Naples 6: Prada, Tiberius & the €10 lemon

January 8, 2011

DSC_1510.JPGOur last full day and having studied the weather forcast earlier in the week Saturday looked to be best so we had reserved it for a visit to Capri. We got away early in the morning, there was no one on the streets and we were cold. Net result we walked faster than usual and were able to walk onto the 0835 Hydrofoil as it was about to leave. When you arrive, Capri is similar to most other Mediterranean ports. Ancient fishing vessels lie next to luxury yachts and the ferries come and go with speed and a form of professional casualness that can only come from generations of experience. However the funicular from the port to the main town is a transitionary experience (never go on holiday with an anthropologist). As you come out of the funicular the first impact is the view, which is glorious. The second is the realisation that you are in a sunny version of London’s Bond Street. This is after all the playground of the super rich. I saw two large Prada shops in the course of the day and the island must have the highest proportion of high fashion shops per head of population that any other area in the world. Its reflected in the prices as well. At the end of the day, tired after multiple long walks we sat down in a cafe where one expresso and two lemon juices came to €21, €25 given the experience of the waiter in delaying giving change until the funicular is due to depart!

DSC_1463.JPG Either way I am out of sequence. Catching that early hydrofoil meant we had no breakfast so we followed our noses and went to the cafe that was packed with locals and had a coffee and a croissant filled with something that looked like custard but had the taste of ambrosia. It was also reasonably priced! After that we walked through the narrow streets avoiding the small electrically powered delivery vehicles that just fit into the five feet or so available between the walls of villas (pictured with daughter at one of the few wide areas). The via Sopramonte lives up to its description as panoramic and we followed it all the way to the Villa Jovis which is perched on the headland overlooking the Sorrento/Amalfi coasts. One the way we made frequent stops to take photographs. Some of those were genuine, others excuses for a rest without having to admit to a lack of fitness! However we were frequently shamed by little old ladies who looked 80 at least who were popping up and down the hills and a regular basis and seemed able to descend at a pace which would have crippled my already suffering knees.

Now Villa Jovis was one of the main reasons to visit Capri. The Roman Empire was run from here during the last decade of the reign of Tiberius and having visited it I can hardly blame him. Given the choice between an island villa, high enough up for cooling breezes with views like that shown to the right and the humidity and bustle of Rome, which would you choose?DSC_1516.JPGNot to mention a convenient cliff to throw dissenters off and privacy (if the rumours of the time are to be believed) from prying eyes. Now at this point I should confess that my knowledge of this period of history was mainly formed by a mixture of playing Mark Anthony in a school play, watching the BBC adaptation of I Claudius and Claudius the God and then reading the original books by Robert Graves. That takes me from Julius, via Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius to Nero. Jacobi made his popular name through that series and he was wonderfully cast as the bumbling scholar who becomes Emperor by chance and does a pretty passable job including the conquest of Britain. He was well cast as Cafael by the way. He is not credible as a welsh soldier/crusader who has turned to religion and detective work in later life. That part should have gone to Philip Madog, who played the part in the BBC radio series.

The villa while a ruin gives a good impression of how it would have been during Tiberius’s time. You ascend through the servants quarters, past the vast storage pasts to the Imperial Quarters, arranged a series of terraces with that view. The goats are an added attraction. Daughter is also old enough to appreciate the stories of Caligula relationship with his sister, assumption of Godhead and making his horse a senator. Visit over we decided to take the boat trip around the coast, so we descended to the town and checked into the tourist office to discover that in winter the last trip goes at 1130 which was a real disappointment.

Nothing daunted we found the bus station and hopped onto the local bus (pictured) which is designed for the couple of roads that exist on the Island. However all have the scars of narrow passages on their sides. For €1.20 we were transported to Anacapri by a mountain road. Daughter had given up her seat to a more elderly passenger and was standing pressed against the window at the rear right. That gave her a perfect view of the drops that the bus wheels were missing by inches and reduced here to a state of stuttering terror by the time we got off at the Piazza Vittoria. I thought there might be some difficulty in getting her on the chairlift, but there was no problem and we had a relaxing and largely silent trip to the top of Monte Solaro. In summer this would have been packed (bad) and the restaurant would have been open (good); the views were wonderful and we had the experience of seeing the mainland peaks emerging from zephyr like clouds.

Following the return we walked around the town, settled for lunch at Lo Smeraldino to the side of the Church (again recommended) and then returned to Capri to climb up to the Punta Cannone viewing point by way of the vaulted alley way that exits from the Piazzetta. The climb was rewarded by the views of the Faraglioni. From there we navigated by instinct to the peace of the Augustine Gardens and the view of the hairpin pathway down to the Marina Piccola. Then back to the Piazzetta for the extortionate lemon juice and the funicular to the port. We took the slow ferry back rather than the hydrofoil and I’d recommend that both ways. For a start its half the price, you can walk around and its a lot easier to take pictures. For 40 extra minutes of your time its worth it.

I was then subject to what seems like hours standing outside fashion stores in the centre of Naples while daughter took advantage of the sales and we were foolish enough to let tiredness drive us to eat in the hotel for a second time. Mind you that meal was dominated by the CNN news story of the shooting of the Arizona representative and the discussion of political violence.

Tomorrow is our final day, with a flight at 1840 the plan is to head for the resort of Marina de Cantone for a Michelin three star restaurant (if open) with no walking, but some driver stress!

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