Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sorrento on $85 a Day – Capri and Anacapri

Capri Marina
This island about forty minutes by hydrofoil from Sorrento has so many tchotchke stands and tourists it is difficult to appreciate its beauty at first. All that clutter gets in the way. But get out of the marina area where someone is either asking you to take a tour for only 100 euros or eat here at his special restaurant, and you begin to appreciate the beauty of this magical place.

Seven-seater bus
David and I took the funicular from the marina up to Capri, walked around long enough for me to find my beloved pizza market, and then took what I'm sure is the tiniest bus in the world to Anacapri. It seats seven people. Yes, seven! Of course, most people end up standing in the center aisle and holding on while they sway around the hairpin turns. As you round a corner, seemingly suspended over a sheer drop down to the sea a thousand feet below, you experience one of life's greatest cheap thrills!

Villa San Michele Garden

To escape the crowds and to remember why this island has attracted so many famous people for so many years, we went to Axel Munthe's villa and museum, Villa San Michele.

Munthe, a Swedish doctor, who once was the physician to Crown Princess Victoria who later became Queen of Sweden, fell in love with Anacapri when he visited the island from his offices in Rome. This somewhat famous man was one of the first to explore the connection between psychology and the body. Although he gave free treatment to the poor in Rome, wealthy patients paid him far more than he ever billed, so he had ample money to build a showplace.
View from Villa
But the house Munthe built here in the late 1800s is modest and it is the garden that is expansive. Munthe believed that a house should be a simple shelter—it is nature that should be celebrated.

We walked the garden paths that wind up and around several terraces, providing stunning views, for well over an hour. In the end, we knew that Munthe was right.
Chairlift View
To find the peace and the beauty that is Capri, we next took the chairlift up Mt. Solora. For just 10 euros, I think this is one of the greatest pleasures one can have. The chairs glide up the mountain over villa patios, terraced gardens, old ruins, and groves of trees first, then scrub, while, always, to the side, there is the spectacular view of boats that appear as white toothpicks floating in an endless azure ocean.
Chairlift View
When we took the hydrofoil back to Sorrento late that afternoon, we decided that Odysseus was indeed a wise man to have had his men tie him to the mast of the boat when he passed by the Sirens. This land is so enchanting that it can indeed bewitch mere mortals.  We are under its spell.

Practicalities -
The jet hydrofoils and ferries leave from the Piccolo ("small" in Italian) Marina, not the Grande Marina. It is a fairly easy downhill walk from Sorrento's Tasso Square if you don't mind a couple hundred, often uneven, steps, but it's a whole lot easier to take the bus (avoiding walking back up the hill and all those steps) to the square.

Round-trip tickets to Capri cost 30 euros.  To return from Piccolo Marina to Tasso Square in Sorrento, take the blue bus which costs one euro, payable as you board. You can also take the city bus back to Tasso, but you must buy a ticket in advance from a Tabacchi store.

Villa San Michele costs 6 euros, payable at the museum door.

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