By: Linda Thatcher Raichle
In June 2019, we had the pleasure of spending 11 magical days cruising from Rome throughout the Mediterranean Sea including stops in Italy, Malta, Greece and Croatia. Anticipating our stops along the Italian coastline, we pre-arranged a small, private boat tour for ourselves and 2 other couples. Our tour included the services of a local captain and tour guide. We spent a glorious day cruising along the Amalfi Coast with stops at the Furore Fjord, LiGalli Island and the Blue Grotto. Our day included time for swimming, snorkeling and a stop for lunch at a small restaurant nestled among the high cliffs of Positano overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
The highlight of the day included a stop at the Blue Grotto (Gotta Azzurra) a jewel of a sea cave located off the coast of Capri in the Bay of Naples. As we approached the Grotto, we were met with a floatilla of boats bobbing and weaving in the turbulent sea near the cave. We heard a cacophony of shouts from the boat captains wanting their occupants to have a chance to see the Grotto. Since visitors may only enter the cave in small, official Grotto rowboats at low tides, time is of the essence and a sense of urgency prevailed amongst the chaos.
When our turn came, we were instructed to quickly climb into the official rowboat and lie flat so we could enter the ever-decreasing small mouth of the cave as the waves ebbed and flowed. The rowboat captain stood in the boat with his oars poised high while shouting orders. I was positioned in the stern next to our somewhat larger friend. A former football player, whose wide berth was limited by the size of the boat, his head seemed to protrude far above the limits of the small cave entrance. I worried he would be injured as we entered the small opening of the cave and expressed my concern. He agreed and tried to wiggle his way further down into the rowboat while pushing my head down shouting “get lower” to give him more room. Years afterwards, we continue to laugh about the scene we must have created.
Once inside the Grotto, we sat up and the chaos of the past few minutes was immediately hushed by the brilliance of the turquoise water. The reflection is caused by sunlight entering the cave from outside and inside through an underwater breach, creating bluish-green colors depending on the time of day and weather conditions. We were among only 4 or 5 boats in the Grotto at the same time. We slowly made our way around the cave in quiet reflection admiring the stalactites (gallery of the pillars) and the underwater rocks shown through silver reflections. The rowboat captains began to gently sing O Solo Mio with the melodious tune softly echoing in the cave.
We were captivated and awed by the Grotto’s beauty. While we spent only about 5 minutes in the cave, we emerged with a sense of serenity having witnessed the beauty that only nature can create.
This is Italy. It is sometimes chaotic and crazy, bubbling with turbulence and energy, but always revealing something new and seductive…always wanting us to return.
About the Author: Linda Thatcher Raichle, PhD
Linda’s quest to become an Italian citizen began when she found her Sicilian grandfather’s birth certificate in the back of her cousin’s closet. After a 5-year quest, she is now a proud dual citizen of the US and Italy. Linda and her husband, John, a semi-retired surgeon and avid photographer, have enjoyed their retirement years “Dolce far niente”(the sweetness of doing nothing) by traveling extensively throughout Europe and Asia. Italy is a frequent and favorite destination. They look forward to more travel as the COVID restrictions are lifted.