World's 2nd worst tour

Capri, Italy
Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Today rivaled Santorini for the most frustrating annoying day ever.

We are so spoiled in Australia (and England) for good tourist information centres. We can get a brochure on every tour and every place of interest within miles and if you want to go to another area or state our tourist offices will find the information for you. In the Mediterranean however, this is not the case, For example, the one and only tourist office in Amalfi sells one, and only one tour. This is to the Green Grotto - not to be mistaken for the Blue Grotto but they don't tell you that do they.

I had attempted researching Capri before I left Australia and found the lack of information frustrating. Like many of our ports of call I decided to "wing it", mistakenly assuming that a local Tourist Information Centre would be able to give me tourist information.

As Capri is an island, the only way to get there is by boat and as there are no private cars allowed on the island we thought we would hire a scooter for a day.

We missed the fast jet boat by five minutes (because it was actually on time) and instead caught the 9:00 ferry (which of course left at 9.45). Although the ferry took an hour and a half it was quite a pleasant journey and the coastline is stunning. We reached Capri around 11am and our first enquiry was to the scooter hire shop. Unfortunately he told us he was closed for the day but he directed us to another shop up the hill.

As we were making our way up the hill we passed a blue grotto ticketing office.

I have been in the Mediterranean for two weeks now and should have learnt my lesson; I should have known that there would be twenty different options for the blue grotto. Perhaps it was the lack of caffeine or perhaps it was because my brain was fried from the heat - but we purchased tickets for the next available boat without asking any further questions and foolishly trusted him when he told us that it would be the last boat before the tide came in and we must leave "right now". We boarded the boat which was a fast speed boat with an indoor area and cover from the sun, and we watched pityingly as we passed all the little boats with twenty people on board sweltering in the midday sun without a canopy. However, when we reached the entrance to the grotto our boat sat idling just off the shore for the next hour, rolling with the swell and baking in the sun. Just as boredom and dehydration were about to kick in, our crew kindly offered to sell us water. Meanwhile, the little boats entered the grotto immediately.

We were then informed that we would be required to pay a further 8.50 euros to the oarsmen who would be taking us into the grotto, 3-4 at a time in the little rowboats. Finally our turn came to be rowed into the grotto, our oarsman informing us that we would need to pay the 8.50 to the company but that he expected a gratuity as well.

Although the grotto was as stunningly beautiful as the brochures our little rowing tour was over in 4 minutes. While we were in the cave one of the other oarsmen started singing an old Italian favourite which was kinda cool. As we were getting back onto our boat our oarsman once again asked for a tip. This entire exercise having already cost me 93 euros ($170) and not believing for a second that he wasn't already getting a huge cut of the 8.50 I refused his request. He didn't even sing !!

Was the blue grotto worth it? Yes, most definitely.

Was the blue grotto worth four hours travel and a $170? Not in a million years.

We arrived back at the marina and once again we couldn't get a map, couldn't get directions and couldn't get any other information about any other activity on the island. The BOSS had seen a photograph of a chairlift but we had no clue where to start looking for it. The only reason we even knew that there was a funicular was that it went past us going up the hill.

Cleverly we had decided to pack our own lunch which we ate on the beach. I bravely went for half a swim, nearly breaking my ankle as a result. The beach has boulders - not sand.
After lunch we resumed our hunt for a scooter but the only other place in Marina Grande also said they were closed today due to the police hassling them. Not being able to obtain any other information on how to get out of the town we caught the only means of transport we could see - the funicular. We arrived at the top of the hill to discover that the township was also called Capri and that the capital Anacapri was a further bus ride away. We also discovered to my absolute horror that we could have taken either a bus or hired a scooter from Capri which would have taken us to the blue grotto for much less cost and a quarter of the time. We wandered around the super expensive shops of Capri which reminded us greatly of Fira on Santorini - the only difference was that the alleyways were cobbled in black instead of white marble. At three in the afternoon we finally discovered a shop which could hire us a scooter, but unfortunately as our return boat was due to depart at 4:30, our one hope for redeeming the lost day was dashed.

We were directed to a bus stop where we fruitlessly waited for a bus that did not come so we then caught the funicular back down the hill and then our boat back to Amalfi. The return journey along the coast at dusk was stunning and blew away all the cobwebs of our frustrating day.

01 Smile !!!
Smile !!!
02 That's better
That's better
03 Amalfi coastline
Amalfi coastline
10 Capri - Marina Grande
Capri - Marina Grande
12 waiting to enter the Blue Grotto
waiting to enter the Blue Grotto
13 still waiting to enter
still waiting to enter
14 Little rowboats
Little rowboats
15 It's BLUE !!!
It's BLUE !!!
16 Attention !!!
Attention !!!
22 Cops on Vespas
Cops on Vespas
26 Italian leather jacket
Italian leather jacket
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