It’s 8AM, I’ve had my morning cuppa and I’m dressed and ready to leave- to where, I’m not sure yet. Passing through the kitchen of the hostel I see two boys sat in their boxers and t-shirts eating cereal. We introduce ourselves; they’re two American friends – practically brothers- on a trip around Europe. They tell me they haven’t got any guide books and they’ve just been “winging it”. Today is their last day- they’re travelling to Germany tonight on a late train. Say they’ll probably just head to the beach later. We wish each other a great day and safe travels!
I spent about an hour wandering around Sorrento while I decided where I’d spend the day. I savoured the taste of a hot silky espresso and since I’d forgotten to pack a bikini from home, bought one on sale. I ended up in Sorrento’s Marina Piccola and decided from there I’d take a hydrofoil to the beautiful island of Capri.
By this point I’m quite sweaty and sticky and can’t wait for the boat to start so I can feel the fresh sea-air on my skin. I apply some sun cream to my face and arms and as I look over, I see the same two boys from the hostel (this time fully clothed).
It’s a wonderful feeling when you travel solo, far away from home. To wake up in town where no-one knows you. To chat to strangers, learn how the other half live, find common interests and form friendships. With some stroke of serendipity, these two boys and I found ourselves on the same boat, out of all of the hundreds of boats, heading for the same place, when a few hours before neither of us knew where we’d be going.
Straight away the guys ask me what are we going to see and do in Capri. I get out my Frommer’s and tell them there’s a Blue Grotto we have to see, plus somewhere there’s a chairlift ride that takes you to the top of Monte Solaro.
We arrive in Capri and I’m struck dumb by it’s charm:
We get in the ticket line for the Blue Grotto and I notice I’ve forgotten to bring cash with me (I left it in my locker in the hostel). The guy in the uniform trying to get all the tourists to line up tells me I can pay on card no problem, so I do.
When we arrive at the tiny entrance to the Blue Grotto we’re greeted by several other boats all hovering on the clear blue waters. After a 15/20 minute wait, we hop onto this little yellow rowing boat. He rows a couple of metres and then stops to ask us for the entrance fee. Entrance fee? I check the ticket that we’d bought earlier, and low and behold in small print at the bottom it says “does not include entrance to the Blue Grotto”.
I go to get my purse and then remember. I don’t have any cash on me.
Just as I’m about to despair about coming all this way and not going inside, the boys offer to spot me. Relieved, the three of us, the rower, and a Chinese couple get nice and cosy on the boat as we lay back and squeeze through the cave’s opening. Once inside, after our eyes desperately adjust to the light, our jaws drop in awe as we slowly absorb the full magnificence before us.
The rower, Antonio, rests his oars and tells us, “Jump in! Go swim.” We look at each other, smiling but unsure (since it’s technically illegal). “But I don’t have a bikini on.” I mull. He goes, “Bra, bikini, it’s all the same.” And in a split-second, the three of us are undressing on this tiny little boat, in this dark and mysterious treasure chest. The rower holds out his hat and we put our phones/wallets inside, which he keeps from getting wet.
I don’t think I’m able to describe how incredible it felt to swim in those waters. Amazing, refreshing, ice cold. The men were gloriously chanting and singing, the sounds echoing throughout the cave. The water an iridescent blue glow… smiling over at the boys- a moment in my life that can never be repeated.
Watch this video I found on youtube- but imagine swimming in it:
After a couple of blissful minutes we hauled ourselves back in. Hurriedly I tried to put my clothes back on before we got outside. My bra was a bright hot pink and my pants were lacy… totally not the same as a bikini! I forgot to bring a towel with me too but luckily I had that bikini I’d bought earlier, so I threw it on under my clothes. All the while the boys stayed in their boxers and waited til we got back onto the boat before drying off and getting dressed. The stares we got as we hopped off the rowing boat… today was definitely not a day for a white top.
Once back on dry land, we grabbed a light lunch and headed for the chairlift. Now, this is the part where I wish I had read the guide book properly. I was unaware that we could take a funicular up to Capri town and then a bus to Anacapri. Instead, we hiked up the entire way, stopping at each fountain to dunk our heads under. As strenuous as it was, we met lots of other people and by the last stretch we were willing each other on to keep going. In the end, totally worth it. I paid the boys chairlift as a thank you for spotting me earlier and one by one we got into the rickety-old chairs. One of the guys, afraid of heights, started to freak out while we were up in the air but the other guy was joking around shaking his chair and shouting things like “I think mine is coming loose!”, it was such a hilarious moment with stunning views to soak up. The ones from the top had me, and just about everybody (except for the hordes of Chinese tour groups) utterly speechless.
On our way back to the chairlift, the guys noticed the time. They had their flight to Germany tonight and we still needed to get back to Sant’Agnello to pick up their bags and then head to the station. Still not realising we could take a bus down… we ran. It seemed to go on FOREVER. Plus I had flipflops on. At the end of what seemed like a downhill marathon, the boys were waiting for me. We already had our return tickets to Sorrento but mine was in an hours time and there’s were minutes from departing. We raced to the hydrofoil but just as we got close it’s engines started and it was off. The three of us sat down in a thump and caught our breath. They lent me their towel to dry the dripping sweat from my face and I passed them my water bottle with just a couple swigs left. Not long later we all fell asleep and were woken up by the the sound of the next hydrofoil pulling in.
Back in Sorrento the boys calculated they’d definitely miss the train, so we sat ourselves down at a restaurant close to the beach. We had some great conversations and enjoyed delicious locally sourced fish and wine. I distinctively remember when it came to saying good-bye; they planned to head to the airport anyway and sleep there to save money, then catch a train in the morning. I decided to stay in Sorrento a little longer, go for a swim and catch the sunset. I told them to look after each other. They told me to keep safe. We hugged and turned our separate ways.