THE ISLE OF CAPRI
Written by Rick Archer
Our first stop on the cruise was Naples down in southern Italy.
There were some tough choices in Naples. Many of the SSQQ
group chose to visit Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. Still others
took a trip along the beautiful Amalfi Coast.
Marla and I had our sights set on the legendary Isle of Capri.
Marla had been studying Capri from practically the moment she first
booked our Barcelona Trip.
Marla explained to me the
name of the game was to get to the top of Mount Solaro, the massive
volcanic peak that dominates the entire island.
This Google Earth photo shows that the two major population centers
- the towns of Capri and Anacapri - are separated by a mountain
range featuring Monte Solaro.
The towns of Capri and Marina Grande are nestled in a valley that
was once the cone of the volcano.
Ferry Ride from Naples
to Marina Grande
As you sail in to
Marina Grande from Naples, you can't actually see Mount Solaro.
Mount Solaro is back behind that crest you see in the picture.
In order to get
to the top of Mount Solaro, you have to get there in four stages.
One is taking the hydrofoil or the ferry from Naples over to Capri.
Marla determined the less expensive option was to take the ferry
although the hydrofoil might actually not be much more.
The ferry cost 28 euros roundtrip.
The ferry is
a ten minute walk from the cruise ship. The ferry ride to
Capri took 50 minutes. 10 + 50 = 60 minutes. That's one hour.
Are you a
gambler? If you hop on the 5 pm ferry from Capri to
Naples and your cruise ship departs from Naples at 6 pm, you better hope that
ferry stays on schedule. If you are not a gambler, then you
will have to come back to Naples an hour early. In retrospect,
the hydrofoil might have been the better option. The hydrofoil
is about twice as fast.
As you can see,
the view of Capri from the water is simply stunning.
Grande and the Funicolare (i.e. funicular railway)
Our ferry docked
along that rock-lined pier in the picture below. Stage Two
of our trip was to board the "funicolare", a
subway-like train. The funicular train runs at angle of 30-40
degrees up the side of the mountain straight to the town of Capri.
As we got
off the ferry, the ticket office for the funicular was
completely separate from the train itself. The funicular was
extremely inexpensive. My roundtrip ticket was 2.6 euros.
The wait in line was 20 minutes and the ride itself was 10
Living here in Texas,
we don't have much experience with "split-level living". We
all live on the ground floor!
However, on the
island of Capri, there are dwellings on every level of this
mountainous island. In the picture above, you can see both
Marina Grande at water level and the town of Capri above on the crest
of the hill. The red arrow points to the "funicular" which
connects the two towns together.
also known as a funicular railway, is a cable railway
in which a cable attached to a pair of tram-like vehicles on rails
moves them up and down a steep slope, the ascending and descending
vehicles counterbalancing each other.
Apparently there are
two set of cars. As one goes up, the other goes down.
What a clever idea!
The Town of Capri
above the ocean, the town of Capri rests on a mountainside
plateau. Capri is practically right above
Grand Marina. The town of Capri is one of the two
major population centers, the other being the town of
Anacapri higher up on the mountain.
Three was to hop a bus to take us to the town of Anacapri on
the other side of the island. As you get off the
funicular, you can pick up the bus about 400 yards away if
you turn right. We turned left and wasted about ten minutes
wandering around until I was able to find someone who spoke
Once we did
find the correct direction, the three ladies in our group -
Marla, Maggi Dodds, and Ann Harrah - found a useful landmark
for any future trips. Just take the path that goes
past the Prada store! As you can see from the
body language on Mike Harrah, he wants to get away from
there as fast as he can.
Bus to Anacapri
The bus station is
about 20 yards past the Prada store. I was stunned at how little
room there was for the buses to operate. In the middle
picture below, notice that the bus is about the same width as the street.
Notice the narrow sidewalk for tourists to
avoid getting squished to death as the bus passes.
Parking the bus is a major
headache. The bus has to drive past its spot, then carefully
back into it. There is little room for error. I noticed
scratches on practically every bus. I did not for a moment
criticize the drivers. I would be hard pressed to do any
The bus ticket cost
all of 2 euros... one euro up, one euro back down. We barely
missed a bus and had a fifteen minute wait for the next one.
The trip up the side
of the mountain took about 15 minutes. You have no idea how
small the roads are. One time another bus
tried to pass. One vehicle stopped while the other inched by at
2 miles an hour. I estimate no more than two feet separated the
two buses. These drivers must have nerves of steel.
The riders had to have nerves of steel as well. At many
places, the road passed on the edge of a huge cliff. That
roadside barrier didn't look very high either. One mistake and... well, you
know. I wish I could have gotten some pictures, but it is
impossible to take a decent picture from a bus.
Anacapri and the
chairlift to Solaro
The town of Anacapri
is not very large. Nor are its vehicles!
Note that little
three-wheeler. I saw lots of vehicles about that size.
The roads are very narrow. No place for any Texas-sized
trucks, trust me.
Stage Four was riding
the chairlift up to Mount Solaro. Anacapri is the spot where
the bus lets you off so you can catch the chairlift. The ticket box isn't difficult to
find. It is just ten yards or so from where you get off the
bus. It cost 12 euros.
The trip up the
mountain was wonderful fun! What a view!
By the way, the
chairlift is not scary at all. It is fairly easy to get on and
off. As you can see, they have people to help you. No
On Top of the
World at Mount Solaro
Mount Solaro is
basically Italy's answer to Shangri-la. There is a plaza at
the top of Mount Solaro where you can get an expresso and cookies to keep you
company. Then you sit back and take in the magnificent views.
When you reach the plaza, the first thing you see is this lovely statue.
In the background, you
can see the famous rock formations known as the Faraglioni,
a famous landmark of Capri. The Faraglioni are three blocks of rock that have survived coastal
landslides, erosion by the sea and all manner of atmospheric
You really do feel
like you are on top of the world up here. When I was a kid,
there was a song by the Who with the phrase: "I can see for miles
and miles and miles!" That pretty much sums up
the view in every direction. For example, in the picture
directly below, off in the distance you can see Sorrento, an Italian
peninsula on the Gulf of Naples.
Obviously at one point in time, Sorrento and Capri were joined.
In the second picture,
you can see the remains of the villa of Tiberius. At age
56, Tiberius became the
second Emperor of the Roman Empire. He was the man who
followed Augustus Caesar after his death in 14 AD.
As a young man,
Tiberius had been one of Rome's greatest generals. However he was deeply
reluctant to become emperor. Unfortunately, thanks to the
devious moves of his mother Livia, the wife of
Augustus, Tiberius didn't have much choice.
Tiberius was Emperor for 23 years
He did a conscientious job for 12 years,
then basically quit. He handed the job to his assistant
Sejanus and began a self-imposed exile. Tiberius moved to his
villa on the Isle of Capri where he lived out the last 12 years his
life. The story of Tiberius, Livia, and Sejanus is very
dark. I can't wait to share all the gory details later on.
In the picture below, that's the town of Anacapri down below from where the
chairlift originated. You can basically see the
entire island from up here.
the second picture below, you get a look at the comfortable plaza where the
people can hang out while they enjoy the views from the top of the
world. I had a definite feeling of paradise as I sat back in
my lounge chair. Too bad I had to leave!
As Marla said, if you are a tourist, the name of the game in Capri
is to visit this lovely area up here first. It was definitely
worth the trip.
The Mountain Path at
As I took the
chairlift back down the mountain, I noticed a very clearly defined
path that more or less ran parallel to the lift.
When I got home, I
took a look at Mount Solaro using Google Earth. That's how I
got the picture of that path.
Obviously the climb up
the mountain would be time consuming and exhausting. However
if I am ever fortunate enough to take another trip to the Isle of
Capri, I think it would be fun to walk back down the mountain.
The walkway did not look steep at all. For the adventurous, it
would definitely be a great hike with magnificent views.
I estimate the walk
down would take between 45 - 90 minutes. However keep in mind
I haven't walked it, so that is just a guess.
Here is a
picture taken from a plane. That is Mount Solaro
in the background. The 3 Faraglioni Rocks
are on the left. The famous Blue Grotto
is on the far right. You can see Marina Grande
in the center.
is hidden behind Mount Solaro.
That cliff in
the very front of the picture is where the Villa of
Tiberius is located.
the tricky choices on a trip to a new location is whether to
depend on the ship's excursion package or bravely set forth
on your own. There is no question that you can save
money by going out on your own, but there are definite risks
Historically, Marla and I have cut it down the middle
depending on the situation. Sometimes we take off on
our own, sometimes we rely on the ship to do it for us.
For example, on last year's trip to Rome, Greece, and
Turkey, we signed up for two excursion packages, walked two
days on our own, and relied on our friend Iqbal for two
basically in our nature to go it alone. We have
discovered the ship's packages sometimes stick us with
terrible guides who keep us at their mercy for the entire
day. Or for that matter we are at the mercy of the
slowest people in the group. Both of our excursions
last year suffered from very weak guides.
Our rule of
thumb is a simple one... if we can walk to it, then we will
probably do it on our own. Based on that philosophy,
we planned to visit Capri on our own. On the other
hand, the cruise write-up for the Capri Excursion was very
inviting. At the last minute, several of our friends
decided to book it. We were torn over what to do.
Royal Caribbean's description of the excursion to Capri
Spend a day on
the popular island of Capri, which teems with tourists
during the summer. Soak up the luxuriant gardens, the
sun-drenched squares, restaurants, shops, and crowded
streets. You will also enjoy the spectacular views of the
sea and sky from Anacapri.
From pierside in Naples, you will walk to the nearby marina
to board a boat for your scenic 50-minute cruise through
Naple's Bay to the Island of Capri. Arriving at the colorful
Marina Grande, your guide will dispatch you into various
local minibuses for the transfer along the winding road to
Anacapri. Visit the beautiful Villa S. Michele and gardens
of Axel Munthe, a Swedish physician and author of the famous
book, The Story of San Michele, in which he wrote his life,
his discovery of Capri, and his dream of establishing his
home on the island. The villa offers an interesting
collection of antiquities and marvelous panoramic view from
the garden. After the visit, you will have a short time to
explore Anacapri before the return drive to Capri Town.
(Instead of visiting the Villa
S. Michele, you may take the chairlift to Monte Solaro if
time and crowds permit.)
The route will offer magnificent views along the way. Walk
with your guide through narrow streets and the central
square, La Piazzetta, which is surrounded by intriguing old
buildings and filled with sidewalk cafes. Popular with
tourists and local alike, Capri is always extremely crowded
and bustling with activity. You'll savor a lunch of Italian
fare with wine at a hotel or restaurant in Capri Town.
After lunch, you will have the opportunity to explore the
Gardens of Augustus with your guide. The gardens are filled
with many species of plants and you can take in the views of
the Faraglioni, a famed offshore rock outcropping, and the
Bay of Marina Piccola. Explore Capri's fabled plaza, La
Piazzetta, with its many chic boutiques and gift shops
before taking the funicular back down to Marina Grande,
where you will board your watercraft for the return trip to
Naples marina where you will walk to the nearby pier.
Capri is a very popular island and crowds should be
expected during your visit. You may encounter crowds and
delays at the funicular station in Capri.
That is Marla and Maggi walking ahead of me as
we made our way back to the funicular
The Game of Travel
A major part of
the Travel Experience involves exploring new places complete with unknown pitfalls.
The Amazing Race is a fascinating TV show which
portrays the difficulties of fighting the unknown. Contestants
travel to multiple countries in a variety of transportation
modes, including planes, taxis, rental cars, trains, buses, boats,
and by foot. Watching how the contestants overcome unexpected
problems is half the fun!
Capri was like
an "Amazing Race" for Marla. Marla saw a perfect opportunity in Capri
to save some money. She believed the island was small enough that
she could negotiate all the various stages on her own and save a few euros in the process. As everyone knows, "Travel" can be very
expensive. A smart traveler can save themselves a lot of money
by doing some things on their own. At the same time, "winging
it" is a bit like tightrope walking. One mistake or one
unanticipated problem and the do-it-yourself traveler can outsmart
themselves and get stuck!
The threat of
missing the boat was a real concern to her... as well it should be!
For example, on this trip, one couple missed the train from Rome to
the ship back in Civitavecchia. It took a very costly cab ride
to solve the problem. For that matter, Marla and I came very
close to missing the train in Rome the same day. We were lost
on the confusing streets of Rome and couldn't seem to find the train
station. No one spoke enough English to help us out.
Then I lost Marla too! I remember feeling panic-stricken at
our close call! Later in the
trip, yet another couple missed the boat in Marseilles. They
had to take a train back to Barcelona on their own.
of Travel has its trade-offs. One of the problems of touring
places on your own is the uncertainty of how long it takes to get
from Point A to Point B. No matter how much Marla had
researched her day at Capri, she still wasn't certain how long it
took to get from one place to the other. How often does the
ferry run? How long does it take to catch the bus? How
long is the line at the funicular? How long is the ferry ride?
How long is the bus trip? All of these uncertainties weighed
on her mind.
All in all, it took us
about 2 1/2 hours to get to the top of Mount Solaro.
Stage One (Ferry): One hour
Stage Two (Funicular): 30 minutes (20 minutes in line, 10
Stage Three (Bus to Anacapri): 50 minutes (10 minutes
to find the bus, 20 minute wait, 20 minute bus ride)
Stage Four (chairlift): no wait. 10 minute ride.
did it cost us? 45 Euros
Ferry (roundtrip) -- 28 euro
Funicular (roundtrip) -- 2.60 euro
Bus -- 2 euro (2 trips)
Chairlift -- 12 euro
to 67 USD
On the other hand, we could
have taken the excursion sponsored by the cruise line. I
believe it cost
Many of our
friends took this excursion through the cruise line.
Afterwards, they raved about the experience. They got to
do everything we did including the trip up to Mount Solaro.
They had a guide. Lunch was included and was very pleasant
They also had peace of mind. A
ship-sponsored Excursion is guaranteed not to miss the boat!
Because they had a guide who had the times down pat,
they got to stay on the island two hours longer than Marla and I
did. This extra time allowed them to do things like see
the Gardens of Augustus among others.
invited to take the excursion, but Marla had put so much work
into her plans that we decided to stick with our original
decision to wing it. So Marla and I each saved $80.
On the other hand we lost out on two hours by being extra
careful about time. We also missed spending valuable time
with our friends.
So I would have to say the results of
our experiment were something of a toss-up.
The Capri Lifestyle
After spending a
wonderful day strolling through three charming towns, Marla and I
began to wonder if this was the sort of place we would like to live
I suppose there
are some aspects to living in Paradise that the locals must object
to. I am sure they complain about the tiny roads and cramped
I am sure they
complain about the thousands of tourists that overrun their island
on a daily basis.
And, boy, a
steady diet of that blue sky and blue sea must really get boring.
And all that
walking uphill and downhill must surely get exhausting.
But for all these
terrible problems, Marla and I decided we would be willing to give
it a try if the opportunity ever presented itself. Capri was
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