Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Honeymoon in Europe - Part 3

Day 6, Part 2: Capri!

In the afternoon on Friday, September 24, we left Positano and rode the ferry to the island of Capri.
View of Capri town from the harbor
We met the driver from our hotel at the ferry dock and road up the winding streets to our hotel.  We we got to our hotel (the Excelsior Parco - by far the fanciest hotel of our honeymoon!) and checked in, we learned they'd given us a free upgrade because we were on our honeymoon!  So we ended up staying in a very nice room with a balcony and a view of the water.  It was such a nice surprise!

The Hotel Excelsior Parco
Inside of our room
The view from our room
Outside on the balcony
The balcony again
Even the bathroom was fancy!
Now, Capri is an expensive place to stay.  The hotels are all very pricey - you're not going to find any budget accommodations here.  But it was our honeymoon after all, and Capri looked just gorgeous, so we decided to splurge and spend a couple nights here.  We balanced out the cost a bit by staying in the "cheap room" in the less touristy town of Praiano on the Amalfi coast mainland, so that helped.  All in all, I'm really glad we decided to stay overnight on the island.  For me, it was the highlight of our vacation and I don't think it would have been the same on just a day trip.

After getting settled into our room and ooohing and aaahing at the fanciness of it all, we set out to explore the town and get some dinner.  The hotel isn't too far from downtown Capri, and we probably could have walked, but the roads there are very, very narrow.  Even worse than on the Amalfi coast mainland.  There's basically no space for pedestrians to walk down the street.  That combined with all the twists and turns making it impossible to see what's coming around the corner, and gutsy Italian drivers, it's just a really bad idea to walk outside the city center.  Luckily, our hotel had a free car service (and a very friendly driver named Andre) who will take you wherever you need to go and pick you up whenever you call!  So that was pretty awesome.
Getting ready to head out into Capri!
Downtown Capri is kind of...I don't know...strange.  It's like a rich people's playground, with one designer store after another!  Definitely not designed for people traveling on a budget.  But it was a fun place to window shop and people watch though.
View over Capri town

After the exploring the downtown shopping district and taking in the views from Piazza Umberto, we had dinner at a cute little place called Ristorante Buca di Bacco (Via Longano 35).  We chose it because it's one of the few places in Capri that serves reasonably priced food.  Boy, was it delicious!  By far the best meal we had on Capri, and one of the best in all of Italy!  By the end of our meal, it was getting late so we called for a ride back to the hotel.  The hotel gave us complimentary hot chocolate upon our return, and we settled in for some much needed sleep.

Day 7: More Capri!

The next day, after an amazing breakfast at our hotel, we decided it was time to get out of Capri town and go explore the rest of this gorgeous island.  Unfortunately, the two main tourist attractions - the Blue Grotto and the chair lift in Anacapri - were both closed due to wind and high waves.  So instead, we decided to just walk around the island and see what we could see!

Our first stop (after the tourist information booth to pick up a map) was the Giardini di Augusto - Gardens of Augustus.  It's basically a park (but a very well kept one) on the edge of the island with fantastic views of the cliffs and water below.  If it weren't for the endless parade of tour groups, it would be a lovely place. 
View from the Gardens of Augustus
Another view from the Gardens of Augustus
From our lookout point in the Giardini di Augusto, we spotted the Via Krupp below - a moderately steep, winding, paved stone path that leads down and around the edge of the island to a small town called Marina Piccola.  It looked too cool not to check it out!
Via Krupp from above
Via Krupp again
After your initial descent, this path is close to sea level, so no birds-eye views from here.  But it was fun to see another side of Capri, one that felt a little more real - away from the ritzy shops and hoards of tourists.  So I think it's worth it if only to escape from Capri town.  We had lunch in Marina Piccola.  I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but it was the first one we saw and we were both super hungry.  It had nice outdoor seating, so we could watch the waves crashing in the marina while we ate.
Restaurant where we had lunch
The view from our table
After we made it back to Capri town, we walked out to see the Arco Naturale.  It's a beautiful arched rock formation on the edge of the island, not too far from town.  To our surprise, there were hardly any other tourists out there, which was a nice change from the rest of our Amalif coast experience.  We sat awhile and just enjoyed the scenery.

Arco Naturale
Look at that blue, blue water!
Another view from the Arco Naturale area
From there we followed a sign down to see a grotto.  The island is made of limestone, so there are all kinds of cool rock formations and hidden caves.  The walk down to the grotto, however, is extremely steep.  So steep that they had to build a very long, winding set of stairs, or else you couldn't climb down very easily.  With all the trees, you couldn't see the end of the stairs from the top.  So it was impossible to tell how far down the climb was.  We figured it would be fun to see, so we took a chance and went for it.  Oh sweet Lord, it was a long way down.  There were hundreds and hundreds of stairs.  It must have been close to a thousand.  Normally climbing down stairs isn't too difficult, even several flights, but the sheer number of stair and how steep they were made this a very challenging hike.  In fact, my quads were so fatigued that they wouldn't stop shaking when I tried to stand still!  About halfway down, I had to stop and sit down because I was seriously afraid my legs might just give out entirely and I would fall a long, long ways down the hill.  We passed some unlucky travelers who decided to take the walk in the reverse route and now had to walk UP all those stairs.  Poor people.
These are just some of the stairs we climbed
When we finally made it to the bottom, and saw the grotto along the way (it was nothing special), we came to a narrow path through the trees.  We decided, what the heck - we've come this far, let's see where it goes!  So we kept walking.
The path at the bottom of the stairs
It got very narrow...
Once you exit the forest, you're on a path that's basically right on the edge of the cliff.  A little scary for me since I'm terrified of heights, but I stayed away from the edge and it wasn't too bad.  But the views - wow, they just take your breath away!  I've never seen water such a gorgeous turquoise blue in my life! 
More bright blue water!
The happy honeymooners :)
View from our hike
We found some pretty flowers along the way!
Another view from the hike
Those honeymooners again
Stunning view!
The path ended up at some kind of a terrace very near the city.  I don't remember exactly where, but we had no problem finding our way back into town.  I think the hike only took about an hour (although it could have been more like 2, I wasn't really watching the time...the island will do that to you!).  But it was definitely worth the effort of climbing all those stairs to see the breathtaking views!  It ended up being my favorite part of the whole trip!!!

For dinner that night, we went to Da Giorgio (Via Roma 34).  I can't remember why we picked this restaurant - I believe it received a favorable review in one of our tour books.  Honestly, I wasn't terribly impressed.  First of all, we were the most casually dressed people there (hey, we'd been out hiking!).  And I think for this reason, they seated us in the very back by the kitchen.  Can't have those American kids in their sneakers spoiling the view, you know!  We didn't make a big deal out of it.  But then, it was horribly overpriced and the food and service was just ok.  Mike and I both wished we'd just gone back to Buca di Bacco. Oh well. 

Day 8: last day on Capri

On Sunday, September 26, our plan was to check out of the hotel in Capri, board the first ferry back to Naples, and from there catch the train to Venice.  But we were both having so much fun on Capri, we decided to take a later ferry and stay a little longer on the island.  After calling our hotel in Venice (with the help of the hotel staff) to make sure a late check-in would be ok, we checked out of our room, left our bags with the front desk, and hopped a ride into town.  In town, we checked with the tourist information booth, and learned that the chairlift was finally open.  So we hopped on a bus to Anacapri!  Anacapri is the other main town on the island.  We didn't get a chance to explore it too much, but it appeared very touristy as well, although with shops appealing more to the tourist of modest means.  We went straight for the chair lift, which takes you up to Monte Solaro - the highest point on the island!  I was a bit nervous about this, because like I've mentioned before, I'm terrified of heights.  Thankfully, it wasn't as scary as I'd imagined.  For the most part, you're quite low to the ground, which somehow feels safer.  Only near the end of the ride do you end up going quite high, but by then the end is in sight, so it's not too bad.
Going up...
...and up...
...and up!
Almost there! (this is the steep part at the end)
The trip back down
The view from the top is simply stunning!  You can see the whole island, the bright blue water - it's just amazing to see!  We saw some people hiking down, and we considered doing it ourselves, but we had a boat to catch, so we decided to save that for another next trip. 

We caught our ferry to Naples just in time, and finally said good bye to the gorgeous island of Capri.
View of the island's cliffs from the boat
Leaving gorgeous Capri

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