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Allan Davidson Letter, April 20, 1918

Davidson, Allan H, Correspondent
Mother (Name unknown)
, Recipient
Media Type:
Item Type:
A typed letter from Allan Davidson to his mother. Sent from Capri, Italy.
Date of Publication:
20 Apr 1918
Personal Name(s):
Davidson, Allan H ; Yates, John
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Campania, Italy
    Latitude: 40.55073 Longitude: 14.24263
  • Tuscany, Italy
    Latitude: 43.76667 Longitude: 11.25
  • Campania, Italy
    Latitude: 40.83333 Longitude: 14.25
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Full Text

Ville Valentine

Capri. April 20/18

Dear Mother

Well my leave is going on in a most delightful manner in Southern Sunny Italy and I believe this morning is living up to reputations. We left Naples on the afternoon of the 22nd and (illegible) four hours later.

The boat was somewhat smaller than the Macassa and (illegible) the sea had been extremely rough, so by the time the voyage was over you can imagine what we felt like. By dint of extreme effort I managed to remain the same in weight as when we left the docks (illegible) friend ten minutes before landing had compassion on the fishes, (illegible) suppose are rationed like all else, and gave them his dinner.

Capri is situated in the mouth of the Bay of Naples and is only about five miles long by three broad in it’s widest part. The voyage from Naples here on a fine day would be almost beyond description. We leave Naples and then skirt along the shore at the base of Vesuvius and call at several little towns on the way (Shades of the Victor) on the towns are so very interesting. The whole of the surrounding shore id rocky and high cliffs and houses are perched up on these. They are mostly white with red roofs and the towns do look so picturesque sloping up the hills and set in the greenish backgrounds.

We called at Sorrento on our way, a beautiful little town and famous for the fact that there once lived there one of the greatest Italian poets Tasso I think was his name. The passengers disembark down a stairway and into a small boat which takes them to the small shore at the base of the cliffs whence they have to climb up endless steps before they reach the town. At Sorrento four American Aviators joined the boat for Capri.

Soon after we leave the shore of the mainland and strike across to Capri which we reach an hour and a half later. At each end are huge cliffs towering little less than two thousand feet high. In the centre it is much lower and very fertile and here lies the little town of Capri. We land in a small boat as at Sorrento and take our chances at landing without getting our feet wet. Then we appreciate the inventions of modern science and are carried up to the town on a long incline, only here they call it “Funicolare”.

When we reach the top there are long strings of women and small boys who fight for the privilege of carrying out luggage to the hotel and the few “soldi” reward they get. Here as elsewhere there are a few who speak a smattering of English and who stick to you and try to guide you over the place and then hit you up for large tips.

We were recommended to go to the Villa Valentine a sort of moderate boarding house hotel and by the aid of small boy porters we found it. It is an awfully nice little Villa and has a perennial border that would certainly take your fancy. The roses are just in their prime now and all the walks are covered with masses of pink and white. There are half a dozen marguerite brushes in the garden, a yard and a half across and covered with white blooms. Yesterday I saw a wall covered with pink ivy geraniums ten feet high.

I am writing this from a charming little terrace which the open sea stretches out from before me into a vast expanse of blue until you see in you can have no idea of the deep blue of the Mediterranean it is just like a concentrated solution of copper sulphate. From the top of the cliffs one looks sheer down into the water and it appears speckled dark and light blue according to whether the bottom is rock or sand. The first afternoon we arrived here a Mr Scott who is also staying at this place offered to take us for a walk. We went to the Villa Jovis an ancient Roman ruin built by the emperor Tiberius. When he was between 60 and 70 years old her retired to this island and there are found the ruins of twelve villas which he built. The Villa Jovis is the most important and from it’s ruins one can get a wonderful idea of it’s vastness and one time beauty. It is built on the very top of the cliff of the island facing the mainland and Vesuvius. The old Emporer could set there and watch his fleets passing in review a thousand feet below and rule with his despotic hand the destinies of the mighty Roman Empire.

Here the ancient Roman Emperor must have received the news of the Crucifixion of Christ and it must have seemed to him such a casual unimportant bit of news.

On one point of the cliff is a platform and here according popular legend Tiberios was wont to cast into the sea all the people who annoyed him or who crossed his will. Then he has boats of sailors beneath to finish up anything that might be left after their thousand foot leap. However people are beginning to believe now that these were only legends and that Tiberius was not such a blood thirsty old chap after all.

There are two shores on the island on opposite sides. The Piccolo Marina and the Marina Grande. This first afternoon we also went to the Piccolo Marine, we walked down a narrow precipitois road zigzagging down the vertical side of the cliffs and ended up on the little sand strip a few hundred yards long and only a few in width. This road by the way was built by Krupp who had a villa built right into the rocks on the seaward side of the island. Until recently there has been a very large German population on the island and here are still many German signs etc on the caffes and stores.

I expected to find very hot weather down here but although it is delightful to sit outside we haven’t thought of bathing yet and one certainly ought to bathe this far south in Italy. However a few days make a lot of difference so we may get one yet before we go back.

The town of Capri is the quaintest I have ever seen. It is built in the side of a hill and the streets are mostly flights of steps and people in one person’s cellar can look over the roof of their neighbor. Then the streets are only paths, there is only one in the town that carriages can go on. The rest are about a yard and a half or two yards wide and have high stone walls on both sides. All the houses are white plaster with flat roofs and green shutters. We walked down to the shore last night after dinner. It is lovely going down a few hundred steps but oh, the coming up again is awful. I will appreciate the comforts at least of a flat town when I see one.

The second day we were here we took a carriage up around the cliffs to the other town on the island called Ana Capri and from it we climbed the highest peak on the island. The view was superb and the sea as blue as ever. A convoy of grain carrying boats was leaving escorted into the harbour of Napoli to help feed the nation. We had tea at Ana Capri. The best part of the afternoon was however an English lady and her half Italian niece who were staying here from Florence. They were awfully nice especially the latter and we have an invitation to call in Florence. I am going to stay there on my way back so perhaps I’ll call.

The walks here by moonlight are wonderfully fine far in the distance the dark shape of Vesuvius with the shore line stretching out in either direction looms up and the silvery sea and dark rocky cliffs are almost past description.

Today it is pouring so I am getting a few cards letters etc written. Two days ago we were at the Blue Grotto the most famous sight in Capri. Myself and Holmes and two young ladies exceedingly ugly but rather nice nevertheless from Florence made out way down to the Marina Grande whence we embarked in a small boat or to be more correct in two small boats and were rowed along the coast to the grotto. It was a very interesting row, first the shore and then it became rocky and then we passed the ruins of the “Baths of Tiberius” (nearly everything is connected with him) and then the cliffs got steeper and steeper until they rose a thousand feet sheer out of the sea. After an hours row we saw a very small opening in the cliff which the waves almost filled as they washed in. The sailors approached it, then bade us lie down in the bottom of the boat, then when the waves were just right they gave the boat a push and we glided from the bright warm sunlight without to the cool dark cave within. It is really marvelous the colour in that grotto. The water is intense blue and everything floating on it is black and the top of the cavern is just discernable in the height. You put your hand in the water and it turns to silver. The bottoms of the boats and the oars are all silver too. It is really a most extraordinary effect and is reputed to be the most famous sight in Capri.

We were invited out to tea yesterday to a Mrs Andrews an American widow who has lived here for some time and who now has something to do with the American Red Cross. She was very nice and has a delightful home with a garden of roses and lilies from which one can look out on to the open Mediterranean.

The American lady in Italy can be very nice but she can also be the most horrid person I know. There is one staying here with her daughter and both of them are quite impossible. They came over here primarily to escape airraids in Naples. The daughter is training to be an opera singer and they have been here four years. They won’t look at us and although the woman sits next to me she always holds her head erect in the opposite direction. I think the opinion we hold of her is shared by the other English people staying here.

There is a very funny English couple here. The man tries to take us for walks and then walks so fast that we can hardly keep up with him. Every evening the wife who has been out sketching all day reads the newspaper to us all translating it into English as she goes. It is very nice to learn the news but awfully dull to hear her read off column after column of it. The other night we were going for a moonlight walk and she got started before we went so we had to go out during it one by one and finally left the couple all alone.

We will leave here Monday and see some of the towns around the bay of Naples and Naples itself then Holmes is going back and I’m going to spend a week in Florence if my money holds out. I’m thinking of leaving Rome for this time. It is so big and requires such a lot of time to get a grasp of it, and I will be having more leave this fall.

Well I will close this epistle now. It somehow doesn’t seem right for me to be enjoying myself in Southern Italy while you are all working hard at home, but you and Dad are going to have your turn when the war is over and I get back.

Love to all.


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Allan Davidson Letter, April 20, 1918

A typed letter from Allan Davidson to his mother. Sent from Capri, Italy.