AWhen we arrived in Naples on Monday of the previous week, the mood was cheerful and a little sleepy; people thanked God for being spared so far and said they hoped it would stay that way. There was little going on at the harbor, and the men in the bright protective suits, who measured the fever of anyone who wanted to board the speedboat, were more amused than alarmed. The boat was almost empty, the bar on board closed; it wasn’t worth it for three espressos and an aperitivo,
That’s exactly why we came, we thought. Capri in the pre-season, the calendar is still winter, but it will be twenty degrees at noon. The waiters in the cafes have little reason to hate visitors to the island, and outside, on the beautiful paths over the hills and along the cliffs, there is a smell of flowers and herbs and not of sun oil.
They have the island almost to themselves, said the boss of the “Hotel Canasta”, which was one of the few that was already open. And the only worry that troubled us a little was this one: Can it be that we came two weeks early? Only one of the four cafés was open on the Piazzetta; there sat Gianfranco Arbace, the host of the restaurant “Al Grottino”, and had two bad news for us. First, he won’t open his restaurant until April. Second, he feared that the Prefect of the Province of Naples was too strict a man. It is rumored that tomorrow he will also set strict rules for Capri, but there is no corona virus here and there. Let’s hope for the best, he said, order an aperitivo, I’ll call Da Pasquale and you’ll get a decent dinner.
The waitress wore a face mask and rubber gloves, she made sure that the guests were at least a meter apart, which is why the restaurant was only a third full and still no one was allowed in; even the advice that you were married and sleeping in the same bed did not help. The ravioli tasted that the television was on, hardly bothered us, and then the waitress turned it up, and Giuseppe Conte, the Italian prime minister, spoke to the people.
“Zona rossa”, even we understood that; and it was also clear that the northern restrictions would now apply throughout Italy. Keep your distance, stay at home, and the bars and restaurants close at six. Almost ten years after our last visit, we hadn’t just gone to Capri for the food. You get there to walk, look, stop and indulge in sublime serenity. Nowhere else is there so much landscape in so few square kilometers; every hundred meters there is a new view of the rocks, the gardens, the sea. Vesuvius stands in the background, and in the evening the lights shine from Naples. There are a few reasons why the Gulf of Naples is the most beautiful landscape in the world, and we have always found it compelling for 25 years.
But in the evening it is best to sit in one of those three or four very special restaurants, which, on the one hand, have a simple offer, antipasti, pasta, fish, the dessert of the day. And who cook these simple dishes with so much subtlety and such good ingredients that you forget when eating what Michelin stars are supposed to be good for.
The next day all restaurants were closed, the cafes except one that was hidden. During the day we had pizza from the bakery, in the evening Pietro D’Emilio, the owner of the hotel, cooked pasta for us and served it in the breakfast room. It was kind of him and luxurious for us for two very good evenings. We still felt that we were annoying, two German guests, without whom the hotel would have closed long ago.
Full bars in Dusseldorf
It was no longer as if the island was ours alone. It was more like we were the only ones who didn’t realize that it was time to leave. Austrian Airlines, with which we came, no longer flew to Naples. Lufthansa was said to cancel more and more flights.
The boats in the Gulf were as punctual as Deutsche Bahn is rarely. The airport was almost empty, the ground staff and the people at the espresso bar wore breathing masks and gloves and asked the travelers to keep their distance. This was Campania, the contagion rate was hardly higher than in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Eurowings 9861, change in Düsseldorf, one hour stay. All bars full of people, heads close together, no fear of physical contact, a celebration of human closeness. We would prefer to be the other way round.