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Capri: Temptation Island

At Angela Puttini, an exquisite jewelry shop with one-of-a-kind designs, the owner looks up from a chat with her neighbor the cheese-monger to explain the cupid cameos in the window. "I make putti—cupids—because my shop is named for my mother, Angela Puttini!" she exclaims. "We try to produce singular pieces—and we don't make a lot. We want people to have something distinctive from our Capri." I desperately want something from Angela's Capri, but I'm afraid the massive, cameo-centered gem-studded gold rings, heavy as brass knuckles, would live in my jewelry box instead of on my hand.

As the most glamorous of tourist towns, Capri is full of items intended to be bubble-wrapped and taken far, far away. Giftware shops tend toward faux naïf, hand-painted gewgaws: ceramic plaques that say cave canem, glass animals, clocks and pots and crocks. After five or six of these exhaustingly quaint places, it's a pleasure to wander into the resolutely un-cute Raku Capri. The stock, mostly minimalist glassware and ceramics, looks more Swedish than southern Italian. Though there are glass-beaded silver necklaces, most of the merchandise is intended to dress your table: austere giraffe-necked vases, moody Murano glass tumblers, candles shaped like dishes with quivering wicks.

Down the street at Lady Capri, I'm not at all sure which half of the schizophrenic merchandise is right for me. The pink linen embroidered smocks, an island staple and frumpy anywhere but here, seem intended for a diamond-dripping dowager. The crocheted string bikinis look more appropriate for her voluptuous debutante daughter.

Having spent the morning exploring the back streets, I stop at the Piazzetta's Gran Caffè Vuotto for a limonata (according to Shirley Hazzard's book Greene on Capri: A Memoir, Graham Greene used to hang out here, long before Frette coverlets and Malo pullovers took up residence), head over to Via Vittorio Emanuele, and meander down past those irresistible windows at Alberto e Lina. I'm completely seduced by the offerings at Amina Rubinacci, where the specialty is knitwear—cloudlike cashmere in every shade of the spectrum, made up as plain pullovers or cardigans, or elegant rugby shirts rendered in pink and apple-green stripes and closed at the neck with two tiny pearl buttons. Just down Via Camerelle, La Conchiglia Libri & Arte is another Capri original: a bookstore-gallery run by Ausilia Veneruso, a jaunty woman with black hair, tiny glasses far down her nose, and the air of a literature professor. The shelves are filled with a combination of contemporary books on Capri, some È published by the shop itself, and antiquarian tomes. (Her son travels to Britain regularly in search of vintage Capri guides in English.) I pick up a yellow pamphlet called A Brief Historical Guide to Capri, which I decide can serve as an authentic caprese souvenir.

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