Capri And The Anti-Climactic Ending
This was our last day in Italy, but by no means was it the least. How could it be when we would be exploring the island of Capri? From Jacquelin Kennedy's sandals to Grace Kelly's cropped pants to the elusive Blue Grotto and the magnificent Mama Mia Road, Capri has several claims to fame and so it was a sure shot on our Italian itinerary.
Generally, I am not a huge fan of tours because I like to see and do things at my own pace (read: faster than others :P) However, in Capri's case I came across
, a private day tour company, on
who had raving reviews and it seemed like other than guiding you through the steps involved in actually getting to all the sights of Capri, they proved to be very helpful in skipping the long line to check out the Blue Grotto. It was not the most economical option, but we decided to go for it so I could sit back and let someone else do the planning and guiding for a change and enjoy. I'll be honest, although it was nice to not have to worry about ferry times and tickets and all the minor details etc., it was a little nerve wrecking for someone like me to just give up all the control. :P
We were met by our private tour guide Luigi (wished he was Mario because I like him better :P) at the ferry terminal in Sorrento around 8:30 am who had our tickets and we were on our way to Capri. It was a nice 40 minute ride to Capri where we
were welcomed by a driver and a roofless Jeep to take us all the way up to Anacapri. Once we were on the Mama Mia Road and witnessed the unobstructed and sweeping views of the Gulf of Naples and the port, the roofless Jeep made a lot more sense :) It also made a lot more sense as to why this winding road was named as such.
Views that make you go "Mama Mia"
We spent the morning taking the chair lifts to Monte Solaro - the highest point of the island and offers gorgeous views of the Sorrentine Peninsula and Monte Vesuvius, and the Faraglioni rocks. It was a cold and short chair ride to the top and we were able to take in the views and get some good photos before the crowds from the cruise-ships invaded the mountain and it was time to run the other direction :P Our guide knew what he was doing, which was great!
He than gave us a short and insightful tour of Anacapri and showed us Axel Munthe's Villa San Michel as well as L'arte del Sandalo Caprese, the shop where you can get made to measure sandals just like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis used to at the more expensive and famous Canfora shop down in Capri center. I do not know why, I guess it was a chilly morning, I felt like I had too many sandals already or something and did not get a pair. I will admit, I regret that. I have learned since then to not give up on such opportunities to get iconic & timeless pieces of fashion. :P Our guide gave us some alone time before lunch to wander on our own and shop for souvenirs, which I loved. We had tasteful lunch at a local Trattoria in Anacapri and it was nice to not be ripped off as you would in many restaurants in Capri center, thanks to our guide.
Souvenir shopping in Anacapri
The second half of our day started at a disappointing note as we got the final word on Blue Grotto not being open for the day :( It was not meant to be and it was time to get over it fast. We were driven back to the main town of Capri with Augustus Gardens as our first stop. Monte Solaro may be the highest part of the island, but it is here where you get the best views of the Faraglioni rocks, really. They just look beautiful from every angle and the botanical gardens themselves with all the different kinds of flora and fauna, which used to be the part of Krupp family's vacation estate are gorgeously maintained.
The Iconic Calendar shot
My little model enjoying the beautiful gardens
We then had some time to ourselves to explore the Piazetta or as they say, the chiazza - the real playground of the rich and the famous. There is something in Capri air that makes you feel so glamorous that you almost feel like there should be paparazzi following you around.
Completely in character :P
"Feeling like a star, can't stop my shine..." hehe
You see those people eating gelato in the background? We had gelatos pretty much everywhere we went in Italy, but this was by far THE best. Must eat when in Capri.
is not rated #1 out of all restaurants in Capri for no reason. After that delishhh sweet treat it was time to reconvene with our guide and take the funicular down to the port and head back to Sorrento. Capri was definitely captivating, but I came back without seeing the Blue Grotto or buying Capri sandals, which is something that will always bug me, unless I go back and right those wrongs?! :)
We spent the evening in Sorrento, it was Halloween night, and though it is not quite as big in Europe as it is in the US, we could see kids in costumes trick or treating. We had dinner at this lovely Kebab place called
. It is a tiny little corner shop in the heart of Sorrento, big on taste, service and satisfaction. We had to have gelato one last time in Italy before we left right? And how could we not when we came across
on our walk back to the car, right? :P It was not quite like the earlier masterpiece we had in Capri, but yummy nonetheless.
Halloween Night from Hell
It was time to drive back to our hotel to catch a morning flight home. The drive that turned that halloween night truly into the scariest night of our life. We were following the GPS directions (no cell phone reception and so no Google maps) and it made us turn on a road that kept getting narrower and narrower and steeper and steeper and before we knew the rental Fiat Punto just refused to go any further. The road was so narrow and curvy that it was impossible to turn back or reverse with the cliff on one side of the road and a dark endless ditch on the other. I managed to get out of the car in the hopes to maybe guide him to somehow reverse, but there was no way that was happening.
I could smell the tires burning and the engine sounded like it was going to blow up if the accelerator was pushed any longer. I almost slipped of the edge of the road and thankfully caught on to a boulder that stopped me from falling any further and only hurt hurt my palms and ankles. At this point I was thinking of the worst. I always wanted to visit Italy, but never wanted to die there :( That is when we saw two guys on a motorbike coming down on that road. They said something in Italian and just went past us, but only to return to help us a few minutes later. They could hardly speak any English, but tried to communicate as best as they could. They wondered what we were doing there as it was a dead end and there were only 2 houses at the top, and merely a donkey trail (how ironic) beyond that lead to the other side of the cliff.
To cut a long story short, we took the boys out of the car, and after a couple of more failed attempts and the car almost going off the edge, we hiked up to their house. What are the chances that they would be having a family get together and have 5-6 big guys to help, or the fact they would have a mini crane because their family farmed on the hills??? I know!!! Miraculously, they were able to tow our car up with a rope and crane and get it to a point where it could be turned. This family was like angels sent to help us. We were just blown away by their kindness and the extent to which they went to help us. We left them our contact info asking them to stay in touch and let us know if they were ever in France or US knowing that even though we would never be able to return the huge favor, we would still like to have that opportunity. One of the brothers was nice enough to even drive us back down all the way to the main road while the other brother followed us in his bike. Sadly, we never heard from them after that, but we have thought about them so many times since that night and always said a little prayer for that family.
They say, what does not kill you makes you stronger. This episode made us stronger and it strengthened my faith in God and his miracles. We were able to come out of this without much damage (just some bruised palms and ankles for me), the car believe it or not smelled like burnt rubber, but was scratch-less like nothing happened and were able to return it without much trouble at Naples airport the next morning before we caught our flight back to Paris. It really was a miracle and with that miracle we ended our unforgettable Italian saga, complete with beautiful locales, romance, drama, action, thrill, suspense and an anti-climactic, but happy ending.
Life is short, friends - enjoy it while it lasts :)