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Procida by Guest Blogger Expat46.


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Once again, our wonderful  guest blogger Expat46 has hurtled through cyberspace to share his advice on visiting the stunning island of Procida.  If you are looking for an intimate holiday in the sun without the wallet shock of Capri or the larger buzz of Ischia then this often overlooked gem is for you.

If you are planning a trip to the Bay of Naples you’ll probably be staying on Capri or Ischia, or possibly at Sorrento. While you are there the island of Procida is well worth a day out or, even better, a couple of days to explore it properly. It is a fascinating but strange place, light-years away from the elegance of Capri or the bustle of Ischia.

Procida is that speck of an island between the Italian mainland and Ischia. Some  - but not all - ferries and hydrofoils from Naples to Ischia call at Procida. The hydrofoil takes about 40 minutes, the ferry a little longer (but not much). From Ischia it is only a few minutes.

The brief notes that follow are not intended to be comprehensive. They are only my personal thoughts and experiences on Procida. There is an excellent little  internet site where you’ll find all you need to know about the island.

Let’s start by saying what Procida is not. It is not a holiday island, there are no five star hotels with swimming pools, there are no gourmet restaurants, there is no high-end shopping. Procida is a working island. Its people have always been wedded to the sea either in fishing or working the ferries or in the merchant navies of the world. The Procidiani are taciturn and very religious. No-one will hope you “have a nice day!” or tell you to “enjoy your meal!”.

There are of course some restaurants, less ambitious perhaps, and a few, more modest, hotels. I’ll give you some ideas further on. You will also see the occasional tourist, mainly on half-day organised tours from Ischia or off cruise ships in Naples.

Have you ever taken a taxi from Naples Central Station down to the port? If so, you’ll know how they drive in Naples. If not…. you have a treat in store! (I learnt years ago to close my eyes until I reached the port). Well, on Procida it’s worse. The streets in the old town are cobbled and very narrow and if you hear a vehicle approaching you’d do well to flatten yourself against a wall and pull your stomach in. The whole island is a one-way traffic system which makes it marginally less hair-raising: at least you know from which direction to expect the aspiring F1 drivers. Having said that, the only practical way to get around Procida, at least during a short stay, is by taxi. They’ll ask about 30 euros for a trip around the island and it’s always a good idea to ask the driver to choose a bar along the route where you can offer him a coffee. It won’t take more than 1 ½ hours to go round (it’s only 4 in area). You don’t need me to remind you to fix the price before getting into the taxi. There are a couple of tiny buses but it’s hardly worth trying to figure them out for a short stay.

You may wish to stroll through the streets of  the old town before going round the island. Walk a couple of hundred metres along the quayside to your left as you disembark from the ferry/hydrofoil and you’ll see the main street climbing up just behind a small church dedicated to seafarers. You may even get as far as the fortifications overlooking the town but bear in mind that it is a long climb and it can get hot and sticky on Procida;  it may be wise to include these in your taxi trip.

Due to the one-way system the taxi will probably take you anti-clockwise around the island. At the westernmost point is the village of Chiaiolella. This is the furthest you can get from Procida town (know locally as Marina Grande, although grande is a relative term), all of 1.5 km away (!) but it seems further along the twisty narrow roads. At Chiaiolella there is a small marina attached to a beach with the optimistic name of Lido di Procida. It is a narrow strip of grey volcanic sand but I suppose quite nice in summer (I was there out of season). There is a pretty bar right on the quayside for that coffee or gelato. Going further round there are some magnificent views from the cliffs on the south side of the island. Then you come to another village, Corricella.

It is worth the whole trip just to see Corricella. It is a fishing village built in terraces of brightly coloured houses and can only be reached on foot down dozens of steep steps. Down is ok, up is another matter, particularly if it’s hot. If anyone remembers the 1995 film “Il Postino” (The Postman) starring Massimo Troisi, Corricella is where it was shot. You’ll notice at Corricella and other villages on the island that many older houses have domed roofs. This was done better to collect rainwater which was then stored in – often underground – cisterns. To avoid the water stagnating and going “off” in the heat of summer, eels were kept in the cisterns to keep it moving. Any superfluous eels were an addition to the householder’s diet.

Then you or, better, your taxi starts the climb up to the fortifications known as “Terra Murata”. The fort dates back to the 16th century and was built to protect Procida from marauding Saracens. Before you enter the complex just look back to Corricella, a stupendous view of the village way down below. The whole area of Terra Murata is lugubrious and quite spooky. There is the fort on a sheer cliff above the sea, a church to see (if open), a few houses, and the remains of an enormous prison which specialized in prisoners from all over Italy serving life sentences and which was closed only in the 1980s. It has been left as it was on the day the last prisoner was transferred and nobody knows what to do with it. From the Terra Murata you descend to Marina Grande, and that’s it.

You’ll find numerous trattorie and pizzerie at Marina Grande. They are all basic, but non the worse for that. The one I tried is called “da Giorgio” and was quite satisfactory (left along the quay, past that seafarers’ church I mentioned). Of course it helps on Procida if you are partial to fish and seafood in general. Another at Marina Grande which was recommended to me but which I didn’t have time to try was Grotta dei Saraceni, just behind the ferry booking office. At Corricella there are 3 or 4 trattorie on the waterfront. The one I went to is called “Graziella”. Again basic and only outside seating. Don’t order a second course before you’ve finished your pasta. The servings are gigantic.

If you think you can spare a couple of days, there are a few hotels to choose from. As far as I know no hotel on Procida does full or even half board. They are really glorified B&Bs. It was explained to me that there is just not the market for a full service hotel and it is not economical to make space available for kitchens and employ staff for the few tourists in summer who might ask for one. I stayed at what reviewers on the internet consider the best hotel on Procida, “Albergo La Vigna”.

It is a converted fortified – and crenellated - tower with its own garden and vineyard. It’s in the old town and not easy to find, you’ll need a taxi the first time. Ask for a room which opens onto the garden; you can lounge under the orange and lemon trees and enjoy a glass of whatever takes your fancy after a heavy day’s sightseeing. The breakfast is really splendid. There is a pizzeria in the piazza 5 minutes from the hotel.

One last thing. If you prefer something substantial to read rather than the usual guidebooks there is an Italian classic set in Procida: “L’isola di Arturo” by Elsa Morante. Written in 1957 it is the diary of a boy’s childhood and adolescence on the island in the period up to the beginning of the Second World War. I see it is available on Amazon UK in English as “Arturo’s Island” from Picador Classics.

I don’t think you’ll regret your trip to Procida.