What’s more exciting than sharing a place that you love with others who can appreciate it, showing it little by little, turn by turn, one special corner at a time? Just one thing: doing it with friends.
About our destination…
I have special ties with a little island. My grandmother was from there, and I have spent there all my youth summer vacations, from school close in June to school reopening in September. Monica is also pretty familiar with it, after 30+ years we’ve spent together… The island is named Procida, and Monica and I visited it with Mapi and Vito on September 15.
Procida is one of the Phlegraean Islands off the coast of Naples in southern Italy. The island is between Cape Miseno and the island of Ischia. With its tiny satellite island of Vivara, it is a town of the province of Naples, in the region of Campania. The population is about ten thousand.
It’s not famous like Capri and Ischia: it’s smaller, less mundane, and requires walking. With it’s 3.5 km length, narrow streets and lots of people walking, the car is more a problem than a resource. These aspects have kept the mass tourism, both at low end and at high end, away from the island, keeping it more authentic and relaxed than its two neighbors… and enjoying it off-season, like early September, is the perfect choice.
Getting there… (day 1)
So… we left Rome on a Friday afternoon at the beginning of September, heading by car to Pozzuoli, a 2:40 hours drive mostly in highway (trip’s note: I prefer taking the ferry from there as sailing is shorter, there are more departing options, and I don’t have to cross the city trafic).
Pozzuoli is where our vacation actually started. We got there with plenty of advance to have the chance to walk through the city: Pozzuoli was founded by the ancient Romans and it is a natural harbor in a beautiful setting. This is the area where Roman families spent vacation, with beautiful villas (now below the sea level, a unique archaeological treasure for scuba divers). There are several places linked to Greek, Latin and more recent history, like Cuma (where the Cumaean Sibyl was), Baia, etc… but this is another story. We took a stroll in Pozzuoli, visiting the “Serapide temple”, the city old center, the famous “rione Terra”. The perfect transition from the stress of the working week in the city.
At 6:15pm we left Pozzuoli, making the 40 minutes sail to Procida in a beautiful sunset, enjoying the slow stroll along this fascinating historical coast. Capo Miseno is the cape marking the end of Pozzuoli gulf; its turn slowly unveils the sight of Procida with Ischia in the backdrop, initially undistinguished from each other. As you get closer you start to tell the outline of the smaller forefront island, and the port starts to appear.
The first impact with Procida… (day 1)
Marina Grande is the main landing in the island; it is a line of houses, with the rich and joyful palette of pastel colors that is so typical, layered between the deep blue of the sea and the light blue of the sky. As you get closer the architectural details start to appear: each house so different and so similar to the next one, the old style arched balcony (“vefio”) where sailors’ wives waited for a sail to appear while sheltered from the wind.
My parents’ house is on the highest point of the island, about 90 meters above sea level, next to the main of the 13 churches of the island, St. Michael Abbey. It is in “Terra Murata”, the old “borgo” that was the final defense against the Saracen assaults, hanging on a rocky outcrop over the sea, with only one point of access so narrow that our car could not go through. We parked it to rest for the following 48 hours.
When on the roof of this house there are only two things higher than you by a few meters: the church’s dome and another historical building nearby. All the rest is an almost 360° view embracing Napoli, Sorrento, Capri, Ischia and the north coastline of the peninsula. With the right weather you can see as far as the Circeo promontory about 90 km away.
On the roof we were greeted by the light captured by Vito in the picture below. At the dinner table we were greeted by my father’s famous fish soup.
Around the island… (day 1)
Walking. That’s the only way. Consider that the longest distance you can walk takes 40 minutes! So we walked. The architecture of the island is very special; there are houses that date 1000 years back. Then there are a few palaces from more wealthy families. And then there is a special place: the Corricella. It is probably the most famous sight of Procida; it is the old village and port of local fishermen. There are many very poetic descriptions of this place; a more trivial one can be the following: it is as if someone threw a bunch of houses with arches and pastel colors on the side of a rocky slope, getting them so interconnected with each other that it’s hard to tell the boundaries. It is a place where no cars can get to; only stairs. Some of them look like private stairs, and instead they lead all the way down to Corricella. I am not a poet, so I’ll let the picture tell the story.
The pace is different, it has to be different to understand and enjoy the island. The pace is set on the following basis: you spend most of the day at the sea, either on the small, dark volcanic sand beaches or a small wooden boat; after lunch you have to take a nap in order to recover from the time at the sea and to stay inside during the hottest hours; you walk, so time and distances are measured accordingly.
To be continued…
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