For an authentic step-back-in-time Italian island experience, you can’t go past Procida. Lying off the coast of Naples, this petite piece of paradise is enjoying a moment in the sun as the Italian Capital of Culture for 2022 – with a raft of events on offer to complement the island’s low-key, laidback ambience. And with the secret well and truly out, now is the time to visit…before everybody else does.
Less glamorous than nearby Capri and the Amalfi Coast, Procida is made for the slow travel trend and reminiscent of glorious Italian coastal towns back in the days before they were ‘discovered’ by the rest of the world. And while it’s easily walkable during a day trip from the mainland, a few days on the island is ideal for those keen to truly unwind, take in the island’s signature fragrance of salt, fig trees and juicy lemons, and settle into local life.
Where is Procida – and how do you get there?
The smallest island in the Bay of Naples at around five square kilometres with a population of around 10,000, Procida is easily accessible by ferry from Naples, with travel time ranging from 30 to 90 minutes depending on the schedule/vessel. There is also a ferry from Amalfi during the peak summer season which takes a leisurely two hours and 20 minutes.
What is there to see?
The first thing to strike most visitors to Procida is the island’s clusters of compact, pastel-coloured houses, which are so photogenic they were used by both Apple and Microsoft to demonstrate the clarity of screen colour for products including the iPhone and SurfacePro.
Marina di Corricella is the spot to go to capture Procida at its colourful best, and home to a lively fisherman’s village with restaurants, cafes, pizzerias, and gelato shops to explore along the waterfront. The Callìa Belvedere offers unrivalled views over the crystal-clear sea below with the island of Capri sitting pretty in the background, making it a prime spot for amateur photographers.
Chiaiolella is Procida’s best-known beach and home to sublime sunsets, beach bars and waterfront restaurants, while nearby Ciraccio and Pozzo Vecchio are ideal choices for those who prefer a more secluded dip.
Comfortable shoes will come in handy for the steep climb to the fortified medieval village of Terra Murata, where efforts are rewarded with more sweeping views, as well as a labyrinth of narrow, winding alleys to meander at leisure. A former prison and palace, the Palazzo D’Avalos is a highlight and the highest point in all of Procida, while Casale Vascello is a bright courtyard hidden at the foot of Terra Murata which is well worth a look – both sites will host cultural events during 2022 as part of the Capital of Culture programme.
If Procida seems somehow familiar, the films The Talented Mr Ripley and Il Postino may be to blame. Both were filmed on the island and those exploring on foot will spot handy signs highlighting key locations from each film.
Travellers looking for a unique local experience can go night fishing for anchovies with a local crew – fishing by lamplight on a traditional ‘saccaleva’ boat is an unforgettable experience – but so is a sunset cruise with an aperitif for those who prefer a little more luxe on the water.
When it comes to cultural events, Procida is punching well above its weight in 2022, with more than 150 events on offer, featuring artists from 45 different countries. The island’s rustic natural beauty will become a stunning stage for a diverse programme of exhibitions, film screenings, cultural projects and performances throughout summer and autumn.
Highlights include the Biennale of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean which runs until September, , ArteCinema – a series of documentaries on famous artists from July 1 to 3, Echoes of the Distances – a musical festival from May through September including performances in beaches, gardens, piers and squares – and a contemporary art exhibition, SprigionArti, in the cells of the island’s former prison.
Between August and November, visitors can join a series of itineraries exploring the relationship between people, food, local producers, and the environment by exploring gardens, private lemon groves, farms, and fishing spots to discover sustainable agriculture techniques – and enjoy a sneaky tasting or two.
For the full programme of 2022 events, click here.
What’s for dinner?
Every conversation about Procida’s unique cuisine seems to come back to two key ingredients: fish and seafood, and lemons. Not ordinary lemons, but huge fruit hanging from trees in every direction – in front gardens, along the streets – and in dishes from the simple, tangy traditional insalata di limoni (lemon salad) and lingua di bue (layered pastry filled with lemon custard) to homemade limoncello liqueur and refreshing lemon granita on a hot summer’s afternoon.
While it’s no surprise to see seafood as a staple in the local diet, the way dishes are prepared on Procida is distinctive, and the simpler the better, with dishes such as spaghetti con i ricci (spaghetti with sea urchins), pasta con it totaniella (pasta with tiny squid), spaghetti con le canocchie di Procida (spaghetti with local mantis shrimp) and pasta alla pescatora povera (’poor man’s seafood pasta’ with peppers and anchovies) all popular picks on the many family-run restaurants dotted around the island.
While Marina Grande is the spot for budget-friendly food, the restaurants at Chiaiolella beach are a favourite for first-class views, but may require advance bookings as many are compact, and tables are in hot demand. Popular Chiaiolella choices include Da Girone, Da Mariano, Lido Vivara and Crescenzo.
In nearby Corricella, La Lampara offers a dreamy ambience and panoramic sunset views made for romance, Caracalè has absolute waterfront tables and Gorgonia boasts a vibrant atmosphere which is great for larger groups. Felice Mare is one of the best cocktail bars on the island, the limoncello spritz with a view will be a memory to savour.
Over in Marina Grande, La Medusa has been a local haunt since the 1950s with menus determined by the fishermen’s daily catch, L’Approdo offers affordable tasty fare in a flash, while La Pergola serves up perhaps the best coniglio alla procidana (stewed rabbit) on the island from a peaceful location beyond the bustle of the waterfront.
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