National Geographic : 1970 Jun
see only one grotto, we had explored seven, including the Verde, Bianca, and Rossa-the Green, White, and Red. From Marina Piccola a bus took me to the town of Capri. As we climbed the mountainside, I could see that the island is shaped like a huge saddle. To the east the height known as Monte Tiberio is the pommel. The town rides in the seat, with Marina Grande and Mari na Piccola dangling like stirrups on either side. A steep wall of rock runs across the island from north to south to form the back of the saddle, behind which extends the elevated plateau of Anacapri (map, page 800). The population of 11,000 is divided among the two ports and the towns of Capri and Anacapri. The name Capri (pronounced CAH-pri, not Ca-PREE as in the popular song of the 1930's) probably stems from the Greek kdpros, meaning "boar," or the Latin capra, "goat." As I panted up trails that only a goat could negotiate in comfort, the latter seemed plausi ble. But as the island was part of Magna Graecia before it became Roman, and as the prefix and in Greek means "up"-which Ana capri certainly is-it seems more logical to accept a Greek origin. Island Sacked by a Red-bearded Moslem In the piazza I met Stefano Vaccaro, a divinity student who had offered to show me the old town. He led me up steps and under an arch into Via Madre Serafina. Overhead the huddled houses had been joined together by rough-hewn beams, and additional rooms built, until the street had become almost a tunnel. "This is the entrance to Capri's medieval past," Stefano explained. "After the fall of the Roman Empire, the island was exposed to raids from the sea. So the people left the ports and built a town behind fortified walls." We turned off into a smaller street and found ourselves in a laby rinth. Offshoots might end at a wrought-iron door, or become flights of steps, or branch into other lanes, all so narrow that outstretched arms could brush the walls on both sides. "Capri was not lucky during the 16th century," continued Stefano as we wandered between shuttered houses, silent behind thick stone walls and massive doors. "In 1535 the fleet of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent captured and pillaged the island under the command of Khair ed-Din. History remembers him as Barbarossa because of his red beard." After we found our way out of the maze, it was my turn to intro duce Stefano to a part of Capri he did not know. In the back kitchen dining room of a nearby restaurant, discovered during my Christmas stay, Peppino de Rosa was stoking the fire in an oven similar to those unearthed in Pompeii. With a long-handled paddle, Peppino placed wood chips on glowing embers banked to one side. In this most cheerful spot on the island, with mirrored flames from the open oven dancing on copper pans that hung from the walls between garlands of onions and dried peppers, Peppino prepared for us the specialty of the house-pizza. We watched it bubble on the oven's hot stone floor, and brown on top as Peppino added chips to the fire. Shortly, he presented us with a golden puffy disk topped with melted mozzarella cheese, a frothy cloud on which floated oregano, capers, tomato sauce, mushrooms, and anchovies. As we ate, Peppino explained modestly, "The wood fire makes the difference. Pizza, you cannot cook her with gas." Each day on Capri was as perfect as that which culminated with Peppino's pizza. Some mornings I walked down a steep path to swim 804 New twig on a Capri family tree whose roots go back to the time of Christ. Standing in their farmhouse doorway, Lu igi Salvia and his wife Teresa beam over a grandson who bears his name. Island tradition tells that the Salvias de scend from a Roman offi cial in the service of the Emperor Tiberius. The family farms three acres on the porous lime stone slopes of Monte Tiberio, raising grapes, figs, vegetables, and live stock. The island has little ground water, so Capresi farmers must depend largely on rain for their crops. Cisterns trap rain water for household use; extra supplies come by ship from Naples. KODACHROME © N.G.S.