May 6, 2010
Just another day in paradise… literally. Today we went to Capri’s neighboring commune, Anacapri. Make sure you get any early start… lots to do! Home to the Casa Rossa, Punta Carena, Villa San Michele (the home of Axel Munthe), Augustus Gardens, the famous Blue Grotto and LOTS more charm. If you’ve never been to the Isle of Capri… I definitely recommend staying in Capri over Anacapri. It’s a tad bit more expensive… but a lot easier to get to restaurants, bars, etc. Daily buses running every 30 minutes will take you to the small, quiet town of Anacapri. You can do most of the “must-do” sites in one day, ideally two.
First, we strolled around Piazza Vittoria, the historic center of Anacapri and visited the Casa Rossa. Crazy castle-like architecture where American Colonel, John Cay H. Mackowen lived immediately after the American Civil War and settled until 1899. Inside the walls of Casa Rossa features “the painted island” – a collection of images showing the everyday lives of 18th and 19th century Capri. Lots of history in these walls.
Next, we explored the summit Mount Solaro - the highest point of Capri at 589 meters above sea level. You can either hike up (1.5 hours) or ride the chair lift up and then hike down. Of course we chose the chair lift. Always love being on a lift… means you’re either about to do something extremely awesome and/or you’re extremely cold. Thank god it was 80 degrees. We got off up top (15-ish minute ride) at the ruins of Fortino di Bruto. Built in the early 1800′s as a fort during the English and French battles. Then I turned around… and saw the view. Hands down the prettiest view I’ve ever seen. I kid you not. 360 degree, panoramic view of the entire island, Faraglioni, Amalfi Coast, Gulf of Naples, and the islands of Procida and Ischia.
After chilling on top of Mount Solaro and taking hundreds of pictures… we began the hike down. You can download on the chair lift… but the hike is much more memorable – with ruins, old monasteries and cliff-side views that rival anything you’ll see in your life.
Next, we walked to the Villa San Michele, home of the Swedish physician, Axel Munthe. We had read a lot about this “must-see” site on the island… and it definitely lived up to the hype. His home was built in 1885 and has now been transformed into a museum with a number of ancient artifacts – sarcophaguses, sphinx, tombs, busts, marble, columns, gardens and again, one of the prettiest views I’ve ever seen. Munthe made his living as a doctor… but gained recognition as a writer for his book, “The Story of San Michele”, which has been printed in 50+ languages. I was extremely intrigued about the sphinx he had on site. Its not everyday you run into an ancient artifact. I’m about to drop some knowledge on you…
The Egyptian sphinx is more wrapped in legend than any other object at San Michele. It is from the time of Rameses II, 1200 B.C. How Munthe came by it is unclear… but some think it came from the Italian mainland. In The Story of San Michele he writes that he saw the sphinx in a dream and when he awoke from the dream he rushed over to the countryside to fetch it: “It is all too weird and fantastic to be translated into written words, you would besides not believe me if I tried to do so. I hardly know myself where the dream ended and where reality began… You may ask the granite sphinx who lies crouching on the parapet of the chapel in San Michele. But you will ask in vain. The sphinx has kept her own secret for five thousand years. The sphinx will keep mine.”
Munthe’s love for animals, music, nature and Capri, led him to be a hero and idol on the island. Amazing place… and an amazing piece of history.
Next, we bused back to the east side of the island and proceeded to our next adventure, the Arco Naturale and Pizzolungo. As you walk through town on Via Camerelle (the main thoroughfare and prettiest street on Capri) you’ll end up on a path that leads to the Pizzolungo walk. One of the most beautiful walks on the island, the Pizzolungo leads you through thick trees, rocky cliffs, stairs (tons of them), magnificent views, and even the Grotta di Matermania – a cave that is believed to be where the cult of the god Mitra practiced.
This gorgeous pathway continues around the coastline of Capri with views of Faraglioni rocks… and after about 1,000 stairs, you’ve made it to the Natural Arch. Just like Moab, UT, this natural bridge between two pillars of rock was formed by many years of erosion and landslides. The perfect spot to rest, take a few photos and take it all in. The trail ends up looping right back to Via Camerelle… so, you can’t really get lost, but make sure you take some water if you do. Actually it wouldn’t be the worst place you could get lost… might just end up staying… forever.
That evening, we relaxed in La Piazzetta and watched another magnificent sunset. We ate directly off the plaza at a restaurant called Ristorante Isidoro. Great food (gotta get the mussel soup!), even better wine, and beautiful atmosphere. Topped of the day with some delicious limoncello… and called it a night. Exhausted.