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Lets go to... Capri and Anacapri

The footpaths of Capri, the other face of the most famous island in the Gulf.
Once the uproar of VIPs and jet setters is left behind, nature and the environment offer you an absolutely different dimension. It is found as soon as you leave the residential area and set foot on small roads, irregular trails, open spaces, and unexpected terraces. They all provide the opportunity to let yourself go in the presence of a beauty unknown to most. Here, at least a thousand species of rare and particular flowers grow, making the Blue Isle a true greenhouse of the Mediterranean Basin.
The visitor finds cultivated vegetation on streets and walls along the route from the main center of Capri to Villa Jovis. But the stroll amidst a wider sampling of spontaneous and characteristic flora is on the Tragara side of the island. Here, you go from the Aleppo Pines of the Arco Naturale to the Ilex groves at Matermania, from the lower shrub of Cisti and Scotch brooms, to the upper shrub of Phoenician junipers that mark the point of passage from inland rocks to seaside cliffs. To reach Tuoro from the Main Square, follow Via delle Botteghe up to the foot of the steep Via Croce. Then, follow that street up to the crossroad and take Via Matermania. This area already offers a beautiful glimpse of Marina Piccola and the Certosa. The slight uphill climb will take you to a fork where you choose whether to go to the Arco Naturale via the Tragara detour or along Via Dentecala and then onto the WWF trail towards Pizzolungo. To look at both possibilities: One, taking a right turn, you move along Via Semaforo that, right next to the Tuoro Hill, skirts Villa Cottrau and in a few minutes leads to the Piana delle Noci. From here, at cliff's edge, the eye shifts from Punta Campanella to the Amalfi Coast and back to the Galli Islets and then to the village of Praiano, losing itself at the distant horizon. But you are still on Capri. Along a terraced path in the midst of a pine grove, you reach the belvedere that connects with Via Pizzolungo and follow it down for about 15 minutes.
Two, you can reach the same point if, at Via Matermania, you follow the road on the left-hand side. When you are past the small valley of country houses, but before you reach the narrow little street that leads to the Arco Naturale, you once again glimpse Punta Campanella. Tightly packed between the sea and thick vegetation, you are in close contact with nature here; there is more and more peace and quiet as you go into the woods on a small and rather steep stairway. In this rocky, cliff-filled area, before reaching the Grotto of Matermania, you will see the Faraglioni, then Villa Malaparte and other homes as well as Monacone, Punta Tragara and the bay of Marina Piccola. The pathway continues up to Villa Solitaria and you follow on to Via Tragara.
On the other side of the Island, the descent to Palazzo a Mare is just as beautiful, varied and interesting. The route starts on the Provincial Road at Due Golfi and passes by the Catholic and non-Catholic cemeteries. Turning on Via Veruotto, shadowed by Monte Solaro, the road winds among vegetable gardens, vineyards and citrus orchards. Along the way you cross the Phoenician Road, the ancient trail to Anacapri, currently closed for reasons of safety, and continue along Via Fuosso to the Church of San Costanzo, right off the main road. Via Palazzo a Mare starts here. It is flanked here and there by freestanding walls or the ruins of cisterns, or occasional arched support walls that recall the first Greek and Roman settlements. This is the real countryside, where the very fragrance of the season is guaranteed to put you at ease. The destination, however, is just past the soccer field and down the small stairway to the bathing establishments. These are located close by the ruins of the only seaside villa on Capri: a structure organized into various residential quarters (docks, vegetable gardens, flower gardens) the few ruins of which give only a bare idea of what the villa must once have been, yet do not allow, not even ideally, to see in the mind's eye the complexity of the original lay-out.
The third and last route is one that takes you from the Certosa of San Giacomo to the Gardens of Augustus, a splendid panorama and starting point for Marina Piccola along the coastline. From Via Camerelle and down Via Certosa, you pass the vegetable gardens of the monastic complex and continue along the Oleander street of the "Carthusia" perfume laboratories. Passing beneath the small bridge just a bit before the entrance to the Park of Augustus, you come onto Via Krupp, the small trail (not always open) with its narrow hairpin bends, built in 1900 by Krupp, the German steel magnate. A bold and quirky undertaking to build, clinging to the rock face, as it does, the trail let the Steel King easily reach Torre Saracena and the bay of Marina Piccola while enjoying views of the sea and rocks jutting out high above Castiglione Grotto and in front of the Felci Grotto.

Anacapri: beautiful, quiet... away from the life of the jet set
Anacapri occupies the western part of the Island of Tiberius; in age-old contrast with Capri, it developed on the plain at the foot of Monte Solaro. This pleasant vacation resort had, as early as the 1800's, become the preferred destination of writers, poets and intellectuals searching for peace and unspoiled nature. This was in keeping with descriptions of the first visitors, who earlier had suggested that the inhabitants were gentler and calmer than those of Capri, now "mischievous and deceitful" because of numerous contacts with mainland traders and merchants.
Once upon a time Anacapri could only be reached on foot from the Marina Grande Port by means of the Phoenician Stairway, the long, steep and tiring set of steps carved from the rock jutting out on the sea and rising for about 300 meters up to the Porta della Differencia, the ancient entrance to the town. Since 1877, however, the best way to reach Anacapri has become the hairpin road. As it twists and turns, indeed, along the rock walls jutting out, it offers a splendid view of the Gulf of Naples and the Sorrento Peninsula out to and including the Galli Islets and the Gulf of Salerno.
Anacapri is silent and welcoming with its white houses and shaded alleyways, stores and craftsmen's workshops, monument churches and villas, its by-ways amidst nature, architecture and archeology, and its production of perfumes and liqueurs. Indeed, instead of a rushed single-day visit, Anacapri deserves to be enjoyed fully, perhaps over the entire Settembrata, a yearly week-long feast in September since 1926 that celebrates the grape harvest with a traditional parade of floats and costumes, feasting, dance and music. It is an event that the people of Anacapri and vacationers share, along with the wish to repeat the experience the following summer. From Marina Grande or Capri, in a 15 to 20 minute taxi ride or in an "ecological" mini-bus, you reach Piazza della Vittoria, just a bit beyond the ruins of the old town gate, built by the people of Anacapri to prevent contact with the people of Capri during the plague of 1493. From this square, there are three choices: the first is to take the chair lift for an outing on Monte Solaro; the second is to stroll along the pedestrian area through town; and the third choice is to head to Villa San Michele, the residence of Swedish doctor Axel Munthe and now seat of the Foundation named for him. If you opt for the last choice, take the tiny street flanked by town walls and shops and, in a few minutes, you will be in front of the beautiful white house surrounded by a gorgeous garden and breathtaking view. You buy a ticket and then enjoy the villa's 17th-century furnishings, a number of ancient items and some original rooms of the ancient Roman villa upon which Munthe built his own villa. As an alternative, you can take the steep, old mule track that leads to the suggestive ruins of the Castle of Barbarossa, which takes its name from the Ottoman admiral who attacked and seized the Island in 1535; archeologist Amedeo Maiuri called the castle the sole surviving find from the Byzantine era on the island. When returning from this visit, the perfume shop and the workshops that produce the famous "limoncello di Capri" will provide the occasion for a break among colorful alembics and fragrances; or, depending on preference, liqueurs, bab [Neapolitan cake soaked in a rum syrup] and all sorts of sweet delights, all lemon-flavored, of course!
In the heart of the ancient center, when we stroll through town, Piazzetta Diaz is an authentic jewel with its terracotta-tiled pavement and white, yellow, blue and green decorated masonry benches, the Santa Sofia parrish church and the three-clock bell tower that can only be viewed from a specific angle, with the Materita Pizzeria on one side and Mamma Giovanna's inn on the other. Similarly suggestive is the smaller square next to the Casa Rossa, so called for its Pompeian red color, and its tower. The uneven jumble of rooftop, plaques and mullioned windows with tortile columns bring to life the outer walls of Casa Rossa. It was built at the end of the 19th century by American Mac Kowen who incorporated a 16th-century tower where the men of Anacapri, when they were to be away for long periods, would lock up their women to keep them from the men of Capri. Extremely interesting is the doorway on the side stating in Greek characters "Apragopolis", meaning "the city of delightful idleness", a definition of the island attributed to the Emperor Augustus.
A bit further away, there is a ceramic sign indicating a detour to Piazzetta San Nicola, site of the Church of San Michele, famous for its magnificent octagonal pavement in majolica. Created in 1716 by the Abruzzese Leonardo Chiaiese (probably on a design by Francesco Solimena), it depicts the Expulsion of Adam and Eve. The best way to view the splendid decoration is from the second floor, meant for the organ and choir. Otherwise, walk along the perimeter on the wooden planks that protect the pavement from being marred. The small wooden altars are indeed beautiful; they are hand painted, with marble imitating floral motifs, and are housed in the six apses.
For a complete overview of the island you should visit "Capri in miniature", the creation of artist Sergio Rubino, as it offers a scale reconstruction of the whole island with main monuments and natural splendors. At the very heart of an enormous terrace is an enclosure--with water to simulate the sea--that contains a huge limestone rock (18x9 meters) representing the shape of the island. Ceramic models of 53 of Capri's most important buildings are precisely placed on the model. In this miniature, even the island's typical Mediterranean vegetation is rendered with extreme faithfulness, as you can see from the bonsai of pine trees, cypresses and so on. This bit of time travel goes even further as you admire 11 ceramic store windows depicting historical scenes of life and popular traditions: the market, the procession of Saint Anthony, the harvesting of olives and grapes, the wine cellar, the Saracen attack on the Castle of Barbarossa, the port and boats at Marina Grande, Villa Jovis, the Blue Grotto and an abundance of characters in typical Anacapri garb.
The places represented, however, are to be seen in person; thus, villas, churches, cloisters and curiosities are discovered by strolling through Anacapri, by getting lost among alleyways and dead-end streets as they branch off from the small squares, leading to marvelous and surprising places with sudden panoramas. Such, for example, is the Boffe Quarter, which developed around the old Ficacciate open space and which still has houses with typical barrel and cloister vaults as was traditional in the 1800's

Photos: courtesy Fototeca Azienda Autonoma Cura Soggiorno e Turismo di Capri, Marco Rambaldi.