What's it like to live in a far-off place most of us see only on a vacation? Foreign Correspondence is an interview with someone who lives in a spot you may want to visit.
Vincent Copeland, 51, is general manager of the Villa Le Scale (www.villalescale.com), in the town of Anacapri on the Italian island of Capri. The New York native has been there 10 years. Copeland lives in Rome during the October-Easter off-season.
Q: Capri is off the coast from Naples but must seem quite different from that bustling city.
A: Absolutely. I had gone to school in the north - Florence and Milan - and had only been to southern Italy once, to see Pompeii. I had no idea what it was like when I got off the plane.
I found a completely different culture from northern Italy. But I became used to it and appreciate Capri for what it is - a small island with only 11,000 people perched on a rock in the middle of the sea. Coming from New York, that took some getting used to. In Capri, everyone knows who you are.
Capri has two different faces: There are a limited number of rooms, but when you get 25,000 visitors per day, things change radically. When the day visitors leave by 4:30 or 5 p.m., Capri becomes a very different animal.
At night, Capri becomes small-town Italy, with that sort of charm and feel. It's very upscale - not that the town is, but the clientele is. It has a sort of laid-back glamour at night, but doesn't feel tourist-y.
Q: Where is your boutique hotel?
A: There are two towns on the island - Capri town and where we are, Anacapri.
Our main house dates to about 1810 but the kitchen and cantina actually started in the 17th century. Our grounds were originally vineyards.
It doesn't have an urban feel. Walk in the front gate and you have no idea you're in the middle of town. Villas on Capri are constructed that way.
Q: What do day tourists do on Capri?
A: Everybody wants to see the villa where (Swedish psychiatrist) Axel Munthe lived. They come to see Capri town. They come to see the Faraglioni rocks, the formations that inspired Scylla and Charybdis from "The Odyssey."
They come, of course, to go to the Blue Grotto - a one-of-a-kind experience. You enter a cave that's sort of invisible from the outside; you have to lie down inside a special boat to get into it. Inside, the grotto light is an incredible blue. There was a temple inside the grotto from when Roman Emperor Tiberius lived on Capri.
Q: And over-nighters?
A: On average they stay about five nights and are here to soak up Capri, which is a luxury European destination like Saint-Tropez or Portofino. There are incredible beach clubs - but no real beach: You dive into the sea from rock formations.
They soak up the sun. Afternoons, they relax in La Piazzetta - the Piazza Umberto I - which is lined with cafes and bars. It's a meeting place where sometimes you can find people from all over the world. This makes for great people-watching.
Q: Capri means "Island of Goats." Are there goats?
A: There's a rather eccentric lady who walks her goat through the center of town like a dog when she goes to the grocery store. Other than that, I haven't seen a goat.
Q: Is there much nowadays in the way of history or archaeology?
A: I was very taken by a walk to the top of Monte Solaro, the highest point of the island, where you can see all along Italy's Amalfi Coast. There's a monastery up there that was built in the 14th century. I've never encountered anything like it. Every year there's a procession to the top by the people of Anacapri, to pray, clean and do any work that needs to be done. If you're an art or art history lover, it's a fantastic thing to do.
In the center of Anacapri, a church called San Michele has a glazed, hand-painted tile floor that depicts the Garden of Eden. You can go up to the choir loft, look down and see the Garden of Eden as written in the Bible. It's amazing.
Know someone who lives in an interesting city or country who would like to give us the inside line on visiting there? Email, in English, firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun