Capri Ristorante where I had homemade pasta with mussels and clams, and Mr. Man had linguine with seafood, both dishes were good. We shared another bottle of wine and enjoyed listening to and watching the other customers. There was a large party of German tourists who seemed to be having a great time. At the end of their meal, they brought a cart of Grappa to their table and they ordered a few different kinds. The waiter’s assistant, who was also assisting our table, had me smell two different kinds (very strong and antiseptic smelling), but we declined to order. A short while later, she placed a small glass on the table for us to taste. It was very strong and tasted like rubbing alcohol. I had wanted to try it as my ancestors came from Bassano di Grappa, north of Venice, but after lunch yesterday we did not want to again be charged for something we didn’t order, which is exactly what happened.

After we shared a wonderful chocolate cake with gelato, we were brought the check, at which time the assistant apologized that she was being forced to charge us for the grappa. We didn’t argue as it really wasn’t worth the effort and chalked it up to another lesson learned.

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