Capri And The Blue Grotto

What is there not to love about Capri? It is a beautiful island gem off the south-western Italian coast that was the playground of the Roman Emperors of the past and the rich and famous today.  It has the natural beauty of rugged cliffs that surround much of the island, the famous blue grotto and the deep blue sea dotted with more yachts than I have encountered anywhere.  It reminds me of the images of have of the French Riviera with expensive villas hugging the mountain sides, rugged terrain and winding mountain roads with switchbacks and huge drop-offs sure to give your heart a workout.  Some of the tourists on the bus we were riding were gasping and yelping as we approached another bus or car and would have to squeeze past on the narrow roads. When we reached Anacapri though, the view of the harbour, the mountains and the sea were breathtaking.  We wandered the cobblestone streets, had lunch and then headed back down the mountain to the town of Capri for more shopping and sightseeing.

Capri is well known for its Limoncello, lemon soaps and candies, tea, lemonade, just about anything and everything to do with lemons. There are more shops selling lemon based souvenirs than t-shirts.

My main purpose of going to Capri was to visit the legendary Blue Grotto also known as the Blue Cathedral. You can only visit though when the tides and the weather cooperate because of the low entrance into the grotto. You board one of the speed boats at the Capri’s Marine Grande harbour and make your way past majestic yachts dotting the coast.  The water is already a deep blue – it amazes me how the sea changes colour simply based on its’ depth and the colour of the sky, from the pastel tourquoise tones of the shallow lagoons and shorelines to an almost black shade of blue farther off the coast.  As you approach the grotto boats throttle down to minimize waves, which can send the rowboats crashing into the sides of the cliffs.  There are several other tour boats lined up, each with 25-75 people on board all wanting to board one of the dozen or so rowboats that seat just two to four people to take you inside the grotto. As we waited we witnessed a few nasty exchanges between the boat captains and the rowboat pilots, but the only Italian words I understand are swear words and those took on new meaning when I heard them thrown out during a heated argument.  As you board the rowboat, you move yourself into position by laying low,  lower than the highest point on the boat.  I was in a boat with 3 women and we were all bent up, flat on our backs and squished together as we ducked to cross the 1.5 meter threshold through the rocks.  The man at the helm grabs onto a rope and actually pulls us inside along with the waves giving us a final push into the grotto.  Once inside I expected to be awestruck but it’s basically just a large cave made famous as a swimming hole and bath house for royalty. It gets its’ blue colour naturally from the sunlight that shines from the entrance and from a second hole below the surface that reflects up through the seawater creating a brilliant blue hue. It must have been magical when it was first discovered but now with the boisterous cheers and singing from the groups of noisy tourists, the grotto’s romantic symbolism was lost.  We spent about 5 minutes inside taking photos (with all the tourists inside it was like a paparazzi convention) before we had to duck down again to ride the tide back through the grotto entrance. All totalled we waited about an hour for our 5 minute experience but some of the groups that lined up after us had a two hour wait ahead of them, so one little tip is to arrive early in the day.  Again there is no guarantee that you will be able to get inside the grotto, if the tide is high or rough weather causes big waves, you will be out of luck.  One other possibility is to join some of the locals who swim or dive through the Blue Grotto around 6pm when the tour boats have gone home, but again be careful it can be very dangerous and most experts suggest you bring a local with you who can better guage the conditions.


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