Europe | Italy | South | Sorrento – Magical Sorrento and Capri
I spent a magical last couple of days in Sorrento and Capri. After spending the last week and a half in major Italian cities, it was great to be in smaller and more scenic towns where I didn’t have to deal with maniacal traffic and people trying to sell me fake Louis Vuitton handbags on the street.
I caught the train from Rome to Naples, but decided to leave immediately as I didn’t like the look of the place. Besides, most people I spoke to weren’t too keen on Naples, mentioning that it was dirty and crowded, with slums in the middle. I decided to head south to nearby Sorrento.
Sorrento is the premier resort on the Neapolitan Riviera. It doesn’t actually have a beach, but has a number of hotels and apartments hacked into the cliff face. When I got there I immediately liked the place. Not a single McDonald’s in sight. It is compact enough to wander around in, and there are various balconies on which to linger on and look out into the Bay of Naples, with Naples itself in the distance.
The cliff side is lined with the most exclusive hotels, including the five star Excelsior Vittoria right in the middle. I could take a precipitous path downwards to the marina to look at the ferries and jet foils coming in. From down that level, I could look up at the buildings perched precariously on the cliff edges, as well as the other villas built high into the hills.
The town itself is great fun for wandering in, with a network of small and narrow streets filled with quaint shops selling specialty Italian foodstuffs or clothing. The cafes on the main square looked busy with tourists, which by the way seem to be mostly retired couples, the type who wear socks with sandals and flowery dresses.
Off the main area the cafes looked more cosy and inviting, where the waiters are invariably called Giovanni or Giuseppi. I dined cheaply but generously at one, where the waiter kept spouting phrases like “life is beautiful!” in a jovial sort of manner. Indeed it is in Sorrento. I had a most magical time wandering around looking at everything, most of the time wishing that I could live here.
The next day I took a ferry to the island of Capri just off the coast. If you do get off the ferry at Capri, don’t assume that the small collection of shops around the marina is the town itself. The main centre of Capri is a few kilometres uphill, reachable by vehicle, walking up a steep path, or the funicolare. Of course the intrepid explorer in me just had to take the road less travelled, so I decided to walk up the path.
Exhausting option. The path meandered around for quite some time, interspersed with the odd set of stairs. Flanking the narrow path were villas and houses all the way. I don’t know how the residents have anything delivered to their homes, like a fridge or new furniture, say. As far as I could tell I was also the only idiot hiking all the way up.
Once I appeared on the main square, most of the tourists who had taken the funicolare were already enjoying ice creams and sitting in the sun. Nevertheless, any breath I had left was taken away by the view from the balcony. I could see numerous villas nestled between the two peaks of Capri, and the bay spilling down below.
I decided to hike up to Villa Jovis, the palatial home of Emperor Tiberius. The Roman empire was actually ruled for a short time from here during the early years of the first millennium A.D. The walk up was actually quite enjoyable, passing houses and lemon groves, before reaching the ruins of the palace at the top. Right at the top, I peered over the cliff edge where the emperor used to have his less favoured guests hurled off.
On the way down I took another path to see the natural arch, which was pretty interesting. To make my way back to the town, I took another path which took me on a winding path by the cliff side. The views along the way were awesome. Winding in and out, following the cliff side, I kept looking out to the ocean and to the Sorrentine Peninsula in the distance. Mount Vesuvius, the still active volcano, could also be seen on the mainland.
Looking below me I could see a drop of a few hundred feet, with beautiful and irregularly jagged rock faces. The odd rock outcrop also sprang out of the blue sea. All along the way was the odd villa, locked away behind some gate off the path. I wondered who the privileged few were who actually lived here with this view. They must be some of the luckiest people in the world. The view from Capri is so special that if I could live here I probably wouldn’t want to leave.