Monday, February 28, 2005
CAPRI, BRONZED BOYS AND GRAHAM GREENE
Young boys were an interest for novelist Graham Greene, Emperor Tiberius, German industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp and many others who made their homes on Capri.
This island of satyrs has a licentious reputation.
'For occasional homosexual adventures', novelist Graham Greene used to take young Italian boys to Villa Rossaio, his home on the island (Source: Graham Greene, The Man Within, by Michael Shelden, publ.Heinemann.)
Greene's friend Doctor Elizabeth Moor confided in her friend Gitta Bittorf that the boys used to stay with Greene on Capri for one or two days; and postman Attilo Scoppa found that Greene often had boys, aged 14-16, staying at Villa Rossaio.
People in the town of Anacapri told Scoppa "the boys came for sex."
Greene was sufficiently well liked by his fellow citizens to be given the title of Honorary Citizen of Anacapri.
Emperor Tiberius, who retired to Capri around 30 AD, is reported to have indulged in endless orgies with boy concubines.
It is said that the walls of his villa were covered with huge pornographic paintings.
According to some sources he enjoyed having mullet nibble his crumb-coated genitals as he relaxed in rock pools; and he used to have his organ covered in milk and honey so that babies would suckle his glans.
There were stories, put about by his enemies, that Tiberius had boys flung into the sea from the high cliffs beneath his villa.
One of the hundreds of boys who lived with Tiberius was Vitellius, who after working as catamite for Caligula, Claudius and Nero, became Emperor in 69 AD. So they can't all have been flung from the cliffs.
Multimillionaire German industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp (1854-1902) set up a comfortable 'palace' in a grotto on Capri, where he entertained underage Italian boys, mostly the sons of local fishermen. Sex was performed to the accompaniment of a string quartet, and orgasms were celebrated with bursts of fireworks.
When Krupp's wife heard rumours of what was going on, she went to the Kaiser, who had her put into an insane asylum. The Krupp military-industrial empire was too vital to Germany. However, the German press eventually found out about Krupp's activities, and printed the whole story, complete with photographs taken by Krupp himself inside the grotto.
Capri was where Oscar Wilde was reunited with Lord Alfred Douglas after being released from jail.
Noel Coward took the title of his song 'A Bar on the Piccola Marina' from the island's favourite meeting place for 'free spirits'.
Capri was home to paedophile Norman Douglas, who was Greene's best friend on the island in the late 1940's and early 1950's. Norman Douglas was the author of 'South Wind' which captured the air of sensuality associated with Capri and Southern Italy.
Famous Scot, Campton Mackenzie, was apparently another boylover who fell for Capri. He moved there with his wife in 1913 and remained about ten years. Two of his books were set on Capri: 'Vestal Fire' and 'Extraordinary Women.' According to biographers, he bought a small villa in the plain of Cetrella, 'where he used to hold his amorous encounters with young boys.' In 1918, the arrival in Capri of a group of lesbians, gave Mackenzie the inspiration to write 'Extraordinary Women.'
"I sprang from the Sorrento sailing-boat onto the little beach. Swarms of BOYS were playing about among the upturned boats or bathing their shining bronze bodies in the surf....." So wrote the famous Swede, Axel Munthe.
Munthe's autobiographical "The History of S. Michele" was published for the first time in English in 1929. Since then this book about Capri has been translated into many languages and is now among the most read books after the Bible. It was in 1887 that Munthe decided to settle on Capri and work as the municipal doctor.
Munthe's first visit to Capri had been in 1884 at the time of a cholera outbreak in Naples. As soon as he had landed on the island, he had fallen in love with the ruins of a little medieval chapel dedicated to S. Michele, surrounded by a large vineyard hiding the ruins of a Roman villa.
He decided to create his dream villa called San Michele and bought a whole mountain to make this possible. "My house must be open to the sun, to the wind, to the sea, like a Greek temple, and light, light everywhere".
Munthe was a lover of the arts, a philanthropist, and a great lover of animals.
Baron Fersen of Adeswarde, born in Paris in 1880 of a family of steel industrialists, was another lover of Capri. On 10 June 1903, the day of Fersen's engagement to the Viscount of Moupeou's daughter, he was arrested under charges of gross indecency and corruption of young boys. After that disaster he decided to take up permanent residence on his favourite island of Capri. Here he rented Villa Certosella.
Just what are the attractions of Capri to the rich, the famous and the cognoscenti?
It could be the Alma-Tadema seas, the erect cliffs and stacks, the little white Mediterranean villas, the narrow Venetian-style lanes, and all the perfume and colour of lemon trees, nasturtiums, lavender, rosemary, and honeysuckle.
It could be the grilled buffalo-milk mozzarella, the dark red wine, the chic shopping or the little beaches reached by steep paths.
It is no longer the sons of local fishermen.
HOW TO GET TO CAPRI. A ferry or a hydrofoil takes you from NAPLES or SORRENTO. In Naples the best point of departure is MOLO BEVERELLO. From Naples the ferry takes 80 minutes and costs about £3. The hydrofoil takes 40 minutes and costs about £6. From Sorrento the ferry takes about 40 minutes and costs just under £3, while the hydrofoil takes 20 minutes and costs about £4.
SOME FACTS ABOUT CAPRI
Capri is 6,7 Km in length and its width varies between 2,7 Km and 1,2 Km. The islands highest point is Mount Solaro - 589 metres. There are two towns: Capri and Anacapri. About 8000 people live in Capri and 7000 in Anacapri. The town of Capri is located on the eastern side of the island, Marina Grande (the port) to the North and Marina Piccola to the South. Anacapri is on the western side of the island and is separated from Capri town by the imposing slopes of Mount Solaro. The climate is Mediterranean. The temperature varies from 10ºC in February - the coldest month - to 28ºC in August. Spring and Autumn are the milder seasons during which it is certainly more pleasant to visit the island.
A TOUR OF CAPRI Your boat arrives in Marina Grande (in the north). This is a pleasant little port, with a small rocky beach. To get to Capri town, you set off uphill by funicular, or on foot, or by taxi.
Capri is the name of the main village/town and it has most of the shops and restaurants. You can drink or dine in the famous Piazzetta the small square in the centre of town. Prices tend to be high.
Higher up in the hills is another village/town called Anacapri (it can be reached by bus or cab).
Anacapri has the stunning Villa San Michele which houses the art collection of Swedish doctor Axel Munthe, author of the autobiography 'The Story of San Michele.' Imagine a light and airy villa, full of ancient statues, and pe rched high above the sea. You will be overwhelmed by the magic of this place.
From Anacapri you can take a chairlift to the summit of one of the highest peaks on the island, Mount Solaro, to enjoy the wonderful view over the sea and the Bay of Naples.
You can visit the famous Blue Grotto (a big blue cave reached by boat; the sunlight passing through an underwater cavity, creates the blueness) and the Natural Arch (caused by a cave collapsing) and the Faraglioni (the world famous stacks/rock formations off the eastern tip of the island. )
It is also possible to tour the lesser-known grottoes of Capri by hiring a boat from Marina Piccola.
There are no sandy beaches on Capri, but there are flat rocks at Marina Piccola and at the Faraglioni where one can sunbathe and swim safely; and there is a small stone beach called Bagni di Tiberio within walking distance from Marina Grande.
Via Krupp is a favourite of mine. It is a walk that takes you along a narrow routeway past villas, orange trees and bougainvillea. The views are sheer Alma Tadema and the road has been called 'the world's most beautiful.'
The Gardens of Augustus, built on top of Roman ruins, were built by Krupp. Take your camera!
The best example of typical Capri architecture (little domes and flat roofs) is found at the Charterhouse of San Giacomo, built in 1371-74, by the secretary to the Queen of Naples. Another place for photos.
Villa Jovis is a favourite place. This is the island's largest Roman villa and was built for Tiberius. The ruins were only discovered in the 1700's. What is so sublime about it is the feeling of being up in the sky, looking down at faraway mountains, cliffs and rocks; and thinking: Tiberius held orgies here!
Ah, and there's also a scrumptious little open-air restaurant nearbye.
Churches: There are many beautiful little churche s to visit when you feel like getting some shade and thinking about the impossibility of all this beauty coming about by accident.
Walks in general. There are many little tracks and paths to follow that will take you to places of enchantment. You may encounter fuschias and poppies and a lighthouse and......
The people (Capresi) are pleasant and helpful.
If you don't like people, then the best months to visit Capri are May, June and September. In July and August parts of the island, such as Capri town, tend to be crowded with huge tour groups on short day trips.
And finally, RESTAURANTS. Capri - Faraglioni, Via Camerelle 75, does tasty filetto con patate e peperoni (meat and potatoes). This restaurant is very central. Anacapri - Il Solitario Via Timpone 1 (closed Mondays) has fantastic pasta which can be eaten in the garden. Anacapri - Lido del Faro on the seaside promenade has excellent risotto and beautiful views.
Will you like Capri? It's a place for artists, romantics and dreamers......
Posted by Anon at 10:37 AM