Sun, sea and silence as Capri's police outlaw noisy gardeners

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The Independent Online

The island of Capri, exquisitely beautiful but a bit on the prim side, was never going to rival Ibiza, Mykonos or Ayia Napa, in the hard-partying stakes.

And now, 2,000 or so years after the Emperor Tiberius held his bacchanalia there at the Villa Jovis, local authorities in the exclusive Bay of Naples resort, where 1930s singing sensation Gracie Fields lived for more than 40 years, are guaranteeing visitors complete quiet in addition to the breathtaking panoramas.

In Capri, there's not a foam party in sight; instead the rich and famous recline by the pools of luxury villas and discreet hotels that dot its mountainous green slopes, perhaps looking up occasionally to admire the view across the bay to the chaotic port of Naples.

Michelin stars abound in the island's restaurants, which charge prices in line with the holiday island's stellar clientele; its guests hail from Italy's design and fashion aristocracy, European royal families and, of course, Hollywood. Mariah Carey owns a villa on the island. And no doubt they all appreciate Capri's relative calm. The ones without gym-toned bodies might even approve of existing regulations that forbid immodest dress in its pretty central square, La Piazzetta.

Local police chief Marica Avellino this week signed ordinance number 30, which from April to October allows for fines ranging from €50 to €500 for local people who make too much noise – and disturb the tranquillity of tourists.

The building and gardening industries will be worst hit, with only two, two-hour slots in which machinery can be used – noon till 2pm and from 6pm till 8pm.

In the peak season from the end of July till the start of October, the noise police will be even more insistent, with a complete ban enforced on any sort of machinery or gardening equipment, from diggers to annoying strimmers that could disturb a tourist's 40 winks.

"Given the protests from numerous hotels complaining about the noise from construction work, we thought it essential to create quiet for our visitors – something that is vital for what we offer hotel quests during the tourist season," Ms Avellino said.

A spokesman for the island's builders said that the industry "risked complete paralysis". He warned: "The ban on activity for the whole of the tourist season on much open-air activity seriously damage industries that are already in serious difficulty."

The spokesman also suggested that the island's authorities ought to know which side their bread was buttered – given that work by gardeners and construction men was vital for the manicured resort's impeccable appearance. Capri's mayor, Ciro Lembo, said: "We're not talking about an impossible ban. We just need to find the right balance."

But builders and gardeners elsewhere in the province might have been concerned last night by comments from the provincial president Carlo Ceparano. "The anti-noise ordinance could be taken as an example by all the towns in the province of Naples."

They might get away with it in Gracie Fields' neck of the woods. But it would be funny to see them try it in Naples.