8/01/2013

Come si è formato il manto verde dell'isola di Capri? The green mantle of Capri

Everybody is standing up to get their first glimpse as Capri is fast approaching: on the omorning boat from Amalfi
Arriving by boat in Capri, coming from the direction of Amalfi and Positano, this is how the silhouette of Capri appears out of the blue: Dark green spots covering greyish cliffs and vertical rocks.
And if you are interested in plants, by then, a lot of questions come up when you watch this sight. For example, what was the vegetation of Capri 10,000 years ago like? Has the island ever been connected to the terraferma. And is the vegetation really endemic, that is different from its nearby lands (Ischia, Costiera, Sorrento Peninsula) as is so often the case with islands in the Mediterranean sea. 
As the boat turns towards Capri, from the Punta della Campanella area, you get a 180 degrees view of the island
15,000 years ago, Capri was actually connected to the terra firma due to glacial perionds when the level of the sea sank by 120 meters, thus the shoreline was no longer present and you would have been able to reach Capri on foot from Punta Campanella !! But before, parts of Capri were immerged and then again raised due to tectonical features. 
Close-up of the Faragioni, with just a few sun-hardy herbs and euphorbia plants living on its steep and almost vertical surface. 
When you arrive from the Positano direction, you can take in a broader view of the island than when you arrive from Sorrento. The first thing you see when coming from Positano is the Faraglioni rocks to the left, so you see part of the southern shores, as well as the eastern part with Villa Tiberius and Villa Lysis high above. 
High above, on the north-eastern tip of the island, Villa Jovis is located - this is the Villa built for Emperor Tiberius who lived on Capri from 23 to 37 AD. Below is a stretch of maritime pines. The northern shore is covered with more evergreen Mediterranean macchia than is the southern shore. On southern slopes you would mostly find garigue plants.
By the time the boat approaches Capri, you can see the northeastern tip very clearly as the boat passes here in proximity. You then circle the whole northern part of the island until you can even see the stretto di Capri - a saddle, the so-called graben which also happens to separate in a geological manner the territories of Capri and Anacapri (dolomite is present in the Marina Piccola zone, while chalky cliffs are present elsewhere). 
Mount Solaro is veiled behind mist and clouds
And here you can take in how the climate between the two communities located on Capri must be different - a fresh air is due to the mists and fogs present in Anancapri. This air was so beloved by Edwin Cerio and his wife, so they even called Anacapri in a loving manner their "estero", where they went "on vacation", as they both were not so much into travelling at that time. You can read their accounts by the way in the book written by Claretta Cerio, La mia Capri.
La depressione centrale - the "saddle" between the Capri and Anacapri territories, Monte Solaro is shrouded in clouds which account for a humid and cooler climate at large
Due to the on-off periods of glaciation, a variety of plant species evolved. And in addition, there must be a natural difference in the plants covering the island due to the misty and foggy areas which hold water and account for the lush foliage of plants. In the pictures above and below, you can see the evergreen macchia (macchia primitiva, the original Mediterranean woods, consisting mainly of evergreen holm oaks (lecci), myrtles (mirti) , mastic trees (lentischi), and strawberry trees (corbezzoli) as there are only a few spots left of the original plant cover on the island: Along the road up to Anacapri, and near Villa Lysis on the northeastern-tip of the island. 
The garrigue plants living on the southern, sun-exposed parts of Capri are herbs like rosemary, thyme and lavender, but also euphorbia, cist roses and genista. They have long thin evergreen leaves that may live up to 2 years. Also, many bulb plants live there, like orchids, that due to the dry season when just about 10% of the annual rainfall takes place, simply "revert to the soil".
View up towards Capri town when approaching the harbor. You can see how the northern slopes of the island are co ered with trees (orchards, olives, citrus fruit, pines).
According to the book "Guida Naturalistica all'Isola di Capri" by Gennaro Aprea, 38% of the plant species present in Capri are endemic. Some plants have been "imported" to Capri, like bouganvillea and even palm trees, with the exception of the endemic palm tree variant. These "guest plants" grow profusely in the gardens, but have also conquered territory beyond the gardens.
View towards Anacapri - you can see the shade that Monte Solar throws upon the island and how the air must be so clear and misty, hosting their special variety plants (will describe that in another post).
Afternoon sun upon Capri

7/30/2013

A garden on Capri's Piazzetta??

From the balcony of Al Piccolo Bar, you can take in all the "gardens" and green spots the Piazzetta has to offer .. 
Maybe it is this place, in addition to the Grotta Azzurra, Marina Piccola and the Faraglioni, plus the Gardens of Villa Munthe of course, that is the focal point of both visitors and residents of Capri. Recently I came across a delightful book I found at the book store La Conchiglia, appropriately titled "La Piazzetta di Capri". Of course I bought it on the spot and it reminded me that for over a year now, I have been watching closely a small terraced garden located here, and how it changes every season. Since the first Greek settlers of Capri, this place has been a natural level spot and was used as agora or piazza, basically the same way it is used today by both residents and visitors. But there was one difference - instead of bar-cafés (the first set out its tables and chairs in 1938, it was the Bar Al Piccolo) - in former times, the Piazzetta served as market place, where fruit, vegetables, and meat was sold. But today, it is referred to as "the most fashionable and celebrity-packed spot on the world" !!
This book contains old pictures, which make you go back in time, and is a captivating read
In case you don't cross the Piazzetta in Capri in the VERY early morning hours these days, you won't see its flowers but will be intent on watching the crowds instead, and avoiding the hot sun in July. But then, if you take a closer look to take in the proportions of the Piazza, you will notice a tiny "terraced gardens" along the steps leading up to the Church of Santo Stefano (ex-cattedrale di Santo Stefano). I recommend that, in order to get a good view of the Piazzetta, you go up on the first floor of Al Piccolo Bar, which is one of the four cafés located on the Piazzetta. This one is the oldest bar here and has a special feature: A first floor where guests can sit quietly and enjoy their morning cappuccino. There is also a balcony on which you can sit and where it is still cool enough even with midday approaching. A perfect place to contemplate the area of the Piazzetta and its surroundings Still, as you can see, the view is not clear in all directions due to the white sun shades spanning the Piazzetta's four bar-caffés. These days, protection from the sun is indispensible ..
The pastel-colored walls of the houses bordering upon the Piazzetta are adorned with red geranium flower pots - this balcony overlooks the white "decked-out" Piazzetta
And it is from this balcony that you can detect the terraced garden at the foot of the steps leading to the Church of Santo Stefano. These are hardy perennial plants, otherwise they would not survive the parching sun, not even if they were watered regularly. The plants are growing in pots, decorated with colorful tiles depicting the typical lue lizards that are said to live on the Faraglioni rocks and on the Galli islands.
Even from here you can detect the small green & flower spot . the "garden" of the Piazzetta ..
The green spot on the Piazzetta is divided in two halves: the green-greyish curry plants and vermouth, sun loving, are to the left ..
Here you can see the artistic flower pots, depicting the blue Capri lizards.
From this perspective, the plants seem rather large, with the passers-by almost hiding behind them. In the front corner you can also see a small eucalyptus plant with silvery-green long leaves.
People resting on the steps next to the plants
View towards the Piazzetta which to my mind is so embellished by this silvery-green spot with the odd yellow and red flower blossoms ..
And this is how the flower arrangement looked like last year - you see how it has grown since then, but also that the sun-loving hardy plants have survived and have been thriving, while the flowering plants did less well, and some have even disappeared ..
Even more flowers at the end of July 2012...
Last July ..
Up a few stairs, near the Church, there is also a small flower store ...
By the way, the flower arrangement has also been adapted for the cooler season. This is what the tiny garden looked like back in March.
Blue flowers and purple geranium blossoming here in March 2013

6/21/2013

Anacapri houses built in Roman style and their gardens

Le Boffe and its central Piazza Boffe - a white piazza looking like an intimate, private terrace of which the white houses represent a natural prolongation: A fraction of Anacapri, with characteristic white-washed houses and vaulted roofs, a sight that you may not expect so near, about seven minutes from the very central and touristic Piazza Vittoria,. This is the historic part, an architectonic jewel to discover easily, you just need to take one of the side streets of Via G. Orlandi to your right and you will arrive in the midst of an agglomerate of houses crafted by artisan masons, building these vaulted houses based on ancient Roman style!! And all this beauty conveys a very private atmosphere, against the black-green background of the pines and date palms. A very structured urban landscape looking archaic and to my mind, yet conveying the essence of what life should be.
Piazza Boffe - this time with a focus on the plants and pine trees of course, that provide welcome shade in the summer
In contrast, if you look at Via G. Orlandi, the houses are pastel-colored, rose, pale yellow and orange, sometimes rosso pompeiano-tinted and surrounded by lush gardens that often comprise both vegetable plots and flower gardens. But just beyond some vegetable gardens and vineyards, or when you turn towards Piazza San Nicola, walk past the white Church of San Michele and continue walking along the shaded (and refreshingly cool and slightly descending Via Finestrale, you come to a crossing, which a bit further ahead opens up into a slargo, a quiet little square, this is Piazza Boffe. 
And then you might think you have crossed some magical border and stepped right into some Arab or egven Greek island environment. But actually, it is the artworks of artisan masons that started building these houses back in the 16th century, based on Roman techniques.
Arabian souk or Greek island - no, Anacapri's delightful Piazza delle Boffe, shaded by huge pine trees
Le Boffe are characterized by architettura spontanea rurale, as this style is called in an insightful article published by L'Isola Magazine. The houses scattered here were built from 1505 onwards, and were constructed next to the Church of Santa Sofia, which is just round the corner. And it was these houses that Edwin Cerio, the famous urban planner, architect and mayor of Capri, chose as models for some of his architectonic creations all over Capri ... But now let us look at how this white-washed agglomerate is livened up by green spots ... tiny gardens structured on several levels, with a central plant bed and seemingly randomly planted pine trees providing shade on might think in a very strategic and conscious manner ...
Entrance to Piazza Boffe, crossroads to the two white Churches of Anacapri
The memory plate in Piazza Boffe remembering the fact that here, two children from Anacapri greeted Josef Ratzinger as "future Pope" in September 2012
Terraces and pergolas were added to the vaulted buildings in the 19th century
Ivory-covered bougainvillea, the whitewashed houses represent the stage for colorful potplants and cacti plants
Structured garden rooms spanning several floors and levels: front garden with citrus fruits, first-floor tiled terrace with terracotta pots
Shade of the oleanders lining the houses
Lush pine trees, pots wsith cacti and asparagus
Even the piazza presents different levels of pavement, conveying the impression of a very private and intimate space to live, almost like a terrace.  
A towering date palm with bougainvillea growing at its feet (this picture was taken in April, so flowers are not yet there to liven up the space in a bright purple color)
Mighty pine trees - pinoli are ripening just above ...

4/27/2013

An Anacapri home's garden in spring: Il Solitario

Trattoria Il Solitario, Via G. Orlandi 96, Anacapri: My first restaurant garden to be described - A hidden garden treasure, still so close to the main street leading into the centro storico of Anacapri. I came across an interesting review of this restaurant when going through the lonely planet guide on Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. It actually says there ..." this is the nearest you will get to be invited into someone's home...tables are set in a small backyard with lemon trees ... the whole ambience is one of unhurried holiday time" Sounds very promising, and this is why I wanted to view this garden by all means. And this is what it looks like. A narrow passageway leads back to the house and a veranda and on to the restaurant. So first I thought this was misleading and leading to a private home ...
A narrow pasageway is leading back towards the house, white-washed house, low stone wsall, ivory-covered fence, pergola
With spring, my favorite season, now coming into full swing, this is what it looks like: An intimate, secluded spot in the midst of the white-washed house complexes of Anacapri. Yellow-orange flowers dominate in spring, in this garden just as everywhere else in Capri: catching all the reflections of the sun.
Yucca plants, lemons, ivory, ...
Ginestra, lavender, lilies just coming into bloom in mid-April, lemons all over ...
Yellow leucanthemum, yellow gazania plant in a terracotta pot, stones in the flower beds
Roses coming into bloom, and what is best - all this green beauty around here looks the same 12 months a year!!
Lemon tree, towering above rose bushes and a white marmor statue
White lilies in the midst of rose bushes. A very idyllical place to be enjoyed in this case also by the visitors


4/12/2013

Which spring flowers grow in the garden of Axel Munthe?

Even though the week after Easter was not springlike yet in Capri, I took the opportunity to explore one of the most famous gardens. Time to see which spring flowers are growing here, and believe me, you will be in for some surprise... Because you will get to see not only the usual spring flowers which are also common to other, cooler climates in Europe, but it is the amazing combinations of these spring flowers such as forget-me-nots, narcissi, tulips, with tropical plants like banana trees and palm trees. But see for yourselves, I wish you a relaxing virtual walk through this garden, and hope you will be able to take a first impression of the colors and scents that spring brings along in Anacapri. 
A blue flower bed of forget-me-nots inspire spring dreams at the foot of the banana shrub
Peonies blossoming soon - within the next two weeks, in the background you can see the white walls of Casa Munthe, and can take in the cedar and pine trees that abound here
It is really worth making an early spring stroll through one of the most famous gardens of the world. Don't miss taking the opportunity to look at the unique panorama you get from the pergola walk, which by now is covered by the fragrant purple wisteria blossoms, towards Capri town and the Sorrento Peninsula beyond. 
One of the most famous views, taken at the end of the pergola, you can see the Marina Grande port, a part of Capri town and Punta Campanella (the tip of the Sorrento Peninsula) beyond from here.
But let us start our walk right there where you go up to the Cafè Casa Oliv (I will be describing this marvelous spot in a later post). The first impressions you get is blue hydrangea and colorful spring flowers at the entrance to the house of Axel Munthe.
Spring geranium will soon be in full bloom, adorning the entrance to the Casa Axel Munthe
Once inside, you can take a look at blue hydrangea, and of course the forget-me-not flower beds.
lilies and evergreen creepers, asparagus and ivy are framing in the flower bed
And then it is the turn of narcissi and very colorful flower beds that lighten up the numerous hues of green in which the garden abounds. Here is a flower review of what you get to see when you visit the garden in the first half of April:
Narcissi, white and yellow, you find the yellow hues again in the orange fruit that are now ripening on the trees
Aralia leaves looming above the narcissi growing along a stone wall
Narcissi, ivy and aralia, next to hydrangea that are not from the hothouse (serra) and thus still have to grow their leaves in eary spring
After the narcissi, asteracee take over, with their fresh red and white flower heads
The asteracee line a walk along the stone wall which is running parallel to the pergola from which you have the view across Capri and the sea
hyacinthi, blue and white, and a variety of spring daisies
And up we go towards the Chapel at the end of the walk, which is lined by spring daisies, in the background you can see the yellow narcissi growing on the flower bed above, separated by a stone wall covered with ivy
And here they are - purple tulips.
Here we look towards the pergola, with purple tulips in the foreground ...
Rose buds and young rose leaves,still with a reddish hue ...
And finally, take a look at the pergola next to the house
Yellow patches of narcissi all over the garden, framed in with colorful pansies (which, by the way, are the winter flowers here in the south, just like the cyclamen)
Could not help exploring almost every corner in this marvelous garden, taking pictures from different angles: Above you can see the wisteria (glicine) covering the pergola, just coming into bloom ...
And finally the sun comes through the cloud cover, with marvelous rays on the first blossoms of glicine (you can see that in the upper right corner of the picture)
Forsythias, tulips, narcissi, lush foliage ...
the azaleas and rhododendrons will soon be in bloom in their sunny spots amongst the cedar trees and palms
Beyond the pine trees and evergreen laurels growing to the right, is the sea ...
... and finally, a patch of the turquoise sea (yes, the sea turns that color again in spring ...)