by JOHN J. DUNNE
CAPRI! The very name itself is a word of magic, enough to conjure up for most of us, whether we have visited this island gem of the Mediterranean, or know of its charms only through books and films and hearsay, all that is romantic and carefree.
The Isle of Capri . . . a holiday resort from the time when the Roman Emperor Tiberius (42 B.C.-A.D. 37) thought enough of its grandeur to build a villa there, down to the present day, when the wealthy and the famous from the four corners of the earth flock to its shores.
A ramshackle taxi-cab scurried me through the busy early morning street traffic of Naples to the jetty. Here, the S.S. Capri rode at anchor, waiting for her cargo of camera-laden tourists, to take them across the Bay of Naples to the island on the far horizon.
As we chugged across the waters, leaving the buildings of Naples far behind, a sudden mist fell on the island of Ischia, far to our starboard bow, and a whirlwind thunderstorm sent us scuttling for the shelter of the ship's canvases. Lightning slashed across the sky.
Then, as suddenly as it had come, the thunderstorm passed, and sudden sunlight bathed the waters around us with a brilliance that threw into relief all the features of that wonderful coastline that has been cornpared to a lovely necklace of many pearls.
Pausing to drop a few passengers at Sorrento, we were soon steaming away again to the open sea. Soon Capri Iay before us.
A rocky shoulder of land haunched itself out of the Mediterranean, crowned by one of the gleaming white walls of one of the villas for which the island playground is famous. Our ship changed course, and soon entered the toy-like harbour.
Here, along the harbour wall, and in the narrow streets beyond, were hotel porters and Americans with cine-cameras and peasant women and fisherfolk, and doubtless a scattering of millionaires and screenstars.
It is difficult to sort out the
features of this island that the whole world has adopted into anything approaching order. From the marina, where you land, you can take an eccentric railway to the village of Capri itself, or you can do as I did . . . and instantly regretted . and engage the services of a man with a high-powered car of uncertain vintage to take you there by road.
To say that Capri is unique is an understatement. It is exotic and fantastic. It has the colour of story books and the stuff of dreams.
You will find that time flies. There is so much to do and so much to be seen. The trees and the plants that blossom around you are the sort you never expect to meet in reality.
The people on the tiny streets and on the piazza are just as exotic . . . or, at least, most of them are, and those that aren't are soon moulded into Capri pattern. Wealth rubs shoulders with fame, and eccentricity of dress is commonplace.
There are several things you will see on Capri, simply because every visitor must see them, at least once in his lifetime. You may climb the 777
suicidal steps up to Anacapri, and you will visit the famous villa of San Michele . . . and whether you can swim or not you will sail in a small boat to see the fabulous Blue Grotto.
If you are fortunate enough to have a fair amount of time to spend on Capri, climb to Anacapri for its peerless view across the bay, where you will be able to gaze down on the harbour far below. Wander along the lesser trodden pathways, and you will find fairylike villas.
Despite all Capri's display of wealth, you may be able to find a small hotel or a pension at moderate rates. Personally, I found the Hotel Paradiso-Eden, where ex-King Farouk of Egypt spent some time after his overthrow by Nasser, firstclass in its fare and not as expensive as one might imagine. In the evening, should you seek a night club there are many on the island.
If you are contemplating a visit to Capri, two books are indispensable. These are Charles Graves's delightful Italy Revisited and Axel Munthe's The Story of San Michele.