The Isle of Crappy

The Island of Capri (pronounced Car-pri so the first vowel is long and not the way we foreigners normally say it Cap-ri) was once part of the Amalfi peninsular but a dirty great earthquake a very long time ago, shifted it big time! Now it’s a haven for those that prey on tourists. If I have one piece of advice for anyone wishing to visit Capri it would be “Take a packed lunch and a big bottle of water.” Not a good day today. In fact, it’s my firm belief that the real problem with Capri is that the ‘r’ is in the wrong place.

First of all the ticket office at the Piccolo Marina has some explaining to do. We were going by a timetable printed in a magazine, which is current and up to date. Unfortunately it does not take into account the fact that each window of the ticket office is for a different company and, in fact, a different time. It’s incredibly confusing. But not only that there was a massive queue lined up for the ferry we had decided to catch! Mirinda immediately decided we would be better off having a coffee at the nearest café…which we did…and watch the crazy English school kids frazzle as they waited in the sun.

Ferry crowd

Eventually I worked out how the entire thing worked and went to buy tickets for the next ferry at 11:45. This worked much better – no big queue and a fairly comfortable trip over to the island.

Now here’s the rub. Gary ran out of cash, didn’t he. A big no-no around these parts as most people do not take credit cards, especially people who sell ferry and boat tickets. This meant that as soon as we landed Gary had to find an ATM. Unusually for a male, Gary decided to ask someone. I approached a policeman and asked “Excuse me, officer, could you direct me to the closest ATM” in my best Italian which would more accurately translate to “ATM where, please?” This lovely, kind officer and upholder of social rules, told me it was “Centro” and pointed up a flight of stairs.

Now there’s an old Roman joke that when Tiberius first came to Capri, he asked a shepherd where the nearest ATM was and he was directed to the furthest point of the island where he stood and thought “What a jolly jape! I must reward those cheeky shepherds.” He turned around, marched back down and threw them all off the edge of the island. This is obviously the reason the nice policeman sent me 2.5 kilometres, up hill, out of my way and in the blazing sun, when there was a perfectly good ATM behind him!

Not enough that I climbed all the way up to Old Capri but to add insult to injury, the ATM was not working!! And then I managed to get lost. I have to say it’s a scary labyrinth up there. Millions of people, lots of very expensive shops, no signs except for those that want your business, no-one to ask as everyone around you is a tourist and probably just as lost as you are. I started freaking out by the time I’d returned to the central piazza for the 6th time.

Old Capri shops

Mirinda, meanwhile had no idea where I was or what had become of me. She texted me and generally became cross. She also found the very close ATM and was prepared to return to Sorrento (just had to get the song title in somewhere) if she didn’t hear from me soon!

Sometimes getting lost has its advantages. It meant I found two more ATMs, both of which were working. I milked the suckers dry! Maybe that is what happened to the first one. Some poor, lost, tired and almost broken tourist, feverishly fed in his card and emptied the machine of every euro it had!

I also, eventually, found the path back to the marina and managed to track down Mirinda who had purchased the wrong ticket to the Blue Grotto. I exchange hers and bought one for myself. Our boat left at 3pm. I’ll not go into how cross she was and how much pain I was in.

As we had an hour to wait we decided to boost the Capri economy by having a light lunch and ice cream. What a total rip-off! I know the audience is captive but hey, how about some realism? And they do it with such false smiles. I really dislike this ‘bleed ’em dry’ mentality. Before the second world war, Capri was a haven of poverty but then tourism came. I guess they figure they need to get as much as they can as quick as they can because they have no other industry. In fact, you’ve gotta wonder why they exist there at all.

Anyway…at 3pm we joined the wrong queue for a boat which turned out to be the 2:45pm boat. This is something else. You pay a lot for some pretty shoddy service. No signs, no proper information, timetables all shot to hell and yet they charge a motzah. If I pay a lot I don’t think it’s wrong to expect a lot in return. I’m going to stop raving for a little while because I’m just getting madder remembering it!

The boat finally arrived and we clambered aboard. First good thing to happen – the boat had only a few people on it as opposed to everything else being packed to the gunnels – though I didn’t actually see any gunnels to be honest. And now the nicest part of the day as we motored around the island, admiring the sheer cliffs and the various grottoes, being instructed in both Italian and English something that no-one could understand because the speakers were pretty bad and I think the guy had the mike too close to his mouth. But it didn’t matter. The boat ride was fantastic and highly recommended.

Just past the Faraglione de Mezzo

As we powered through the Faraglione de Mezzo subway, I kissed Mirinda three times, which apparently means you’ll be stuck together forever. I thought it was for good luck.

When you get to the blue grotto you have to leave your boat and clamber aboard a little row boat which takes you inside. When we arrived all the little row boats were full and there was a queue so our captain headed for home, saying (we thought) if you want to see the grotto, stay on board and he’d return. Of course, he wasn’t easy to understand so when we returned to the harbour, everyone except an American father and son team and us two stayed aboard – the rest left, missing out. So we then, straight away, headed back.

It was a hell of an experience. Something I’ll never forget. And something I recommend. Do the boat trip, do the grotto then go home. The little rowing boat is rowed by a crazy Italian who thinks he’s Caruso – this is normal, they all sing. The passengers must sit in the floor of the boat because the opening to the grotto is very small. But when you get in, the blue is just incredible. And the feeling of lots of little boats rowing around in a circle, looking at the blue is quite odd, particularly with the singing. You then get rowed back to your boat to be taken back to the dock. It is over so quickly and is a pretty odd thing to do but it’s truly an amazing experience.

Once ashore, Mirinda went to find a loo while I went to buy tickets back to Sorrento. Fortunately there was a boat in half an hour so we headed out to queue. And thank God we did. By the time the boat arrived the queue was stretched back miles.

Funny boat sign

As it was, a bunch of ‘ordinary people’ were allowed to push to the front of the queue by some odd Italian chap wearing a New Zealand water polo team shirt, who seemed to be in charge. This is just so wrong. It’s the tourists who bring the money in, pay the wages of these money hungry Italians and yet they rub salt deeply into our wounds by allowing the freeloaders onto the ferry first! The American chap in front of me was very upset as was I and, I think many, many others in the queue. But the Italians just laugh it off and smile as if to say “You idiots come here, what do you expect? Now pay me lots for very little.

Still, we were near the front of the unfortunate tourists so we had a decent seat for the trip back. I snoozed for most of it having not had a coffee since about 10am – very unusual and somewhat scary. At Sorrento dock it was once more a case of standing on a crowded bus for half an hour before it decided to drive up to Piazza Tasso and deposit us as sweaty heaps ready for the walk back to our hotel.

What a poxy day. At least we managed to get back in time for a quick dip in the rooftop pool before it closed (it closes at 7pm! Can you believe it? It’s light until 9 and everything else is open). We then relaxed until it was time to go to dinner.

Whew. What a day. And I didn’t visit a single church!

I had intended to end the day with the sentence above but as a postscript I would just like to add that we had a lovely dinner at Café Latino, a cool and groovy little place down Corso Italia which Mirinda chose a few days ago. It (almost) made up for such a lousy day.

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