Capri was an imposing, beautiful site as the boat got closer ... we saw Faraglioni, the three distinctive offshore rocks, jutting up to the south. And the stunning limestone face of Monte Tiberio, off of which the Emperor Tiberius' enemies were thrown to their death.

We rounded the bend into Marina Grande, Capri's main, very busy port. Many boatloads of visitors were entering and leaving the harbor. Lots of tourists were debarking for a day on Capri. The island would remind me in some ways of Santa Catalina, off the southern California coast, with its rugged terrain and charm. But Capri had, of course, a much longer and more storied past, and this was Italy...

Now, how to escape the crowds and still make the most of our time on Capri? We took the funicular up from Marina Grande to Capri town, just above the port area. After a quick look around, we found a bus that would take us to the other main town, Anacapri, across the island. We were packed in like sardines as we rode across a crest, high above the sea. And because of the height of the bus, looking out the window was a bit daunting; no road or guard rail in view as an anchor, nothing but air seemed to separate us from the cliff edge.

Anacapri was also full of people; we wanted to get to the top of Monte Solaro, the highest peak on the island (1930 ft), the town's backdrop. There was a chairlift that would have had us up there in minutes ... and that looked tempting. But Peter insisted we hike up to get away from the masses — a capital idea. Now, where do we find the trail?

We asked a man out walking his dog; luckily he spoke English quite well, and pointed us in the right direction, though was surprised we wanted to make the climb on foot: "This is not typical."

It was beautiful, sunny, and as we ascended, the views were great. We had the trail to ourselves for the most part, but did meet a few of the locals on the way up.

The last couple hundred feet were a steep climb, and we were happy to arrive at the top. And though the air was slightly hazy, the view was nothing short of spectacular. It was one of those "great to be alive" moments. The lower section of Capri stretched eastward, the Faraglioni rocks stood to the south, and in the distance, the Sorrento peninsula loomed — magnificent! [Capri panoramic]

We spent a while walking about the summit, appreciating. I got a postcard from a summit vendor and wrote to Mom, wanting her to be in on what we were experiencing. [More Monte Solaro views]

Then it was time to take the easy way down — the chairlift — whee! We flew over terraced gardens and a goldfish pond, all the while exulting in the big-picture view of the island and sea.

In Anacapri, starving, we had some pizza at an outdoor restaurant, then it was time: shopping! I had to control myself due to logistical constraints — we were on foot, with already heavy backpacks. So, the usual books, postcards and magnets later, just one more thing: a two-tone platter made of "the finest Italian" alabaster. Heavy, but worth it.

We walked around pretty Anacapri [more scenes] then caught another packed bus to head back to Capri town where we wandered about. We followed an almost-empty alleyway — cobblestoned, with descending twists and turns, among boutiques and private residences with small courtyards and gardens. This led to the other side of the island and a closer view of the Faraglioni rocks and paths that ran along the cliff.



The town was full of tourists, but was no less fascinating — it was like a scene from a movie. The famous piazzetta with its outdoor cafes, the weathered facades of churches and belltowers, the arched entry ways, and the pristine white houses set on hills sloping down to the sea. It was the most wonderful, welcoming place. Some delicious lemon ice on top of that, and I couldn't get much closer to paradise.

Back down on the funicular to Marina Grande ... it was about time to catch the Positano Jet for the return to the mainland. It was tough leaving Capri after only a short stay, but I thought we'd absorbed and understood something of it — a good feeling.

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