Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Vivian Hsu: Up to Anacapri

Marina Grande on the island of Capri


Anacapri, the mysterious city in the clouds... The grey mountain cliffs seamed to crush the scattered houses between Marina Grande and Bagni Tiberio, the Roman Emperor's supposed beach resort.


Frightening Cliffs of Capodimonte

Emperors are quite common on this tiny island, I bet I'd meet one before the end of the journey. The steepest side of the hill is called Capodimonte, but the northern slopes are known as Mount Barbarossa, after a German Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen who alledgedly ruled from Capri thirteen centuries after Tiberius. Another opinion traces this name back to the XVI century, when Kheir Ed-Dine from Algiers invaded the island (he was called Barbarossa too).

And shadows of death kept sweeping over my head as I stared at the blurred limit between the woods and the rocks. Just like the bloom of cherry trees a white chapel sometimes teared the mist on the edge of the mountain and a promise of blue sky appeared for a few seconds, soon to be followed by the darkest clouds. I was wondering if I had any chance of making the pictures I had been dreaming of for so long.

Outside the gates of ParadiseThe places that I had associated with sweet Vivian were all located in Anacapri, and I had decided to get as soon as possible to this eagle's nest. I kept walking uphill on the steep and narrow road that was overlooking the beach of Marina Grande, escaping as quickly as possible to some safe place as soon as the horn of a threewheeled van or a luxurious cab teared up the silence of the Sunday morning. After the second curve, I found myself in front of the buttress of the large stadium that I had noticed on most pictures taken from Villa San Michele. I thought that the reciprocal must be true and I diverted my road into the stairs and lanes that were leading to Bagni Tiberio.

Scala Fenicia and the viaduct to AnacapriAt one point, I stood in front of a majestic iron gate and I could see orange trees and lemon trees and beds of vegetables in all directions. And precisely while I was unpacking my movie camera, a bright ray of sun floodlighted the place where I was standing, as if an angel had descended from heaven. I lifted my eyes to the mountain and the clouds had almost disappeared. San Michele was shining as a diamond on some women's chest. Just as Jacob's ladder in the palmgrove, the zigzagging tracks of the Scala Fenicia, the Phoenician stairway were hanging above me and the breathtaking viaduct used by buses and cars was standing out against the yellowish cliff of Capodimonte.

The orange bus to AnacapriI could have walked straight up to my target, although the Scala Fenice started at the other end of the stadium, as indicated by a ceramic sign. But my trip was just about to begin and it was more advisable to go back to Marina Grande and take the bus to Anacapri. I rushed down to the harbour, I was already late and I could not tell in advance if the small bus would collect me on his way up to Capri's crossing. But the small orange bus was waiting patiently for me and I finally sat down next to an older japanese couple. I was breathless, but happy and full of hope, an excellent frame of mind for such a day.The doors closed and the horn howled. We were off to Anacapri.

Try to trace the road of the bus to AnacapriTo tell you the truth, I must have retained some breath at this stage, because I almost lost it while we stormed the winding road, the hair-pin bends in the forest and the narrowing lane on the viaduct. The bus driver had surely forgotten about brakes, he used his horn more often than his steering wheel and he changed gears at such a pace that you could well imagine that his second car was a Ferrari. A car arriving in the opposite direction could have found no safe place on the road and pedestrians would just have been squeezed against the railing.

Breathtaking view from inside the busThe sight through the windows was shaking, with the small houses near Marina Grande shining several hundred meters below in the morning sun. When the bus finally drove through the streets of Anacapri, I thought that I had just disembarked from the big wheel at some village fair. I was at Piazza Vittoria, the main "fermata" (station) for public transportation.

Piazza VittoriaAn alley in old AnacapriHotel Biancamaria

An old man was sitting outside some coffee shop. I gathered my poor italian words and asked: "Prego. Piazza Diaz, dove c'è!" I was shown an alley that departed from the main road to Capri on the right and I walked down the lane while the sun and the clouds struggled over my head. I didn't grant a single look to the boutiques, I knew that they were mere tourist traps and I had only one purpose in mind: I was following the steps of an angel. I passed Hotel Biancamaria with his white archs, and the blooming magnolia tree. I passed the evergreen cactus tree and the entrance of several alleys leading to private houses.

Strolling through the streets of AnacapriAs I was already expecting to see some "panchina", these typical benches covered with painted ceramic tiles, all of a sudden I stood in front of Casa Rossa, the red "castle" where some of the lovely pictures of young Vivian Hsu had been shot. I thought I see a frail young lady in a distance, standing at the entrance door in the alley. It was just a sunshine coming on the wall, but for a few seconds, my dreams seemed to become true.

My dreams seemed to become true

The Casa Rossa was a rather small building with a tiny square next to it. I had imagined some majestic moorish palace, but it was just a medium-sized house with exuberant windows and a red painted façade with embeded stones of greek or roman origin. The tourist office had told me that the Pinacoteca was closed, and closed it was. All the doors were closed... but sometimes with bars only... and you could have a look through the bars...

An n excerpt of Tianshi XinPinacoteca or Casa Rossa

To be continued...

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I could be one of the last mutineers of the Bounty, with my eyes enlighted by the wealth of nature and the grace of God the Creator, amidst a large family where hope plays the part of affluence. ***** Un des derniers révoltés du Bounty, les yeux illuminés par la richesse de la nature et la grâce de Dieu, au milieu d'une famille nombreuse où l'espoir joue le rôle de l'opulence.