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Sorrento - Capri

ITALY | Wednesday, 20 March 2013 | Views [1374]

Like Anthony Bourdain quotes in my very first entry, it is sometimes difficult to put into words exactly what it is you’re experiencing. Sorrento, and indeed all of what we’ve experienced in Southern Italy, will be just that – something I cannot aptly put into words. The town of Sorrento is built on a sheer cliff facing vast deep blue water and the city of Napoli on the distant shore. Mount Vesuvius, persistently concealed by clouds, still commands a presence across the water. When you walked onto the terrazzo of our hotel, there was nothing between you and sea air.

We decided on this day to take a walk through the town, and so we were dropped by our hotel shuttle in the midst of a bustling piazza. A gorgeous yellow church, reminiscent of those found in South America stood at one corner, while a line of touristy trattorias lined the other. There were little souvenir shops in the many side streets, filled with painted ceramics depicting the ever-present lemon. Lemon trees grow everywhere in the south, and they are thus an unofficial mascot, adorning almost every souvenir.

We made our way down to the waterfront, which was an ordeal because the town sits high up on a cliff face. We went down several flights of questionable stairs to a narrow road with rock face on either side. The ‘sidewalk’ was only about a foot wide. Though the sun was shining, it was windy and the shade was cool, and in the narrow ravine roadway, wind and shade were abundant. Luckily the road quickly opened to the ocean and the sun began to shine again. We had wanted to take a boat tour of Capri so we wandered toward the docks to see the prices. Looking back at Sorrento you could really get an idea of how insane it is. The hotels and houses sit flush with the rock, like an extension of the cliff face towering hundreds of feet above. Wind from the sea, whips in and rushes up the face, making the air a venerable playground for sea birds. From our hotel’s restaurant we could watch them soar past at breakneck speed, and drop to the waves below.

Because the day was so perfect, we decided to take the next boat to Capri in case the weather was bad the next day. There are a couple ways you can get to Capri; you can take the ferry which is the cheapest option, but also the slowest; you can take the super fancy cruise option and pay through the nose; or you can choose the fast boat that’s not super fancy. The third option is what we chose. These boats are sort of large speedboats with hideously upholstered seats lining the inside. We opted to sit outside and enjoy the spray as the boat hit the waves, and take some photos. We also ran into a mother, daughter, granddaughter trio that we had met earlier and taken a photo for. They were from Cornwall in the UK, though for some reason mom thought they were Australian. Mom and the mother chatted for most of the boat ride, while I watched the granddaughter lean over the side of the boat and get soaked every time a wave crashed by. Her mother wasn’t too impressed, but she thought it was fantastic.

From where we were on the boat you couldn’t really see what was ahead until it was right in front of you. Capri snuck up on us, and all of a sudden we were faced with something out of a fairytale. Misty mountains, green lush forest, white sun-baked houses speckling the hills, fishing boats floating in the harbour, and lemon trees adding yellow sparkle to everything.

We wandered the harbour and were greeted by a man trying to get us to come to his restaurant. We told him we weren’t hungry yet, so he gave us a map and told us the best places to visit while on Capri. I wanted to visit the blue grotto, but sadly it was closed due to rough seas. We promised we’d be back for lunch, and went to take the funicolare (cable car that takes you up to the top of the hill). The view from the top of the hill was indescribable. It was like a dreamscape of clouds and sun and white. We meandered through the streets taking photos, and looking in shops. A lot of the shops were closed for the season, as the season doesn’t really begin until April or May. I couldn’t imagine how busy and hot it would be in the summer, and I’m thankful that all we had to sacrifice to avoid tourist mayhem was a few sprinkles of rain and a few degrees Celsius. It also helped my bank account that the shops were closed, as I’d likely have brought home too many lemon souvenirs.

We went back down to the harbour and had lunch at the restaurant as we’d promised we would. The man was happy we’d returned. We have had some really exceptional customer service in Italy, the kind that makes you feel welcome, comfortable, and that you’re not an obnoxious tourist. We have also had some not so great service, but I take it with a grain of salt, having worked in retail. You don’t always know what kind of day that person has had, and because we are all human, you can’t expect everyone to be in a good mood all the time. Our lunch was really good, and was filled with fresh seafood and pasta. For dessert I ordered a sfogliatelle, which is a divine morsel of layered crispy filo-type pastry in a wavy pattern filled with lemon ricotta. Amazing.

By this time in the afternoon the sun had been covered by some ominous looking clouds and there was a mist of rain on the wind. My hair looked awesome. Our boat arrived just as the torrential rain started, and so we decided to stay indoors on the ride home. Neither of us had umbrellas at this point, so we hopped on a minibus to take us back up to Sorrento once the boat docked. We ran to the square to try and get a cab, but there were none to be found so we walked back to our hotel, tip toeing around cobblestone puddles. By the time we got back our feet were soaking wet, as we were both wearing Toms, the least waterproof shoes in the world. That night there was thunder and lightning overhead and the rain kept coming down so hard that it sounded like white noise outside the window. We went straight to bed, exhausted after an amazing day on the Isle of Capri.

Tags: capri, funicolare, italy, sfogliatelle, sorrento

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