Arriving at the frenetic atmosphere of Marina Grande on Capri gave us a very quick insight into how busy this island has become in the 18 years since we first visited in 1999. Ferries, boats people and taxis were everywhere and our driver from the Ambassador Hotel was waiting for us and a few other guests in amongst it all. We certainly got a taste of what was coming from his surly demeanor and unkempt appearance. At first all was good and being sited above Marina Piccolo, the location was fabulous but it was all downhill from there….do not stay in this hotel!!!! It is shocking and as I was reminded by Ann, nothing comes cheap without good reason. The welcome was not a welcome as the staff were more interested in talking to each other and other guests than welcoming the new guests but finally we were shown to our “suite” or hole in the wall more like it. Our private balcony was not private, people walked along it get to their private balcony and the room was extremely average. Anyway, let’s move on from there as we decided to leave after one night following bad food, terrible bed and pillows, shocking attitude, zero helpfulness and zero cooperation.
We then went uphill from there and after a lovely walk around the Augusto gardens we lunched on our first day at the fabulous IL Geranio restaurant overlooking the stunning Faraglioni rocks .
We shifted to the very opulent Caesar Augustus Hotel in Anna Capri right on the edge of the cliff face with the most spectacular views imaginable so the next three nights were an absolute delight as we explored as much of Capri Island as we could. We had already wandered the streets of Capri town and the crowds were insane so once done that was it, the next day after a fabulous lunch at the cliff edge restaurant at the hotel and after a nap we wandered up to Anna Capri town along the main tourist route through all the shops
We visited the Casa Rossa an amazing late 19th century folly built by a disgruntled army officer from the American civil war who escaped the madness of the USA in 1870 and created this homage to all things classical and exotic. We visited the church of Santa Sofia in the main square and had a drink at the Michelangelo bar to escape a short downpour. We had heard about this great restaurant called L’Angolo Del Gusto which was right next to the church and enjoyed a fun night with great service and food and chatted to an interesting elderly English couple about their travels.
We were very keen to visit the famous Villa san Michelle which was just a few hundred metres from the hotel as we had heard so much about and it sure did not disappoint . Built by the eccentric Swedish Dr Axel Munthe, around the early part of the 20th century for him to escape the rigors of life in the cold of the north he followed his dream and created a masterpiece of design combining the classic Roman artefacts he found on site from an old Tiberius Villa with much of the style of French, Spanish and Italian contemporary villas of the time. His love affair with princess/queen Victoria of Sweden was brushed under the carpet at the time but much of the affair is now all known and is one of the 20th centuries most intriguing love stories. The gardens and grottos, chapels and studios all enjoy a spectacular cliff top panorama with the pink marble Egyptian sphinx one of the highlights.
The streets of Capri were fascinating and with so few accessible to motor vehicles wandering around the vast array of stunning Villas of the rich and famous along with the local homes was very enjoyable.
After our morning visit to San Michelle it was John’s desire to head up to the other side of the island to see the Roman Palace ruins of Villa Jovis, one of Emperor Tiberius’s many villas on the island where he ruled the empire from during the last 14 years of his life and Villa Jovis was his grand dream. Set on the highest point at the southern end of the island it commands a magnificent location and from the ruins it is impossible to contemplate the grandeur but excessively grand it was.
After a long walk in the midday heat and an interesting bush bash through the scrubland John managed to see both the cliff top Villa Jovis and the equally spectacular albeit small Villa Lysis another turn of the century ( 1904-08) escape Villa built by an eccentric romantic drug addicted French poet Jacques Fersen who was the son of a wealthy Industrialist and who had to leave Paris under a cloud due to his sexuality. The place was stunning and a really interesting design for the times with large glass windows, ensuites and even a cinema and opium den. The siting looking over Marina Grande and the Mountains of AnnaCapri right on the cliff face looking back to the Sorrento peninsula and through to Mount Vesuvius is spectacular. We dined in AnnaCapri town again at a recommended restaurant which was ok but nothing spectacular and strolled the now deserted streets where it was mostly locals going for their evening strolls. This is the part that we love to be part of, being amongst locals when the tours have left and watch and listen to their everyday lives.
We had arranged to meet up with Rosie, Kerry and Fel for a day out on the water and met them down at Marina Grande for a private boating adventure on a stunning day. The water was a bit rough and the wind was up so the Blue Grotto was closed. We hired a boat and driver and headed off around the southern tip and at first it was so rough getting out of the harbour we were concerned about Ann’s vertigo flaring up and Johns sea legs giving way but eventually we got going and when we turned the corner it settled down significantly and we enjoyed the journey checking out the cliff faces, bays and grottos. We went through the lovers’ tunnel under the Faraglioni rock island and motored along the western shore line past Marina Picolla and through to the Green Grotto where we all got to swim in the stunning azure green waters. We passed through the luxury cruisers moored in the bay and came across the stunning Stella Maris which was very appropriate for the girls.
When we got back to Marina Grande we lunched at a waterfront fish restaurant and then made our way up to The Caesar Augusta Hotel for a well deserved Aperol Spritz on the grande Terazza.
Fel headed back to the hotel and Rosie and Kerry wanted to explore Anna Capri so we wandered around the main streets and had a few drinks along the way before visiting the stunning church of San Nicola and its famous ceramic tiled floor depicting the garden of Eden. We mixed with the locals out in the square and fitted right in with the age group!
We had a great time wandering around the quiet streets and finished off the day with a fun pizza dinner at the Barbarossa Pizzeria before farewelling the girls on the next part of their adventures. Next stop Praiano but first a ferry ride along the stunning Amalfi coast from Capri to Positano.