Positano & beyond | Capri: Part 1 – People, Prices, Paradise
It was of course long ago that I heard of the seductive allure of super-chic Capri, rocky Island paradise beloved of celebrities, royals and couturiers alike. The island, which is just off the Sorrento Peninsula in Italy, was first the beloved of Emperor Tiberius himself, who spent much of his reign luxuriating on the island, and since it has been home to some of the worlds most famous creatives, from John Singer Sargent to DH Lawrence. Of course alongside its innate popularity is also a reputation laced with tales of pompous overpriced fashion boutiques, snobby restaurants and not for the feint hearted lavishly expensive hotels. This reputation both repelled and entranced me, and while I was always procrastinating over whether or not to go, my decision was made up when I watched the delightful 1960s film, It Started in Naples. Starting Sophia Loren and Clark Gable, the film is a tribute to the stunning beauty of its island backdrop, as Capri is made just as much of a star of the film as Loren and Gable themselves. Although itself alluding to Capri’s over popularity amongst tourists, and the capitulation of the island to its predominantly American visitors (the satirical song Tu vuò fa l’americano is performed by Loren in the film), this 60s masterpiece made multiple promises of Capri’s geographical and social allure, and I knew I had to go there.
So keeping Positano on the Amalfi coast as our base (this avoiding at least the expense of Capri hotels) we set off on the morning high speed jet to the island and in under 45 minutes found ourselves approaching a jagged mountainous island so geographically surprising that it looked like an upturned knife searing out of the sea. There in the old harbour were the eye wateringly large luxury yachts (even our jet had cost is a cool €70 for the journey) although happily the scattering of colourful old fishing boats meant this port retained much of its Italian charm.
But the real charm was reserved for Capri town, a 20 minute hot uphill walk (or a more leisurely funicular ride for those who can be bothered to brave the long queue of tourists, and the price). Everything up in the town was like a pristine city in miniature. A half sized campanile with a charming yellow and blue ceramic face, little twisting streets containing small boutiques of the worlds most recognisable names: Gucci, D&G, Valentino, Prada, Versace, and at the centre of it all, a bustling central square, not even an 8th of the size of Madrid’s Plaza Mayor or London’s Leicester Square, but bustling and crammed with 4 or 5 cafes spread out over the whole area. Of course we headed straight to one such cafe – second Capri price shock: €17 for two glasses of house wine. Gulp.
There, sat in the Piazzetta (as it’s known), in the shadow of the white-washed Santo Stefano, one could really feel the essence of Capri. The square evoked the glamour that makes Capri so unique, fizzing with gossip and preening glitterati; waiters with their noses slightly upturned, regulars sat at the best cafe tables, their carefully coiffed dogs curled up beneath them, shiny boutique-bought handbags reflecting the sunlight, and the ice of morning cocktails glinting in the sun. Yes this was surely the reputed Capri – the very pinnacle of Paris couture in the tiniest cluster of toy-sized civilisation.
Feeling all the merrier for the wine, ignoring its hefty price, we wandered onwards, out of the square and into the town’s little streets which became ever more quaint and charming as one led to another. Our only attempt at shopping was thwarted by the sight of the price tag of a rather ordinary looking pair of sunglasses: a snitch at €1500. Happily, a sumptuous sun-dappled lunch in the cool gardens of the Hotel La Palma was easier on the wallet and even more so on the stomach. This left us well nourished (if a little tipsy) to explore the rest of Capri. Oh and what wonders were to come.
Read more about those in Part 2.
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