“My Heart’s On the Isle of Capri”
Capri is one of the most famous islands in the world, and yet it is only around 4 square miles in size: tiny in comparison to its giant reputation. It has been the destination of countless lovers, honeymooners, artists and poets, who have grown the fame of Capri in song, on paper, and on canvas.
Besides its two ports (“Marina Grande” and “Marina Piccola”), Capri boasts just two villages: Capri and Anacapri, this last which is perched high on the uppermost part of the island. Both are full of designer shops and restaurants. The island boasts ruins of its ancient Roman settlement, as well as earlier bronze-age artifacts, which are proof positive that for literally thousands of years people have been drawn to the magic of this small island. The Roman Villa Jovis is a must-see for history buffs when visiting the island, as it is one of the best-preserved Roman villas in the Mediterranean.
Perhaps part of the mystique of Capri is that it’s still so hard to get to. Not only is it accessible only by ferry or hydrofoil (from Naples, Sorrento, or the nearby Amalfi Coast)—unless you want to pop for a helicopter ride!—but the watercraft are still utterly dependent on the fickle sea. Rough seas in the off-season in particular can cancel hydrofoil crossings (although the larger ferries are more likely to get through). Most of our cooking itineraries on the Amalfi Coast and its environs include a visit to Capri (weather permitting), or one can certainly be arranged.
I’ve been to Capri numerous times, always charmed by the beauty of the scenery if not by the number of tourists. I fondly remember traipsing around the island with Chef Carmen and having a jolly time, but my favorite Capri story is from many years ago.
My parents and grandmother came to visit me in Rome and my grandmother, in her 70’s at the time and hindered by severe osteoporosis, wanted to go to the Blue Grotto. She had been to Italy before but never to the Blue Grotto, which is particularly difficult to get to: first you have to take a boat to the shore nearest the Grotto, then you have to switch to a small row boat, which (if the sea is calm enough), will be rowed into the grotto by an expert oarsman. At times the line of row boats waiting for access is daunting, and you must duck below the boat line to enter the narrow, low entrance or risk getting smashed against the rocks. As you can imagine, the trip presented a number of challenges to Grandma. But she managed it, with the help of a number of friendly and good-natured (not to mention strong) sailors. She sat in the small boat, looking at the unnaturally blue, incomprehensibly rich hues of the cavern, and mused that she thought that must be what heaven looked like. It was a memory that stayed with her for the rest of her life and that came back to me when she passed away in 2004, when I wondered whether she was finding out she was right. And it may be why, to quote the song made famous by Frank Sinatra, “my heart’s on the Isle of Capri.”
By Peg Kern