Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shopping in Capri

A view looking down at Capri's beautiful harbor.
By Jamee Gregory

In August, when sunny Southampton swings, leaving is hard. The garden looks great, the tennis game becomes reasonable, and the calendar is full. Suddenly the European trip that sounded so amazing months ago seems less compelling. Packing is a pain, airport security is a bore, but plans are plans.

Fast forward, ten days sailing the Mediterranean and it’s the same feeling, only in reverse! “Who wants to leave Italy? Perfect blue water, divine food, charming friends, a luxurious boat with the world’s most gracious and thoughtful host and hostess, breathtaking sights, an adorable crew waiting to help, a lunar eclipse, an exploding volcano ... who needs Long Island?”
The harbor in Ischia where we stopped for lunch at the Garden of Eden en route to Capri.
Change is obviously good! Instead of sitting stuck in our routine, it’s far better to opt for adventure. Nothing could have been more stimulating and exciting than a trip on “The Lady Allison,” Leonard and Allison Stern’s sleek yacht filled with such diverse and fascinating personalities as political guru Ed Rollins and his wife, real-estate star Shari, writer extraordinaire Carl Bernstein and his lovely bride Christine, and power couple, Hedi and Ralph Nunes, she a noted art historian, he an expert on the homeless and a distinguished Columbia Political Science professor.

With this stellar group the conversation never lagged, time never dragged. Opinions were shared with respect, whether one leaned towards Obama or worshipped McCain. Everyone expressed their views without friction. Civilized, informative discussions vied with the chef’s fabulous cuisine. Satellite TV watched from the gym’s treadmill and quick reports from the BlackBerry kept us informed while sailing from Rome to Capri and on through the Aeolian Islands.
Carl Bernstein and I enjoy the view as we arrive in Capri after taking the funicular.
While Canfora may not be what it was, it’s still worth a visit for sparkling sandals covered with coral or turquoise, made-to-measure. While the Euro makes this pursuit less enticing, it just happened to dip during our visit.

Luckily Chief Leonard took mercy upon me and said we would dock at seven and not meet under the restaurant Da Paullina’s famous lemon trees for dinner until ten. Adorable Allison searched for special sea horse plates while eagle-eyed Carl sought Borelli’s linen shirts.
The outside of the Prada shop, my first stop.
Just a few feet before you reach the famous Piazzetta, you will find yourself facing the luxuriously dressed windows of "La Fiorente" and "Don Alfonso" filled with precious stones, pearls and corals, and watches.
Before stopping in Capri, I begged Leonard to give me more than two hours for shopping. This magical island is my idea of heaven with its charming streets covered in flowers and studded with some of the world’s most beguiling brands. It takes time to savor the fragrant scent of Stephanotis, sit in the piazza sipping a Limoncello, and still savor the joys of fully stocked Prada, Dolce, and Malo, not to mention Fendi, Ferragamo and a host of jewelry stores, their windows crying out for attention.
Clockwise from top left: The local queen of cashmere, Amina Rubinacci makes clothes in every shade of the spectrum, embellished with details such as tiny pearl buttons; Massa; D & G always draws a crowd; G4 window display; The jewelers "la Campanina" can be compared to the greatest names of Paris, London, or New York.
The scene on the street, the shops bathed in twilight. Inset: The entrance to Foto Azzurro where strollers stop to view and to purchase their pictures after being snapped by the paparazzi, a tradition in Capri.
My favorite display of jewelry -> I wanted every thing! Too bad the Euro is so high! Canfora is still worth a visit for sparkling sandals covered with coral or turquoise, made-to-measure.
These familiar names pale in comparison to Russo Uomo, the chicest men’s’ shop in Italy, where even the most jaded male shopper, like my husband, must stop to browse among the multi-hued cashmeres.

We needed time to hit Marconi, the Russo Uomo outlet, and Tod’s with its new collection.
Ermenegildo Zegna. Peter pausing in front of his favorite store, the elegant Russo Uomo.
Russo Donna, an elegant shop for women, unique to Capri, also showed fall's burnt orange with chocolate brown I loved the bright tights! Peter shopping in Chantal, a shop that demonstrates Italian style and flair. Where else will men wear an orange cashmere vest or throw an orange cardigan nonchalantly over their shoulders? Peter left with a more conservative linen button-down shirt with soft yellow and blue stripes.
Dashing for the funicular, looking at my watch, there was not a minute to lose. It was a race to the finish! While most of our group stopped for leisurely drinks on the hotel Cuisisano’s glamorous terrace with Leonard, I hit the streets running.

For a passionate shopper, time flies in a paradise like the isle of Capri. Unlike summers past, there were no Americans, few Germans, fewer French and barely any Brits.
Salvatore Ferragamo at home in Capri. The Car Shoe store.
Pomellato, the chic Italian jewelry store known for its necklaces and rings, casual and not insanely expensive. Gucci galore.
Peter takes a blackberry break in Giorgio Armani.
Above, left: The merchandise in this window is typical of the chic ladies' clothes worn in Capri: off-the-shoulder gauzy print tops, leopard patterned prints, lilac linen skirts with pierced hems, crisp linen pants, printed-cotton trousers with draw strings. The island is known for the casual, unpretentious and elegant style of its summer visitors, mostly Italians, who know how to put pieces together with great panache. Style in Capri is not about labels!

Above, right: Carthusia is perhaps Capri's best known shop for fabulous fragrance. The story goes that the monks from the island's Carthusian monastery of St. Giacomo created the first fragrance in 1380 by picking a bouquet of the island's local flowers for the visit of the Queen, discovering after three days that the water holding the flowers was left with a unique scent. In 1948 the prior found the ancient formulas and allowed a chemist in Torino to recreate the fragrance in his lab. They called it Carthusia. The tradition continues and all the scents are beautifully packaged and hand-wrapped. The essence of Capri's wild carnations are used in the women's fragrance. These fragrances make terrific gifts!
The Russians prefer Sardinia. Only Italians filled the shops. The paparazzi patrolled as the colorful and beautifully-dressed patrons strolled Capri's legendary vias. After sunset the day-trippers, who come on ferries from Naples clogging the narrow passages by day, were gone and the fabled destination regained its chic.

Before I knew it my three heavenly hours were over and it was time to eat. Armed with packages, including the gold lace Prada dress of my dreams, I was ready to relax.
Carl, Allison and Peter, pausing for dinner under the beautiful lemon trees in the garden of Da Paolina; The impressive buffet of antipasti at Da Paolina, enough for a feast, full of temptation, from lentils to eggplant.