Travel Memory: Italy’s Grotta Azzurra
August 2007: Capri, Italy
If you want to see the eerily beautiful water of Italy’s Grotta Azzurra, you’ll have to entrust your life to the skipper of a small, wooden rowboat, who’s job it is to steer you safely through the mouth of a cave that’s only 2 metres wide and 1 metre tall.
Did I mention that this cave is on the island of Capri, in the middle of the Tyrrhenian Sea? and that the water is anything but placid? In fact, the entrance is so low that you must lay back along the bottom of the boat, and pray that a huge wave doesn’t come and crush you against the roof of the cave on your way in.
And…that the skipper hasn’t been too into the vino at lunch.
The 3 second transition from vivid sunlight through utter darkness to glowing grotto is a little unsettling. Until you look around…
Because what awaits you on the other side is an otherworldly sea cave filled with shockingly luminescent and fantastically spooky water. Noises are muted. The sound of oars hitting water a dull thud. The oohs and ahhs of visitors are subdued and echo hauntingly off the cave walls.
It’s all a bit eerie, but there’s nothing supernatural about it. The water gets it’s mysterious colour from the sunlight that enters the underwater opening positioned exactly under the mouth of the cave. Red reflections are filtered out as the light passes through the water, leaving only the famous azure colour that the Cave is known for.
A visit to the Grotta Azzurra is special under any circumstances, but it was especially memorable for us because our skipper encouraged us to jump into that amazing water, despite the express “no swimming,” rule.
Maybe it was because Agri was speaking in Italian. Maybe it was because, at that time, we looked foolishly, newly in love. Most likely, he was hoping for some kind of extra tip…but it doesn’t really matter. What matters was the miraculous feeling of being enveloped in water so extraordinary, it didn’t seem real.
It’s one travel experience, I’ll never forget.
Visiting the Grotta Azzurra
It’s possible to reach Capri, from either Naples or Sorrento, but the crossing from Sorrento is more picturesque AND shorter, with views of the Amalfi Coast, rather than the Bay of Naples. Sit on the left side of the boat.
Once on Capri, you can charter a private boat, board a tour boat, take the bus, or walk to the Cave’s entrance. Once there, you’ll have to hire another small rowboat to take you into the Grotta itself. It costs between €9 and €13 to enter the Grotta, depending on your age and citizenship. The cost of the rowboat is included in the ticket price.
For the most vivid experience, try to visit on a sunny day, between 12 and 2 in the afternoon, but be sure to check that the Cave is actually open before departing. It closes if the skippers deem the weather conditions to be too risky.
Detailed information can be found HERE.
During peak seasons, the wait to enter the Blue Grotto can be a few hours. Would you wait under the hot sun, just for the chance to spend 5 minutes inside the famed Grotta Azzurra?