Effluent replaces affluent in Capri's paradise lost

THE CITIZENS of Capri are sensitive souls. As they see it, they are the privileged residents of a paradisical island set in a sapphire sea and shared with only the most exclusive members of the international jet set. And woe betide anyone who tries to tell them otherwise.

So there was bound to be trouble last week when the Italian environmentalist group Legam-biente had the temerity to bring the worst kind of news that an elegant resort like Capri could ever hear.

The island's beaches, the group said, were dirty. Not just dirty, in fact, but in some cases disgusting. At one spot, just a stone's throw from the yacht belonging to the Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos, the sea was apparently teeming with more than 10 times the accepted level of coliform bacteria.

In layman's terms, that meant someone was pumping raw sewage straight out of the island's drains into the Mediterranean.

Well, there was only one response to that kind of calumny, and the mayor, Costantino Federico, wasted no time in delivering it. "We don't need to be saved by anyone, least of all a group of ecologists," he fumed. "Our waters are blue, as the samples taken by the health authorities show. Those of us who love this island can sleep easy."

In no time, a full-scale row was brewing. Legambiente challenged the mayor to issue an official declaration that the sea was clean. The mayor said the group's figures were simply wrong and he was not prepared to discuss them further.

Then a local ecologist revealed that a sewage tank at Marina Piccola, on the south side of the island, had broken in May and had not been replaced, causing its contents to spill into the sea. Furthermore, he said, the island did not have a proper waste treatment system.

So the argument went on. Was this another piece of bad news for the Bay of Naples tourist industry in a week already marked by rumours of an imminent eruption of Mount Vesuvius? Would British holidaymakers - already scared away from Sorrento and the Amalfi coast by the claim of a Neapolitan vulcanologist that the region was a "disaster waiting to happen" and predicting a big eruption within 10 years - back out of Capri too?

In all the furore, nobody pointed out the hard truth: that Capri has been polluted for years. Sitting on the southern tip of the Bay of Naples, it is near some of the dirtiest water in the Mediterranean. Granted, the island is protected to some extent by favourable currents, but on a bad day the sea is awash with plastic bottles, sodden cigarette butts and who knows what chemical residues from the Naples metropolitan area.

Of course, the rich and famous in Capri's flower-filled villas know this perfectly well. You would never catch the likes of Ivana Trump or Walid Jumblatt diving into the sea off the island's beautiful rocky coastline. They keep to the seclusion of their swimming-pools, or sail their luxurious yachts into the wide blue yonder.

In fact, the days when Capri was a rich man's retreat are long gone. More than a million tourists mob the place each year, spending little at the island's overpriced bars and restaurants but still liberally dumping their litter before taking the return ferry back to Naples. Most of the jet set ran away years ago.

The myth of the island's exclusivity is nevertheless fondly nurtured, particularly by the mayor, who has devoted much energy to raising the tone. In the late 1980s he issued a flurry of ordinances, banning naked torsos and sleeping-bags and declaring certain spots off-limits to tour groups.

More recently, Mr Federico has suggested declaring Capri as an independent state, maybe a monarchy. He even proposed Princess Stephanie of Monaco for the job of Queen of Paradise.

To some extent his efforts have paid off, and celebrities have been dribbling back. Last week, for example, the King and Queen of Belgium turned up. No wonder the mayor is so sensitive to criticism: after all, distasteful talk of raw sewage is not the thing to entice a better class of tourist.

people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?