Tales of a wandering lesbian


Our last, major excursion in the south was to the isle of Capri.  Accent on the first, people.  CA-pri.  There you go.

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan.  Again, I’m sure it’s much better in the off season.  (Like everything else.)  The day we went, it was a demonstration of just how commercial and overrun a beautiful place can become when it’s known as a hangout for the rich and famous.

There were some redeeming elements to the trip.  The ride out, while long, was beautiful.  We skipped along the coast, stopping at several Amalfi Coast towns.  We took in the caves, lighthouses and cathedrals again.

They were, after all, beautiful.

And we had a terribly entertaining deckhand.

The approach to the island was fairly dramatic.

I find that cliffs make everything seem glamorous.

Capri is most famous for its “Blue Grotto,” a cave that emits a beautiful, blue light due to the light being reflected through the water and off of the limestone.  We didn’t make it there.  Overhearing that the rough seas and mobs of tourists had made the entrance to the cave “hell” from a private guide who was talking on his cell phone to one of the boatmen at the cave, we decided that we’d forgo the trip out.

Instead, we opted to head up the side of the island via funicular.  In fact, we decided to follow the guide and his two American clients.  They seemed to have a plan that included a walk around the tip of the island, and some food.  We like food.  And we like local recommendations for food.  So, we fell into stalking mode.  I’ve been wandering around alone for long enough to be pretty good at following paid guides without actually paying.  Yeah, it’s a skill I don’t usually brag about.

Knowing that we could catch them at the top of the hill, we bought our tickets and climbed aboard the funicular.  Now, those of you who have watched Amazing Race will know what a funicular is.  For everyone else, it’s a kind of wonky boxcar that takes people up the side of a hill/mountain.  It’s at an angle.  All of it.  In order to keep people standing up straight, the car is strangely angled up , creating a Wonka-vator effect.

Fortunately, the guide, who was a good foot taller than most, climbed aboard just in front of us, his orange shirt a fantastic beacon for us.
Long story short, we ended up following this guy through the crowded streets, sometimes moving in front of him, sometimes falling back, always listening for his voice and the questions of his clients.  Eventually we made it to a beautiful overlook.  Something we would never have found.

But by that time we were starving, and the Ant had to pee.  A lot.  After some coaxing, I approached our hijacked guide.

“Excuse me.  It seems like you know this place pretty well.”  I’d had to interrupt after waiting a few minutes for a break.

“A bit.”  He smiled.  His clients did not.

“Is there anywhere you’d recommend to eat?”  We couldn’t wait any longer to follow him into a restaurant.

“Hmm.”  He proceeded to take several minutes to tell me that the place he would usually recommend was closed on Wednesdays, and that there were plenty of places back down by the funicular.  About 15 minutes hike back down the mountain.

“Thank you.”  I tried to act grateful and not irrationally frustrated.  We’d followed him, on my suggestion, to a dead end at the top of a mountain.  Fantastic.

If we had to walk back and start over, at least the view was pretty.

This part of the island seemed far less frequented than the rest.  Quiet and unassuming, villas hid behind hedges and locals walked the streets.

We found our way back to the main square and headed into the Medieval part of town.  I think we stopped at the first restaurant we found, grateful for a place to sit.

The white walls were hung with black and white pictures.  A single-browed youth stood in a black apron, serving smiling celebrities.  A young man with the same brow leaned in, smiling next to glamorous women.  A man, with a shock of black hair embraced the customers as they posed together.

I looked up and noticed a man, with graying hair and eyebrows coming together in the middle standing against the wall next to the kitchen door.  He surveyed the room.  Not a celebrity in sight.  Just a table of Japanese women and a couple of Americans, too exhausted to talk.

We ordered lunch, a couple of pasta dishes that were good, a cheese plate and desserts to match.

Then we headed back into the insanity to do a bit of shopping and snap some pictures with the rest of the crowd.

There were some beautiful parts of Capri.  If I could squint my eyes, and vanish the hoardes, I could see how pretty it was.  What had brought generations of royalty here.

But it wasn’t sustainable.

We walked into a shop to buy a gift for my Grandfather.  The Greek flag watch had caught our eye as we walked by.  In Italian, we worked through the item, the price, and whether we could easily change the battery.  As we went to leave, the woman behind the counter stopped me.

“Italiana?”  Seriously?  She wanted to know if I was Italian?  After a conversation in my broken language?

“No.  Americana.”

“Pero, parla l’Italiana.”

“No, un poco.”  I seriously didn’t speak Italian.  Only the littlest.

“Pronuncia bene.”

“Grazie!” I beamed.  Nobody had ever told me that I pronounced the language well.  For someone who nearly worships words, this was a high compliment.

We smiled at each other and bid goodbye.

The next few hours were marked by a ride down the funicular, where we listened to a woman screaming at the attendants in an accented English and Italian mixture.  I mused at the tiles in the station, thinking of her as the crazed barbarian, and us as the serene mountain goat.

Once at the bottom, we purchased our tickets for the return boat ride, bought a couple of granite (slurpies) and camped on a little strip of beach to watch the piercingly clear water holding up the small boats that bobbed on its surface.

I even found some time to post a few items to the interwebs.

We were so ready to leave the little island that we boarded our boat 40 minutes early and watched, horrified, as ships from Naples unloaded still more people onto the protesting docks.

The ride back, however, was a delight.  First, we were mistaken for – wait for it – Canadians!  That’s right!  Some lovely people behind us tapped us on the shoulder and asked if we were from the Great White North!  Then they told us that Idaho was close enough.  I like Canadians.

We spent the next two hours chatting with them about everything.  They were lovely people who were just ending their 3 week trip to the country.

We took each other’s pictures and exchanged contact information.  It is always a delight to meet new people, and Roy and MaryLou were extra delightful.  After about an hour, Roy asked me a question about our President.

“I can’t tell your politics,” he said deadpan.

I laughed hard, and slapped him on the shoulder.  I’m still not sure if he was kidding.  I love Canadians.  Have I mentioned that?

The second thing that made the ride back extra lovely was the light.  It was absolutely stunning.  Almost as if it was coming from under the water, shining up.

It made the lighthouses and jewel-like cities sparkle more than usual, and made the boats look like they were floating in air.  Or Jell-O.

Even the docks were alive, sparkling like diamonds

The docks.

Here’s the thing, we didn’t take off from the docs of Salerno.

Hmmm.  As we pulled into the slip we realized our error.  We were coming into a different port in Salerno.  About 2K from where we should be.  If there’d been an option, we would have taken it.  But there wasn’t, so we walked.  Through the streets, through parks, along the water.

And we reminded each other that, even though we were tired, and burned out from a long, exhausting day, life was beautiful.  We were in Italy.  And we’d just been mistaken for both Italians and Canadians.

Bella, eh?

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July 2, 2010   1 Comment