August 15, 2011
What I remember best after 54 years—I went back this year for the first time—was how elegant everyone was. Men wore blazers and white linen suits. A white silk shirt was de rigueur, as we soon found out, and men also wore rope-soled shoes or linen loafers. It took Feruccio and myself an entire morning to get kitted out with Capri’s finest linen trousers and silk shirts at half the price we would have paid back on the French Riviera. Our hotel was clean and friendly and dirt-cheap, and after we were seen in the company of Onassis at the Piazzetta—we asked him for a drink to thank him but he wouldn’t let us pay—the invitations came raining down.
The daily schedule went something like this: No one in Capri got up before noon, and by 2PM the daily promenade began around the Piazzetta. After lunch, which was around 4, people would swim or play tennis or go for walks along the steep hills surrounding the plaza. Then it would be time for drinks at the square—more like a fashion show—and dinner would not begin before 10:30. There were no nightclubs, except for “Number Two”—still there today—no sleaze, no loud music, no rock. But there was gossip galore and if memory serves, there were musical beds played every night. There was magic about the place, and for a 21-year-old, it was an unforgettable experience. To this day I remember the sweet smell of jasmine as I found my way home after a long night’s partying away from a furious Patricia. Feruccio and Ellen got married, had two children, and then he was killed in an automobile accident near Torino.
I returned this year for a regatta and I made the mistake of going to the Quisisana for a drink. The crowds were awful and smelly, the waiters rude, the place packed with backpackers, and the shops full of expensive junk. The sea was alright, just. Too many stinkpots and too many jet skis. Thousands upon thousands of tourists. Most of the great houses are there but no longer belong to those I met that magical September. It’s the only great thing about getting old. I saw places such as Capri in their prime, which no one younger than me will ever see. And that’s a real pity.