Capri Questing; a Praiano Coda

8 04 2012

The Amalfitana dawn brings with it the urgent desire to explore. I put on my walking shoes with the intention of doing the loop around town that MP and I have trekked a few times, but not fifteen minutes in, a split in the path presents itself. It takes me over/sideways/under, but mostly simply up through bits of Praiano that lie generally unseen, tucked into the side of the cliffs.

I end up diverting from the paved path at some point, which finds me overlooking the very valley that terminates in our own Marina di Praia. Here I sit silent a good while; the sun is soft and the day clear. It feels like a gift.

“What should we do today?”
“Let’s go have lunch on the Isle of Capri.”

It takes some doing. First is a bus ride to Sorrento, a slightly bitter pill to swallow after the huge portion of yesterday spent bashed about in the aisleway. This time, however, we snag seats – and the trip post-Positano turns out to be glorious (as much as bus transport ever gets, anyway). The driver follows the coastal road all the way, taking us over mountains to the effect of absolutely breathtaking panoramas, one after another.

Sorrento looks honestly intriguing; Janet spies some tempting leatherwork, and there’s a moment where we contemplating ditching Capri plans altogether. I’m headstrong about pressing on, however – ticking the Isle of Capri off my life list somehow rose to quest status this morning, and it’s imperative that I set foot on its sands.

Does the Isle of Capri have sands? I do not know, but I intend to find out. [[cue magnifying glass]]

As such, we beeline for the port.

The next ferry departs in half an hour. Tickets secured, we settle in dockside for a quick cappuccino.

The cappuccino is more like a crappuccino – wasn’t aware that bad coffee even existed in this country – but the matched set we spy during the wait almost makes up for it.

MP’s spidey-sense tingles, and she gets up early to “secure our seats.” Midway through her leisurely walk to the dock, she makes a break for it after spying a teeming throng working its multitudinous way towards the boat as well. She edges them out, but only just – we manage a few of the less choice center seats, adrift in a sea of sunhats and shutterbugs.

It matters not. The Isle awaits.

It’s a bit of a strange place – possibly quite beautiful up around the true center, but we get the impression most day-tripper tourists never make it that far. The port area is replete with tchotchkes and hawkers, fanny-packs and money belts, shiny gimmicks of every variety.

The taxis here are convertibles.

One tour group is led into an Authentic Ferrari Shop, which I’m guessing is a Typical Cultural Experience of some variety.

In the morning scurry after deciding upon our destination, I reserved a few seconds to scribble down the names of the top-ranked TripAdvisor restaurants for Capri on the back of a business card. In extremely broken Italian, I ask a vendor if she knows where any of them are. The first one on the list is L’Approdo, which she explains is “sempre dirito” (straight ahead). Mission accomplished.

We’ve reserved a spot at Bar Mare for our final Praiano dinner destination, so we make every attempt to go light on lunch. A cherry tomato-rocket salad, peppery steamed mussels, and a prosciutto-funghi pizza will just about do it. Plus a jug of house red, of course (although MP and Janet find it rather sour, to me it tastes of Spain).

And that’s it for Capri. There’s a ferry that heads back to Amalfi instead of Sorrento, but the only option is to leave at 4.35 – that only leaves enough time for a gelato. The breakneck speed is rough.

Mine is lemon and the best.

This time we are determined to get proper seats. A vantage point is essential for blog fodder.

When the ferry pulls up to port, MP very nearly gets into an altercation with a small pushy child over who ought to be first in line.

MP triumphs, of course, and we snag the catbird seats.

The child is devastated.

Crushing his ferry dreams proves utterly worth the karmic hit, though – we could not possibly have chosen a better afternoon to travel by sea. The sun loves us and the water is glass.

We realize we can get off in Positano instead of Amalfi, leaving us with a much, much shorter follow-up bus ride.

The walk up to the Positano fermata SITA takes us by heaps of studio spaces, and we keep a vague eye out for Paolo’s, just in case. It still feels serendipitous to actually encounter it, though, and we poke inside for a peek and a word with the agent.

My Italian is enough to net us some answers to a few pending curiosities, but very nearly insufficient to prevent scheduling an unintentional meeting that evening with the artist himself. Luckily I catch the verb “aspettare” (to wait) somewhere in the agent’s final confirmation sentence, and glean that she means, “he’ll be waiting for YOU” — ahhhh, ma no no, signora!! Domani, maybe!

The bus gets us there, and it’s the last bus ride for us this trip, and that merits a celebration.

Prosecco and blogging on the terrace. Now you know how we manage to publish every day.

Those who don’t have pending blog duty squeeze in some quality reading.

In between blog duty, literature, bubbly, and nu-disco grooving, we gussy (MP’s a little late to the party; she does manage footware before we leave the villa).

Bar Mare’s reserved our table for us. We’re offered menus, but decline – what’s good tonight, Salvatore?

“You start with seafood antipasto, then let’s see.”

Have you ever before seen a girl so excited by bivalves, crustaceans, cephalopods, and carpaccio?

The shrimp are the best thing. The Best Thing. The flesh is so sweet, and encased in a brilliant red paper-thin shell. All partake gleefully of the brains.

We slow-roll it, picking absolutely every last morsel from the plate.

The cold seafood is followed by warm, an arrangement of two different species atop a bed of rocket and blanketed by a wafer of crispy eggplant. The cherry on top is a fat and juicy shrimp, head tragically removed but tail intact. Olive oil is everywhere, along with notes of lemon.

It is the Amalfi coast in a dish – the best of the land and the sea, prepared with enormous care by some of its finest residents.

We’re honored to be here, honored to be able to pay homage to the many gifts we’ve discovered here in the best way we know – through immense pleasure and praise.

Topped off by a little something sweet, of course. Mamma’s take on the traditional Amalfitana pear-ricotta cake is sublime – obviously.

This time, we have -cello options. From left to right, limoncello (my choice), strawberry-cello, lemon-cream-cello (Janet’s choice), melon-cello, and pistachio-cello (MP’s choice).

Because too much is never enough, Salvatore brings us a slice of apple cake.

And because we linger even longer, something truly special emerges: choco-cello. Think liquid dark chocolate custard, spiked bountifully with alcohol.

We’re giddy and grateful. we’ve been patrons at many outstanding restaurants this trip, but Bar Mare was unquestionably the right choice for our final night in Praiano.

Grazie mille – we can’t wait til the next one.

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3 responses

8 04 2012
Sunshine and Siestas

I had the same reaction To Capri as you, just with sunburned eyelids from waiting To go To the blue grotto, but nothing a beautiful view and reed-thin prosciutto can’t fix, right?

8 04 2012
contomates

bingo! seaside vistas and italian cuisine fix just about any malady.

15 04 2012
Linda

I hope the small child will not need therapy over the incident.

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