My first trip to Italy was in 2001, armed with my mom and 15 pals and their moms. It was a great couple weeks full of sight-seeing and delinquency (if you recall, I was new to drinking; this proved fatal, after consuming about 10 too many vodka tonics and suffering a nasty fall down the ramp at one of Florence’s most hopping discos). On that trip, we hit the majority of major cities and regions—Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Pisa, Tuscany—but as far south as we got were Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius, which overlooks Naples.
I returned to Italy in 2003, when I was backpacking all over Europe solo, and while I spent a few adventure-packed days in Lake Como, I didn’t make it back down south again. One thing I never did get to visit, which while touristy, has always been on my list of must-dos, is witness the Blue Grotto. While I was jealous the Foodies headed down south to the Amalfi Coast, my group, the Cool Ones if you will, got to see my wish fulfilled. We spent the first two nights in Naples at the Grand Hotel Santa Lucia, and on the second full day, boarded the hydrofoil to Capri.
I’ve never been great with modes of travel that rock. Planes are fine: In fact, the only time I’ve ever lost my lunch on a flight was on the first leg of my initial trip to Italy, from Nashville to Chicago (the Windy City’s nickname, it turns out, is legit). But more than half of that flight utilized their handy barf bags, so I didn’t feel quite so crummy about my weak stomach. However, boats are another story. It’s sad actually because I absolutely love ferries and water travel. But there have been many a time-–-the first when I was on a Disney Big Red Boat cruise to the Bahamas at age 8; another time on an 18-minute boat ride from Greece to Turkey in 2006, our steering wheel broke in the middle of the Ionian Sea, and we spun in circles for three hours straight, which is enough to send anyone heaving over the side of the ship; the most recent being that tumultuous whale-watching excursion in Iceland last fall-–-when a boat ride did not end up favorably for me.
The 50-minute journey to Capri was one such incident. Let’s just say I was one of the few who opted out of heavy alcohol consumption the previous night after our trip to the Opera, and ironically, it was I who spent much of that bouncy ride across the Med paying homage to the Porcelain God. I was nicknamed Pukey for the rest of the trip, not a title you want tacked onto your name when you’re already trying to give off an air of maturity to compensate for any such age deficiency (let it be known, I am very young in the travel writing world; often, people in the field mistake age for experience, thus it’s pertinent that my quarter century on this Earth goes unaddressed).
It was a few hours until my stomach felt stable again, and once we took a very bumpy bus ride up a windy, one-lane road through the island to the Blue Grotto. When I saw that we were to board another boat, the Sprite swishing around in my stomach, doing its best to work its calming effects, immediately jumped into my throat and threatened to come to the surface if
Luckily, the “boat ride” was all of 50 feet at most, and I handled it just fine. However, one thing I failed to address in advance was my choice of attire for the day. Now, I’ve never met a dress I don’t like, so per my normal wardrobe, I was wearing a knee-length, sleeveless frock, nothing that normally would have threatened to expose any parts of me that shouldn’t see sunlight.
When we climbed into the boat, Ricardo got in first, Heather followed, sitting against his chest, and I had to fit in the remaining space against Heather. Renzo, the older flirtatious Italian was directly across from me. I didn’t even take notice of this, but later on at lunch, Renzo was telling an animated story to his side of the table, made a sweeping motion with his arms, and showered me with champagne. As he apologized and offered to remove my dress right then (ew) and dry clean it for me, he said (in his heavy Italian accent): “Oh but I was just telling them how the boat driver said, ‘don’t be looking up her skirt,’ and I said, ‘oh no, I won’t — instead I’ll just be looking at a beautiful pair of legs.’ And I only peeked a couple of times.” Ew. EW. Maybe from now on, I’ll exercise my right to wear pants on future trips where old creepy men are on board.
The Blue Grotto was stunning—unfortunately, none of my pictures could do justice to the sparkling sapphire color—and not at all overrated; however, it was quite a quick trip, and if I’d paid to take the boat all the way around the island for five minutes inside (as opposed to getting in a canoe right beside the interest), I might have felt the slightest bit jipped.
It’s definitely not one of those have-to-visit-before-you-die type of places, like Angkor Wat or Giza, but if you’re in southern Italy and have the time, I’d suggest making a trip over, if for nothing else, the island of Capri is gorgeous. And if you loathe tourists, take the hydrofoil to the even more beautiful and less visited, Ischia, nearby.
I just had to dip my toes in the Mediterranean, and had Renzo not been around the corner, I might have been tempted to take a dip in my skivvies (I’m a water rat, despite my overwhelming fear of sharks). Oh well, there’s always next time.