When we left home with a plan to see the Blue Grotto of Capri, little did we realize what an adventure it would turn out to be. Our trip down through Italy in the summer of 2009 went over Rovereto to Pisa to Napoli, where we left our car (thanks again guys, ah me with my 10 words of Italian + noleggio!) for the week on car-less Capri (not yet car free, but thanks to all the microbus drivers!) , then up the steep Vesuvio (in open sandals! never again) and down to Pompei and Ercolano (Herculaneum) and other volcanic sites, leaving via Roma’s periphery, up though Perugia and back home. In other words, in one line down from North to South and then about the same way up till Roma, and then switching to the East side going home.
Then again, the trip itself is not worth commenting much on: the food was always semper buonísimo, the people gentle and pleasant, the sights and the leaning Tower of Pisa and the shoe shops (was that in the right order of importance?) were marvelous, I simply adored the big museum in Napoli, where the guide went out of his way to explain the sunlight beaming in the one corner of the large palace and to move according to the lines on the floor and tell the time and season. Our car park with the noleggio worked out wonderfully for the week on Capri, too.
No, the real story started in Napoli. We drove along the outskirts on a road parallel to the coastline, where we saw many day laborers, mostly black Africans, awaiting their turn to board trucks taking them to farms to do seasonal jobs like picking fruit. All along the road, the Napoletani had placed their garbage in plastic bags outdoors at the edge of their property, hoping the communal garbage collectors would at some time pick them up. Yes, they were smelly and yes, no one came and yes again, in the heat of the day they would begin to emanate a sort of white nebulous fume, like wisps of smoke, making the bit of wind there rather pestilent. Of course we wondered why the garbage was not being picked up, of course we thought “the communal workers are on strike for better pay.” No, we did not think of the Mafiosi.
When we finally arrived at our pre-booked destination, there were countless men and boys bordering the long winding driveway to the hotel at the top of the hill. AND they started shouting in excited voices, only then they saw the Münchner Kennzeichen/ the Munich license plate and an Audi to boot, with great disappointment in their faces they turned their backs on us to wait some more.
Well? well! the national Soccer Team has their home base in said hotel with their own kickoff grounds and were regular guests. So when one of said soccer guys walked into the dining area as if he were the King of Kreation, one Italian lady sent her reluctant daughter to get an item of clothing for an autograph. We, naturally, did not recognize said King; boy, did he look mad for a moment! Another soccer player tried to sneak in, dine, and sneak out again, I actually felt sorry for those who do not seek stardom.
Two days later we arrived by ferry on Capri, a lovely, yet really tiny islet. My husband was reverse-daunted by such a teeny-weeny place, but I suggested the Blue Grotto / La Grotta Azzurra first thing the next morning, and he felt a little better. And wonderful it was! As blue as it gets and a very nice gondoliere to explain things.
Only the next morning, i.e. Tuesday, all the gondolieri and the Guardia costale and the Carabinieri and just about everybody regarded with dismay all the garbage floating in the water around and within the Grotta. Since I couldn’t quite comprehend the newspaper articles, I asked around till I found a nice person to explain to me in not quite perfect English (but I could piece together the missing parts), that the Mafia was actually blackmailing the communal representatives to give them the job of “cleaning up”. It took the poor people exactly that one week of our stay to clean up, when we left, the very first tourists were being rowed over to the Grotta again.
The way we felt about this occurrence cannot be put into words. How unutterably sad.