Monday, July 20, 2009


Today we took the ferry to Capri. Lots of transport as usual. Taxi to ferry which was quite late to Capri. Then funicular up to top where the Capri town is. Beautiful views but jam packed with tourists. We wandered a bit, took some pictures and stopped for a light lunch. Then Michael deposited me in one of the 4 outdoor bars in the square and he went off in search of the Villa of Tiberius, where he (Tiberius, not Michael) tortured people and threw them off the cliff if they displeased him. Not a nice guy.

I was pleasantly surprised to look up from my kindle in the shade of the bar to see our friend Libby who was with us in Pompeii and gave us a ride to Sorrento on her way to Positano. Turns our she ran into Michael on her way down from T's villa and he sent her to the cafe. We chatted for a while and watched a wedding go by and then a worker trundling a coffin. The two groups passed in the square!

Ultimately Michael returned and we waited for the funicular and then hot footed it to the dock which turned out to be wrong one to take the ferry home to Sorrento. We had to retrace our steps and walk fast then push and shove our way on to the boat. We arrived back at our hotel about 8 hours after we left exhausted.

Capri is beautiful but too crowded and touristy for my taste!

Michael's walk to the villa of Tiberius.

What started out as an easy walk changed quickly. The slope increased to 12 to 15 degrees! It took about 45 minutes to walk out to the villa, which is on the very eastern tip of the island. I finally made it, a little short of breath.
The view is absolutely stunning. You can see the entire Bay of Naples to the north and the beginning of the Amfali coast to the south. Although it is warm, there is a nice breeze blowing.
Some time after Tiberius became emperor, he visited Capri and never left. I can see why. He probably felt that for the first time in decades he had finally found a place where he could live in peace. It was not to be.
The first thing he needed was someone in Rome to keep an eye on things. He chose the commander of his guard, Sejanus. Tiberius delegated significant authority to Sejanus while he began to indulge his inner demons on Capri.
The story of the rise and fall of Sejanus is one of the most interesting in imperial history. Sejanus ruled almost as a co-equal. Unfortunately, it was not enough and soon he wanted it all. He then embarked a a murderous spree, killing senators, generals, the wealthy and even members of the imperial family. Sejanus did such a good job of isolating Tiberius on Capri that Tibierius had no idea what was going on. Sejanus was months away from being able to strike at Tiberius himself when word finally got thru to Tiberius and Sejanus was overthrown.
Tiberius was so bitter he initiated a blood bath in Rome and thousands died. He then began to look for a successor and chose his young nephew Caligua. In choosing Caligua, he said he planned to "nurse a viper for the bosom of Rome". Into this young man he poured all his hatred, bitterness and paranoia. Living with the emperor on Capri, Caligua was permanently warped and would ultimately, after becoming emperor, succumbed to his own inner demons.
For the last five years of his reign, Tiberius allowed his inner demons to run wild, turning his villa on Capri into a chamber of horrors and debauchery. One of his favorite activities was to have anyone who displeased him thrown of the cliff of the villa, straight down 300 meters to the sea. It is all still visible even today.
Eventually Tiberius died of old age on Capri, having not returned to Rome for 10 years. Upon his death Caligua became emperor.
Tiberius' death was devastating for the island of Capri. Caligua immediately returned to Rome, taking the imperial family and administration with him, never to return. The island was forgotten and all the beautiful imperial buildings left to fall into ruin. It would be centuries before Capri would play any role in the history of Italy.
Sitting up here with the stunning views its hard to believe that it could turn into such a horror, but it did. And poor Tiberius never did find the peace he was seeking.


  1. ps. I will eat a free 'bucks pastry in your honor tomorrow morning!!!