Bitter Lemons on Capri

Capri, Cefalu, Orvietto, Florence, Genoa, Bolsena, Lecci, Napoli 064

Oh welcome gentle sea breeze and bright Capri sunlight! Oh rest and beauty, come to me…

Experiencing Capri with my husband for the first time.  Great expectations. Weather looking questionable…will it rain or shine?

The days have been filled with non-stop dashing, bustling, climbing, darting, hastening and scurrying through the gritty grandeur of Naples.  We are ready for a warm retreat.

We dock with the ferry, gather our backpacks, and wind our way through Capri’s Marina Grande. All is white everywhere…white buildings, white clothing, even a white sky….but the sky over Capri should be blue!

As we climb the steps toward the village, I watch the wind gently tease the little white sails on the harbor boats. Small whitecaps begin to form on the green-blue sea.

We check our map to mark our route, then cram ourselves onto a tiny overcrowded bus that will take us up, up the winding little back streets to Anacapri, the smaller of the islands two main villages.

Capri, Cefalu, Orvietto, Florence, Genoa, Bolsena, Lecci, Napoli 071

After getting off the bus, we begin our fifteen minute hike through orchards and lemon groves. As we pass a spattering of small country homes, our pathway brings us to our lodgings for the night. The building was large and spacious, with rooms off the hallway. All was quiet as we seemed to be the only ones there. The clouds begin to hem us in like the batting of a quilt.

Our Cloudy Retreat
Our Cloudy Retreat

We awake the next morning to the sound of wind blowing against the glass. Stepping outside, my heart sinks. No warm exotic weather for us! The wind has changed from playful to billowing.

“When life hands you a lemon….”

We decide to brave the storm and walk down the winding pathway to the little village. The rain begins its banter, giving expression to the swirling wind. My cheeks feel its cool sweep as I lean into it, determined to make our destination.

Pathways through Lemon Orchards
Pathways through Lemon Orchards

“Know’st thou the land where the pale citrons grow…thither with thee, O, thither would I wend!”  Goethe’s ‘Mignon’s Song’

Lemon Trees on Capri

Finding shelter under the lemon trees was sweet!

Passing through an orchard we find ourselves in the open, taking in the tumultuous sea. The thick-set heather and myrtle was all around us, frisking in the wind along the open terrain, holding tightly onto their plot of earth like rocks. Cypress trees sway and dip. My hair quickly morphs into a tangled mess.

We find a small store and buy bread, prosciutto, cheese and gherkins to make sandwiches back in our room. Choosing a couple of books on display, “The Story of San Michele,” and “The Twelve Caesars,” we retrace our steps back through the elements of the raging gods. Heads down, enduring the pelt of rain and buffeting of wind, our pilgrims bodies once more find the comfort of ‘home.’

Capri, Cefalu, Orvietto, Florence, Genoa, Bolsena, Lecci, Napoli 065
Safely home!

We dry off with warm showers, make our prosciutto, cheese and gherkin sandwiches, and find hot chocolate from the kitchen. Tucking ourselves into our magnificent bed with airy white comforters, we begin to cherish the simplicity of the day. It was not what we had hoped for, but better than we could have imagined. Our sandwiches were the best, the hot chocolate delightful, and our books kept us engaged with some of Capri’s most illustrious former residents–the generous Axel Munthe (click for my article on this amazing man) and the unforgettable Caesars of the early Roman empire.

We made lemonade….

In the land where the pale citrons grow.

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What Lies Beneath

St. Peter, Eternal Guardian, Keeper of the Keys to the Kingdom, Apostle and Founder of the Christian church in Rome. Martyred under Nero in 64 AD.
St. Peter, Eternal Guardian, Keeper of the Keys to the Kingdom, Apostle and Founder of the Christian church in Rome. Martyred under Nero in 64 AD.
St. Peters Basilica, Rome, Italy
St. Peters Basilica, Rome, Italy

Bones….a pile of bones. Discovered below St. Peters Victory Monument at his grave site deep underneath the main altar of the basilica by his own name. Could they be his actual bones? In a rush of excitement, world-famous anatomist from Sicily, Professor Venerando Correnti, was called in on the scene to analyze them. In three years time he had an answer.

The bones found in the Vatican hill underneath the victory monument were of a woman, two men, and some small animals. What a blow!

However, stories often bring about unexpected twists and turns, and this was no exception. In 1941, a buttressing wall supporting the tomb and built around 250 AD was discovered by excavators. This wall, covered by plaster, was inscribed with Christian graffiti, including references to Mary, Peter and Christ. But the most amazing find was a marble-lined repository the size of a safe deposit box, hidden within the wall. Figuring these possibly contained the bones of a pope, the workmen removed them for later analysis. They had assumed the pile of bones found underneath the victory monument were St. Peters.

bones of st peter

Epigraphist, Dr. Margherita Guarducci, was brought in to analyse the graffiti on the wall. In the process, she saw the empty repository and asked to see the contents.

Peter is within
Petros Eni

Inside, she found a large piece of red plaster, which came from the repository that buttressed the red wall behind the tropian. On this fragment was a fourth-century inscription. Petr(os) eni. The word in Greek meant “Peter is here.” 

Necropolis underneath St. Peters Basilica

The bones were analyzed by the same Professor Correnti. After eight years of careful analysis, he concluded that the bones found in the graffiti walls depository were of a man who died between the age of 65-70. This corresponds with the approximate age of Peter at his death.

Oldest St. Peter
St. Peter-Oldest known depiction found in a catacomb in Rome

The only bones missing were that of his feet. According to ancient writings, Peter was crucified upside down. The feet likely separated from the body in the process.

St. Peter crucified upside down

What I found very interesting is that the bones had been covered with royal purple and gold cloth. The purple had stained some of the bones, leading to the belief that they were wrapped after he had decomposed. Also, the bones themselves had dirt embedded in the pores, indicating that they had been in the earth a long time.

Pope XII announced to the public that the bones of St. Peter had indeed been found and rested in his tomb under his basilica. There seems little room for doubt….yet it does exist.

What kind of man could capture the hearts and devotion of millions throughout the centuries? Why would his tomb, since his death, be visited by throngs of pilgrims, embellished by the emperor Constantine, refined by three successive popes, and display Michelangelo‘s gloriously ornate dome? 

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”  Matthew 16:18  New International Bible