We are on Capri every day, but how much do we actually know about the other side of Capri? We don't just mean Anacapri, but the other side of experiencing the island...done in rugged footwear, with a backpack slung over our shoulders, along steep trails, through lush vegetation, and with the company only of butterflies, lizards, and the sound of our steps and the roar of the sea from far below.
The last Sunday of June, we abandoned the cosmopolitan buzz of the Piazzetta and Tragara to climb Mount Solaro on the chairlift, which goes slowly enough that we were able to enjoy the view of the cluster of whitewashed houses of Anacapri from above and the islands of Ischia and Procida in the distance. The arrival at the peak (589 meters) took our breath away: not only is the beauty breathtaking, but the crisp air gives a completely clear view of the shades of blue of the sea below...from emerald green to deep blue, and every color in between...and the waves crashing against Capri's famously craggy coast.
From the top of Mount Solaro visitors can descend by foot, which is why it's best to have adequate footwear for the steep mountain trail (athletic shoes are not ideal for this kind of downhill hiking). The trail is quite simple, though there are some challenging spots for those who aren't used to walking or hiking (like some in our group), which always make for a fun story around the dinner table later in the day.
If you descend by foot, you can take advantage of the opportunity to see another local sight, only accessible by foot: the Cetrella Hermitage. Along a lane lined with laurel and cedar, the hermitage is a small chapel dedicated to Santa Maria di Cetrella, whitewashed like most of the island's buildings, but standing alone perched high above Marina Piccola. On the two terraces scented with basil and wisteria, we spent awhile trying to point out Capri's most famous landmarks in the distance, but were soon so lost in the view that we stared in silence and breathed in the fresh mountain air.
From the Cetrella hermitage, we retraced our steps and then took the trail downhill through perhaps the most rigorous leg of the hike. After about 20 minutes, depending upon how fast your group walks, you find yourself back in Anacapri and from there can board a bus for the seaside! After staring at it for so long from above, it was time to head to the Scogliera della Migliera, at Punta Carena in the shadow of the lighthouse.
Here it was just as I had imagined: the bay is rocky and the waves, when they wash ashore, can drag you in if you are sitting on the rocky shelf close to where the whitecaps break. The water is an intense aquamarine and refreshingly cold. This is the kind of sea I love, lovely and captivating. I take a quick dip, as there are a few jellyfish in the water, and let myself float on the current by just moving my arms.
An afternoon at the lighthouse feels like being transported into a film from the 1950's, with the wooden terraced platforms on the rocks and the pergolas to make shade, a few cabanas and sun loungers. It has a relaxed vibe, without too much noise or crowds, and everyone looks refreshed...even our group, despite our long walk and red cheeks. Our day ends with caponata di Antonio, with fennel bread, wine with peaches, and almond cake...the mainland seems worlds away and this afternoon timeless and perfect.