Romantic Sorrento and the Isle of Capri
The Blue Grotto experience is more than just a visit to a cave. Getting there, getting in, and getting back are all part of the experience. Arriving at the mouth of the grotto, you'll find a covey of dinghies waiting to row visitors inside. The entrance hole is small, and only these little rowboats can fit through.
If the water's too rough, dinghies can't get in and visitors are turned back. But on most days, the raffish rowers jostle their way to the tiny entry, tourists scrunch down below the gunwales (to avoid smashing their skulls on the rock), and the guide pulls hard and fast on a cable at the low point of the swells to squeeze into the grotto.
Inside, it takes your eyes a few minutes to adjust to the brilliant blue of the cave's water (sun reflecting off the limestone bottom creates the effect). As your man rows you around, singing a little "O Sole Mio," you'll enjoy the iridescent magic of the moment -- and understand why Sorrento and Capri have been attracting holiday-goers for centuries.
IF YOU VISIT SORRENTO...
SLEEPING: Hotel Antiche Mura, with 52 rooms and four stars, is sophisticated, elegant, and plush (splurge, www.hotelantichemura.com). Hotel Mignon rents 22 soothing blue rooms and has beautiful tiled public spaces (moderate, www.sorrentohotelmignon.com).
EATING: Ristorante il Buco serves delightfully presented modern Mediterranean dishes (splurge, II Rampa Marina Piccola 5; tel. 081-878-2354). Chantecler's Trattoria is a family-run hole-in-the-wall with delicious food (moderate, Via Santa Maria della Pietà 38, tel. 081-807-5868).
GETTING AROUND: Sorrento is walkable, and city buses stop near the main square. Boats run hourly to Capri.