Monday, August 29, 2011

Making Sandals with Antonio

Capri is breathtakingly beautiful. A hydrofoil picked us up from the port of Napoli. We packed inside with hundreds of other tourists for a 45-minute journey to the island. The boat docked in the heart of the day, and we were greeted with steaming Mediterranean sea breezes and cloud-scraping cliffs overlooking the town below.

Scott and I attempted to take a bus to the top of the cliff to shop in Anacapri. We waited and waited, and watched as the first one to arrive immediately filled to capacity. The next bus wasn't scheduled for another hour and waiting in 95˚ heat wasn't an option. We shared a cab with an Italian couple to the center of town.

The four of us piled into a car, whose roof was merely a thin Bimini boat top installed for shade. Our driver cranked up the radio and sang along, while zipping around bends and racing up the hill. To say the winding streets were narrow is an understatement. They were often too thin for two buses to pass (and our cab too). We hugged the cliffside with an uncomfortably steep drop below. The cab screeched to a halt a few times as a bus backed up to let us pass. Wide-eyed passengers got each other's attention and watched carefully as our cab inched by.

Ten minutes later, we were in Anacapri surrounded by tourist shops and stores selling handmade sandals.

Did someone say sandals? They're a speciality of the island.

We were both overwhelmed when we saw Antonio's crowded store. Sandals and moccasins of all colors and styles lined racks and hung on the walls. Antonio, with his bushy, white mustache and pink and blue stripped polo was sitting comfortable making a pair. The inside of the store was filled with shoes and straps in every color you can dream of.

"My store is like Bagdad," he told us. "They keep bombing me. It's quiet now, but they will start again in just a few minutes."

Like a needle in a haystack, I found a teal pair with braided straps. They were calling to me. As I admired them, a gentleman brought me different shoes.

"Try these on for size. We will make those for you. Twenty minutes."

Antonio put down the pair he was making and began my shoes. He started by braiding two teal straps together as a co-worker held one end tight. He used tiny nails to attach the straps to the sole. He finished one and let me try it on. Two single straps crisscrossing over my big toe and reaching back towards my ankle, and a braided strap over the arch of my foot. Perfect.

"May I take a picture?" I asked as he worked.

"Yes, of course, but then you take one with me."

Antonio has been making sandals in this very shop since 1958. His son makes the moccasins.

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