Every time I tell one of my friends on the mainland that I now live on the Island of Capri all year round, their reaction ranges from an astonished "How on earth do you manage to live on Capri in the winter?" to a puzzled "What do you want to do that for, the place is deserted isn't it?" to a sincerely concerned "Aren't you worried you'll end up getting seriously depressed?"
To be honest, that's exactly the kind of thing I had found myself wanting to ask the islanders years ago, when, at the tender age of 15, I visited Capri on a cold and grey January morning, when almost every bar, shop, restaurant and hotel I came across was "closed for the winter season".
15 years later, on a sunny September morning, I arrived on Capri for what was to be my first day's work at Caprionline. On that occasion, I struggled to wade my way through lanes, flooded with tourists. The tourists continued to arrive in their hundreds, if not thousands, for the whole of September and October, to such an extent that, when, on one particularly warm and bright November morning, Capri woke up to discover that the morning ferries had all arrived half-empty, the island and the islanders all seemed to sigh one huge sigh of relief.
All of a sudden, you could actually see what the lanes of Capri looked like! And, walking down the zigzagging Via Krupp, you could finally see the sea ... nothing but the sea, without a yacht, motorboat or dinghy in sight. In the Piazzetta, elderly islanders sat quietly reading the newspapers in the sun, at tables which, only days before, had been submerged in a hoard of holidaymakers. Capri was back.
It was when the icy winter rain came, and Capri wrapped her protective arms around all those who had not abandoned her, that I decided I too would stay.
As a winter resident, I was immediately made to feel one of the gang (an authentic islander!), and people who had previously ignored me, suddenly greeted me as if I was an old school chum.
Yes, it's true, the island's famous boutiques are all closed in the winter (the average islander doesn't shop at Prada, Dolce&Gabbana, Gucci or Louis Vuitton anyway), but the grocery shops, supermarkets, a handful of bars and a couple of (good!) pizzerias and restaurants stay open throughout the year.
And the nightlife? "Do it yourself or don't do anything" sums it up nicely!
Transportation is limited in winter: the funicular railway is closed and you'll have to use local buses to get around. By the way, if you want to spend a night on the mainland, you'll need to be at the port by 20.00 hrs, when the last ferry to Naples sets sail. Miss that boat, and it's just you, the sea and "the rock".
No! Do I miss the glitz and glamour of the celebrity-packed Piazzetta? Sometimes! But then, I go for a walk through the breathtakingly beautiful and blissfully tourist-free Capri and can't help thinking how very lucky I am to experience this tiny Italian island winter, spring, summer and fall; 365 days a year.