For those going to Capri for the first time, the adventure starts at Naples’ harbor.
As he drops you off, your taxi driver will indicate the general direction of a booth: “You’ll get your ticket there.”
It’s 10.30 in the morning, and you are aware that the ferry belonging to the Caremar company that will take you to Capri leaves at 11.30. You’re in the know, and the time suits you just fine. You approach the booth indicated by the driver. It’s occupied. You inquire to the woman waiting in front of you:
“This is where we get the Caremar ticket to Capri, right?”
The woman hesitates for a second, inspects the notice affixed to the booth’s window and returns to you:
“No, sorry, you don’t get the tickets from here!” she announces.
“What!? But the taxi driver said it was here. So where are we supposed to get them from?” I plead.
“This is Porto Beverello – you have to go to Porto di Masso,” she advises us.
“Where’s that? Is it far?”
“Not particularly… About a kilometer away where those buildings are.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. I’m from here.”
No worries then: You’ve got enough time to get to the ferry, and you’ve got a straw hat on your head to ward off the sun. Still, in the heat of August, you set off on the road, dragging your suitcase along with you. You arrive at the appointed area to be confronted by four or five different companies that carry passengers from Naples to the islands and other locations. All of them have assorted ticket sales booths at the Beverello and Massa harbors. And even after securing your ticket, the pier from which you will board your boat is somewhere else. But as it is, there is no proper sign indicating how to get to the ticket sales point. Ultimately, dripping in sweat and asking everyone and their dog right, left and center, you find the Caremar ticket booth.
“Is this where you buy Caremar tickets for Capri?” you inquire.
At long last, you’ve finally found it – what’s more, there’s still half an hour until the ferry.
“Two people for the 11.30 boat, please.”
“The 11.30 sailing doesn’t go from here – we don’t sell the ticket for that. The 14.30 goes from here; do you want tickets for that?”
“What do you mean you don’t sell the ticket? Isn’t this the Caremar booth?”
“It is the Caremar booth, but the 11.30 boat is a hydrofoil. We only sell ferry tickets here. The first ferry is at 14.30? Do you want that?”
Among the people of the world, the term for a sea-going vessel that transports people a short distance between Point A and Point B is a “ferry.” Who on God’s green earth would expect there to be both a ferry and a hydrofoil in Naples and that the sailings for each of these would be offered by four or five companies? Each company has different sales booths in the two ports separated by a kilometer, while the hydrofoil ticket isn’t sold at the place that sells ferry tickets and vice versa. Then add to that the fact that the places to board the ferries are all in different locations.
“So what should we do now?”
“If you want to go with the 14.30, I can give you tickets, but if you want to go with the 11.30 hydrofoil, then you’ll need to go back to Beverello.”
The scale of the disaster can be gleaned from your head. With what remains of your strength, you mull the possibility of retracing the last kilometer to catch the ferry. With suitcases in hand in temperatures reaching 33 degrees, you chart a quick route back, find the correct booth by asking all and sundry, learn the location of the pier and make it onto the boat just as it’s about to depart. As you board, those in charge have a glance at your ticket:
“You didn’t get tickets for your suitcases!”
“What ticket for crying out loud? No one at the booth told us we needed to get a separate ticket for our bags. The person selling the tickets never asked us about any bags, how big they are, or what have you. What are we supposed to do now?”
There could only be one answer, naturally: “You have to go get tickets for your bags!”
The ferry is about to leave, and the ticket booth is a way’s away. The next ferry is not for three hours and it leaves from a pier a full kilometer away. There are two courses of action open to you: If you pride yourself on following the rules and are left with no other options, you will miss the ferry, go get in the long queue to get a ticket for your bag, trek the one kilometer to the other port and wait three hours for the next ferry. But if, perchance, you’re not one married to the rules and, more importantly, are a resourceful Mediterranean, you can solve the bag ticket problem on the spot for just a small financial outlay and board as the last passenger.
The maiden adventure to Capri generally starts like this from Naples’ port!
For those going for the second or third time, I can’t say that it’s particularly different – just that the adventure becomes a little bit easier.
You’ve now learned where to get the ticket for which ferry in Naples, as well as which pier to go from, but when the matter comes to actually disembarking at Capri, you’re at a loss. I don’t care if you come a hundred times; trouble will never cease to dog you.
Hundreds of people with suitcases and strollers are funneling through on the narrow pier at once…
Hundreds of others, with suitcases and strollers in tow, are waiting in the exact same spot to board the emptying ferry.
It’s the same spot where long queues are forming in front of the ticket booths.
Tourist groups leave from the same spot.
There are taxis, shuttles arriving for the guests of expensive hotels… and even buses dropping off and picking up passengers are all in the same spot…
For those that want to head to Capri with the funicular, the queue is in the same spot.
Cafés and bars, pizzerias, gelato places, souvenir shops…
Buzzing scooters that you couldn’t free yourself of even if you were to swat them like mosquitoes…
All of these are crammed into a cramped area that is no bigger than half a football pitch.
If Dante Alighieri were alive today, I reckon he’d revise the Inferno chapter of the Divine Comedy and add another section!
Those looking for respite drag themselves off to a hotel. We picked the Il Riccio…
The Il Riccio Beach Club has a restaurant with a Michelin star.
You’ve been worn out by the ports in Naples and Capri, so let me cut to the chase and say: It’s a really good restaurant.
It overlooks the deep, dark blue waters of the Bay of Naples with a view to the islands of Ischia and Procida.
It’s quite unornamented but amiable with its blue tables and chairs and white tablecloths.
From the chef to the waiter, the kitchen and service team is top notch.
The antipasti, pastas, primi and secondi are all delectable…
But beware of entering the dessert salon known as the Temptation Room. There are so many enticing desserts on offer that you could enter one door of the Room as normal and go out the other as a diabetic.
That’s why capping off your meal with some limoncello and espresso might be a better idea.
But what is most wonderful about the place are the guests that turn every evening into a wedding feast. Some even come from Sorrento and the islands by boat. Men and women, old and young – everyone sports an unassuming chic… You’ll never see anyone overdoing it style-wise. No one swaggers around, and no one’s looking at the other tables to see what someone else is wearing. On the contrary, everyone remains in their own happy world, eating, drinking and chatting. The peals of laughter don’t advance beyond the table. Naturally, there are mass toasts every 10 minutes and many warm embraces between men and women. A warm Mediterranean atmosphere like this absolutely relaxes and enthuses any onlooker, bringing them into the fold. There’s such a joyful atmosphere that even if the food weren’t that great, you’d be bound to reckon it’s some of the best in the world. Of course, there are no such worries here, as the lobster, octopus and pezzogna and everything else presented here is fantastic. When I asked for a pen and paper to jot down the Italian names of what I had, they returned with a printed menu of what I ate: What could that be but the height of elegance!
Humans possess two characteristics that keep them going when faced with adversity: forgetting and hoping.
Forget about the tribulations at the ports in Naples and Capri, imagine the pleasure awaiting you at Il Riccio and go.
You won’t regret it!