How paradise became hell

Loser: Once an exclusive jewel, the isle of Capri has been overrun by the hordes has been overrun by the hordes
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The Independent Online
The idle rich who used to spend their summers on Capri in the 1950s and 1960s might remember it as a fairy-tale island of dizzyingly beautiful landscapes, secluded villas and charming aristocratic parties strewn with bright summer flowers.

Anyone who has had the misfortune to spend their holidays there in the past summer, though, would probably characterise it as an upmarket vision of hell on earth. Where to begin with the litany of horrors? With the ferry delays and cancellations that have forced more than one would-be jet-setter to idle away the hours sitting on the dock of Naples harbour? With the invasion of unemployed Neapolitans, who chose the main square in Capri town for an Assumption Day demonstration on August 15?

Perhaps one should mention the condemnation of Capri's waters as some of the dirtiest in Italy, a PR disaster that struck at almost the same time as a sewage tank burst near the Faraglioni, the island's natural rock "lighthouses". And the water shortages, caused by a leak in the main pipe linking Capri to the mainland, that left half the villa owners high and dry for days on end. Even the Bar Tiberio in Capri's piazzetta was forced to serve its drinks in paper cups for lack of dishwater.

Times have been rough indeed for the Capri regulars, who yearn so much to get away from the riff-raff but constantly run up against hordes of day-tripping tourists who flock to the island, dump their rubbish and then leave again before they have even had the courtesy to spend any significant part of their holiday budget.

"I don't want to come over all pitiful, but my wife has serious physical problems," complained Giuseppe Liverino, a Florentine who has been coming to Capri for 25 years, in an interview with a local paper. "The toilets are in a state that I will leave to your imagination. We can't use the washing machine and we can't do the dishes. And this is what they call going on holiday."

The man at the eye of the storm is Capri's capricious mayor, Costantino Federico, a rather tragicomic figure who has tried for years to raise the social tone of his paradise island but invariably fails at every turn. In the past he suggested turning Capri into a mini-principality with Princess Stephanie of Monaco as monarch. He has tried to ban bare torsos and talks incessantly, but in vain, of imposing a daily quota on the number of back- packers besmirching his gilded kingdom.