Azure -  a beautiful colour


There are many pleasant experiences we can enjoy on this great planet of ours and one of them is water, aqua, l’eau, wasser, voda – which can nourish us or kill us, but it can also give great pleasure. Its’ colour or hue can be very diverse and pretty. The nearest pond to me is the water in my suburban swimming pool. It is a nice light blue, provided I supply it with enough chemicals to keep it so. To go a bit further afield we have the Brisbane River, we are, after all, living in a River City. Unfortunately, it is mostly the colour of mud, that is, except the time it was covered, from end to end, by hyacinth. I wish I knew where they all came from. It seemed that the whole of Queensland supplied the hyacinths and poured them into our river. It was all beautifully green and so thick that you thought you could walk over them. Mind you a brackish colour is also the feature of the Yarra River in Melbourne, which the Sydney siders refer to as being too thick to swim in and too thin to plough. But Sydney has something to be proud of. If you climb to the top of the Coat Hanger, previously painted by our Paul Hogan, and you overlook the Sails of the Danish architect’s creation and take in the water of the Sydney Harbour and further out into the Pacific – well - you will see a beautiful blue. The beautiful blue surrounds Australia and it enchants landlubbers who live far from the sea shores of the world.


My own experience of coming from a sea-less country, completely isolated and unable to travel in my early years, then something like Bondi Beach and so many other beautiful beaches within public transport in Sydney and later the Gold Coast (earlier named as the South Coast), really became a sight for sore eyes.


When undertaking my first overseas trip my wife and I travelled through Greece, Italy Austria and Czechoslovakia and saw a great deal of the Mediterranean in between. When we got to what is now the Czech Republic a lot of Czechs, who are besotted by the Mediterranean, asked me if the oceans around Australia are as blue as the Mediterranean.  I, as a good Minister for Australian propaganda, said “Yes” to which my 3rd generation dinky di Australian wife replied “No” So much for the faithful wife.


 As for the Mediterranean – what a beautiful word and what an even more beautiful colour when represented by sparkling translucent water through an opening in a cave, sorry a grotto (wouldn’t we rather be grotto-men than cave-men?).


A very long time ago I acquired a book written by a Swedish doctor, Axel Munthe, who amongst other deeds helped when a deadly cholera epidemic struck Naples. He later took himself to Sorrento and then to the Island of Capri.


From the harbours, the Marina Picola and Marina Grande, he climbed to the village of Capri, up 777 Phoenician steps to Anacapri where he discovered a disused chapel called San Michele (say Sun Mikeleh), long long ago the site of emperor Tiberius’s villa.


Munthe wrote a book called The Story of San Michele, fell in love with the area and eventually built a villa there. He encouraged farmers and fishermen to pass onto him such useless articles as fragments of statues and bits of marble which he dispersed and embedded in the walls in his villa (now a museum) and in the grounds. The area of the museum sits on a gorgeous site which overlooks Naples, Vesuvius, Sorrento and other islands of the Tyrrhenian Sea. (That Sea stretches to the island of Sardinia, which is reported to have another brilliant and striking colour – Emerald.) I brought Munthe’s book with me to Australia and re-read it prior to this trip.


Apart from the colour the Mediterranean also possesses the quality of clarity, unlike the waters of South Eastern Australia, which are bluish green with a sandy bottom, which does not allow you to see down very far. The Med is a lot bluer and clearer and you can often see much deeper. When you think that some area is 3 meters deep it is in fact 10 meters deep and often quite stony. The closest comparison would be the Great Barrier Reef where at the edge of the reef you can have a clear vision for ten to twenty meters and the water is very blue. It seems to me that waters are bluer as you get closer to the equator in our region. Bora Bora and Moorea in Tahiti have a very pretty hue. As for Blue Grottos, a Croatian friend tells me that they have a Blue Grotto of their own on the island of Biševo.


Back to Capri - After inspecting various venues on the island and tasting some unique but tasty pasta at an elegant and inexpensive hotel, we decided to succumb to the usual kitschy touristy attraction – namely The “Blue Grotto”. An excellent decision. After practically lying in the canoe as the entrance through the rocks is quite low, we enter into a chamber, totally dark at first and then a stream of light coming from the break in the rocks above strikes the water transforming it into a shimmering, translucent paradise. It is quite dreamy.


Yes – that tiny speck in the ocean with its grotto and San Michele was quite worth the visit.


 Grotta Azzura is truly - Azzorable.