The breathtaking view from this enchanted spot creates the feeling that time has ceased to exist.
Exiting Amalfi harbour for our trip to Capri was made tricky due to the fact that I wanted to film it all as it happened. I admit that I’m not the worlds most happy person on a boat especially as it swayed a bit to avoid a yacht entering the harbour. Fortunately we could still see the bottom of the bay through the crystal clear water. With twenty people on board on what I considered a small boat for this epic journey along the Amalfi coast the captain, driver or whatever he called himself dressed in shorts and t-shirt, rather than a proper uniform of epaulettes, an ornamental shoulder piece displaying various stripes, colours and emblems, got the boat up to speed. He didn’t even have a captains table that we could dine together at. Maybe I got the wrong idea of this cruise.
As the sea spray lifted beautifully into the air we marvelled as the dramatic coastline revealed its small coves and caves. Occasionally a dolphin appeared, something I hadn’t been prepared for here. With the village of Positano, which we visited many years ago, over to our right (or is that starboard?), we ploughed on. Positano was a former poor fishing village and port and has grown in the last 70 years into a major tourist attraction. Peach and terracotta houses that impossibly cling to the hillsides drop down to the beach where famous people have walked including Mick Jagger, Franco Zaffirelli and little me!
Capri was our destination which people kept telling me was famous for Gracie Fields living there. Why did she sing about Bluebirds in Dover when she lived on Capri? I suppose it didn’t rhyme! I was however more interested in Swedish-born physician Axel Munthe; born 1857 and died 1949, author of the book ‘The Story of San Michele’ published in 1926 and a best seller in numerous languages, reprinted constantly over the years. He spoke English, German, French, Italian and possibly a few more. In 1892, he was appointed physician to the Swedish royal family and served as the personal physician of the Crown Princess, Victoria of Baden, continuing when she became Queen consort until her death in 1930.
His life as a doctor was tinged with sadness, tragedy and happiness and this is reflected in the book which he pointed out isn’t an autobiography. You can laugh and cry as you read his life’s experiences.
Villa San Michele is on Capri if you’re wondering where I was going with the above. It was lovingly restored by Munthe and is a must see on a visit to Anacapri.
The island of Capri was for many years strewn with remains of marble columns and Roman remains which Munthe used to build Villa San Michele on the site of a once Imperial Roman Villa and a medieval Chapel. The climb up to the villa from Marina Grande meanders through the shops, cafes and numerous tourists. The villa features according to their web site villasanmichele.eu. Two thousand year-old sculptures, replicas of ancient masterpieces of art, Roman tombstones mixed with 18th-century furniture – everything arranged in a fanciful way in rooms and loggias where the sunlight plays on the polychromatic marble floors. Above all you will find a romantic garden with cypresses, myrtle and exotic flowers, filled with birdsong and sweet scents. In the remotest corner by the chapel the sphinx awaits you. Day after day it keeps perfectly still on the balustrade, watching the world spinning round. The breathtaking view from this enchanted spot creates the feeling that time has ceased to exist.”
None of the above is an exaggeration, this is a truly spectacular place to visit and being perched on the edge of the cliff affords outstanding views. You could lose yourself in this setting for hours on end. Hour long walks are arranged every day from April to October. Munthe also acquired the mountainside in order to stop the locals spreading nets to catch the birds and sell them off, so he created a sanctuary for migratory birds.
I had to smile at the selling technique for Mount Solaro “Soaring 589 metres above sea level”. Wow only yesterday we were up Vesuvius at 1200 meters above sea level. However, I have to say that when you are that high on a small island looking out at a short stretch of land and shimmering sea it seems higher than Vesuvius and more picturesque to boot. From this vantage point we had a snapshot of our journeys over the years, The bay of Naples, the Amalfi coastline and over to the mountains in Calabria.
If visiting natural caverns floats your boat you can join the queue along with people from around the world to visit the Blue Grotto. The cavern is 25 meters wide and 60 meters long, with a tiny one metre entrance. Lying on your back in a wooden rowing boat is the only way in! Inside the dark cavern you will enjoy the breathtaking deep blue ocean. Floating here is an experience that should definitely be on your personal bucket list.
A short walk from the harbour are the Augustus Gardens from which you can view the dramatic Faraglioni, three towering rock formations which jut out from the Mediterranean just off the coast.
Food on Capri is simple the most popular dish being ravioli capresi . The pasta is light and filled with marjoram, parmesan and aged ricotta cheese, all tossed together with a fresh tomato and basil sauce. The beauty of this is that there is not a lettuce leaf in sight. Perfect. Freshly caught shrimps are also extremely popular and sometimes served sautéed or raw! So much of this food is served with pasta and I can handle that plus of course a customary glass of wine. What better way to enjoy this than by sitting outside in the sun watching the tourists go by.
What more can I say about it other than whilst visiting main coast Italy, Capri and Villa San Michele are a must see.
My thanks to Claudia Ferraro at Villa San Michele for sending me such superb pictures. Garry.