DAY 10 – Saturday, June 22: Sorrento/CAPRI where
First of all, let’s all get a piccolo glass of limoncello in our hands as we read this little story because as world-savvy travelers, you do know that this area around Naples, specifically Sorrento and the Island of Capri, is where that luscious-lemony-liquid originated, right? Well if you didn’t before, now you do.
What’s that, you’re asking? What is limoncello? Technically, it’s a liqueur made from the zest of lemons, in particular St. Teresa lemons. The zest or peels are steeped in grain alcohol until the oil is released, resulting in a yellow liquid that is then mixed with simple syrup. It is said to be the second most popular liqueur in Italy (I’m assuming grappa is the first?), but judging from the amount of bright yellow bottles we saw purchased on this trip to take home, it is rapidly becoming a favorite back in the states. And we certainly did our part to help encourage the trend.
You see we’ve been big fans ever since our first trip some five years back to this enchanting island, located in the Gulf of Naples and often called the Island of Dreams; so it was destined to be included as a part of this trip, too. It had been love at first sight and we needed to get back to Capri, so choosing today’s excursion was a no brainer for us – take the ship’s tender into Sorrento to Marina Picolla Pier, and then catch the hydrofoil for the 30 minute cruise on those turquoise Mediterranean waters before arriving at our cheery, sunny, lemony destination. Capri pronounced as the Italians do, Caaapri, with the emphasis on a slow ‘aahhh’. Got it? Now, refresh that limoncello (remember to drink only in tiny sips) and take the journey with me. Sip. Digest. Smile. Repeat. Buono.
We met up with our guide, a charming authentic Napolitano named Giorgio, back at the Picolla Pier in Sorrento. He carried his manly Italian self, including a lovely linen summer scarf which he tossed around his neck like a piece of delicate artwork, with every bit of machismo and flare he could muster up on this hot summer day, exhibiting both his fun and slightly lazy Italian side (his exact words – “I’ll just wait here while you all gather round me; no need to waste energy herding the sheep!”) along with a bit of a mischievousness thrown in from the start (“I’m Italian, capisce?”). We liked him from the first buon giorno, and already knew that we’d fall in love all over again with the day’s excursion still ahead of us.It was basically a rather unstructured day which is our preference, especially when visiting a place we’ve been to before. But Giorgio was enlisted to procure the hydrofoil tickets and seats, make sure we got on the correct boat, give us a brief overview once we landed on the island, and then assist those of us who were taking the funicular (sí, grazie!), followed by the chairlifts that took us for the final sprint up to the top of Capri, Monte Solaro. It is at that apex on this tiny mountain island in the world acclaimed Amalfi Coast that you just stand in wonder of the absolute beauty of it all. Most people are speechless. No. Kidding.
At first you’re snapping pictures left and right until you realize that none of them will adequately portray what you are actually seeing. Yes, it’s that gorgeous. The impressive cliffs, the brightly colored, artistic villas, the 1001 shades of aqua you see in the water below that is now dotted with all form of boats, err, personal watercraft, err, oh heck, these are just plain jaw dropping yachts. And even though we’ve been cruising the Riviera in our own head-turning version of one, we never tire of taking a peek at how the other half lives, at least for those few weeks or months that they are voyaging the Med Sea. (One can’t help but wonder if they’re traveling in this kind of luxury while on water what their permanent residences look like, right?) And in order to peacefully take all of this in we need a proper refreshment, so we visit the gelateria conveniently located on top of Monte Solaro, and you guessed it. Test out a couple new flavors, one, of course, being the hometown favorite of lemon. I can assure you it did not disappoint!
I should also point out that Capri is apparently the birthplace of linen, and knowing this ahead of time, husband had proudly worn one of his, although we checked and the tag did not mention being made there. Oh well.
Lunch at Giorgio’s (no relation to our guide) was an affair to remember, mostly because of the gorgeous and insanely fresh insalata Caprese (you knew we would, right?) and an unpretentious pizza margherita to die for. I think there was some pasta involved, too, but gosh, even the simple house wine was delicate and mesmerizing, so who can remember all that luscious goodness? Add the intoxication of the fragrant lemon trees surrounding us and well, have I mentioned we love this place? It only gets better.
We actually found the same classy souvenir store (only on the island of Capri can a store full of knick knacks and mementos be labeled as such) that we had visited on our last trip and we made even more purchases this time. Limoncello – limoncello filled chocolates – lemon soaps, we did our best to help elevate the per capita income here for the resident workers, and for a change we did it with big smiley faces. Hey, when the lemons are the size of a baseball glove (still not kidding!), how can you not just smile and want to bring some of the happiness home to everyone you love?
One other thing of note on this happiest, cheeriest of all yellow places under the sun is the stunning cemeteries we passed. Husband didn’t necessarily appreciate my stopping to take photos (“really, dear?”) but honestly, they were such beautiful resting places that I couldn’t imagine a finer spot in which to lie my weary body down one last time. If only. All the markers were carved out of gorgeous Italian marble, and each gravesite was adorned with dazzling fragrant flowers in bursts of splendid colors. Bushes were all neatly trimmed and no sign of vandalism in any direction. Apparently if you die on the island of Capri you really have gone to heaven.