Monday, 10 March 2008
The Pompeii thing didn’t work out. I got to the station this morning to discover that the drivers on the Circumvesuviana railway were on strike. A young English woman there told me that this happens a lot. I repaid her by saying that the garbage collectors in Naples were on strike, and that I saw huge drifts of plastic bags from the train. She seemed grateful for the warning. I may not make it to the museum in Naples, actually.
So, no Pompeii. What to do instead? Sorrento is beautiful, as I said yesterday, but there are too many clothes shops and craft shops and objet shops here, and too many American tourists. So I decided to go to Capri instead.
The ferry to Capri takes 25 Italian minutes, which is about 45 of your Earth minutes. It was full of American tourists. But Capri itself is astonishing.
The emperor Tiberius retreated to a villa in Capri from AD 27 to 37, leaving his city prefect Jean-Luc Picard to run Rome in his absence, if the BBC drama series I, Claudius is to be believed. In fact Tacitus claims he had no less than twelve villas there; the biggest of them was excavated last century. It’s called the Villa Jovis, and it’s on the highest mountain on the island, 335 m above sea level. So I went to see it.
It’s a bit of a hike. You take the Via Tiberio, go past the Tiberius Elementary School (who named that?), and then on and on up the mountain. The walk takes about an hour, but it’s worth it. The villa itself is a bit of a big ruin, but that view! Who wouldn’t forgo running half of Europe if you could look out the window and see that view?
My ferry back to Sorrento didn’t leave till 6.30 pm, and I finished my trip to the villa at about 2, which is when the rain really set in. I had some lunch for a while, went for a walk, and still had two hours to kill. You’re on Capri, I told myself; don’t waste it just because it’s raining. You might never make it here again. Go for a walk or something.
Ten minutes later, a hailstorm broke out. Rivers of water were flowing down every staircase and from every manhole. Drenched, I retreated into the nearest café and drank half a bottle of red. An elderly American tourist complained to the waiter that she didn’t know what a cappucino or an espresso was. Instead of hitting her, I decided to watched Grande Fratello. It’s day 49, and the housemates appear to be yelling and gesticulating at each other.
Tomorrow, deo volente: Pompeii. There’s a lot of thunder about right now.