Read on to learn about what to see on Procida island, the gorgeous spot in the Tyrrhenian Sea often nicknamed the Cinderella of Naples’ bay.
I first heard of Procida when reading Elsa Morante’s novel “Arturo’s Island” at school. I must confess I never really thought of it as a place worth traveling to, especially because its rockstar neighbors Capri and Ischia often overshadow it with their glamorous vibe. However, I’ve recently decided to give it a chance, and guys, what a discovery!
Procida is a tiny island covering just 4 square meters, which managed to retain its genuine fishing-village charm despite being located in an area full of famous tourist spots. It just seems that this place and its inhabitants are entirely unconcerned with the passage of time and trends.
Forget luxurious hotels, Michelin-star restaurants, and designer clothing stores here. Just close your eyes and imagine pastel-colored houses, lush gardens and lemon groves hidden behind high walls. Clothes hang out to dry in such narrow alleys that you literally have to press yourself to the wall when cars pass by. And then picture yourself enjoying a lazy lunch of freshly caught fish, with the warm sun on your face and the view of tiny fishing boats floating in the sea. I hope you get the picture!
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Procida is just about tranquillity and relaxation. There are some exciting places to explore, just read on to discover what’s not to be missed.
The fortified center of Terra Murata
Terra Murata is the highest point in Procida (90 meters) and boasts a medieval fortification that was once the heart of the island. This part of Procida island is dominated by Palazzo d’Avalos, an ancient building with a fascinating history that saw it serving as a royal palace for the Bourbons and then used as a prison until just a few decades ago. The site has been recently opened to the public but visits must be booked in advance, you can send your request here.
At the top of the cape sits the Church of Santa Margherita Nuova, from where you can enjoy some spectacular views over Naples’ bay. The highlight of Terra Murata is the Abbey of San Michele, Procida’s patron saint, which was built by Benedictine monks in the 11th century. Once inside, you can see various artistic representations of San Michele, a library full of old manuscripts, an ancient burial ground in the basement, and a unique nativity scene made with local oyster shells.
Next to the abbey is Palazzo della Cultura, which houses the Museum Casa di Graziella on the second floor. This museum offers precious insights into the traditional life on the island in the 19th century through the reconstruction of the house of Graziella, the heroine of the beautiful love story written by Alphonse De Lamartine in 1852. Have a look at the little room full of vintage textiles up for sale next to the reception desk before leaving the museum, it’s a real treasure trove!
Marina Corricella, Procida’s oldest hamlet
From Terra Murata, you can walk downhill to Piazza dei Martiri and then follow the path near the Church of San Rocco that leads down to Marina Corricella, one of Procida’s oldest settlements and the island’s most charming spot. Corricella is a pedestrian fishing village with an intricate string of colorful little houses literally built one upon the other and a number of quaint restaurants and bars overlooking the harbor. This area served as a set for various movies, including The Talented Mr. Ripley and Oscar-winning The Postman.
Back to the main road, follow Corso Vittorio Emanuele and look for the path leading down to the beach of Chiaia. This long sandy stretch has shallow waters and good natural protection against wind and waves, making it ideal for children. There are good facilities here, including La Conchiglia, one of the restaurants often suggested by guidebooks. I didn’t have a chance to try it, but it’s still in my notebook for the next visit.
Heading south, you reach Marina Chiaiolella (don’t worry, it’s difficult to pronounce even for an Italian!), one of Procida’s most popular spots. Here you’ll find a great beach with shallow waters and a lively waterfront lined with fancy yachts and a good selection of bars and restaurants. Make sure to grab a seat just before sunset to admire the beautiful blood-red hues surrounding the islands of Vivara and Ischia in the distance.
While you’re in Chiaiolella, take a look at the beautiful paintings inside the 19th-century Shrine of St. Joseph. Also, check out the Ciraccio beach, Procida’s longest strip of sand bathed in sun all day long. Two giant rock formations called Faraglioni separate it from Chiaiolella beach.
Vivara State Nature Reserve
From Chiaioiella Marina you can cross the pedestrian bridge that connects Procida to Vivara, an islet of volcanic origin. A State Nature Reserve since 2002, Vivara is home to precious wildlife and rare plants. It’s also the site of significant archaeological findings dating from the Mycenaean age. There’s only one building on the island: it was built in the 17th century and served as a “Bourbon Hunting Lodge”. You can visit Vivara over the weekend, just book your spot on the island’s website at least the day before, more details are available here.
Pozzo Vecchio Beach
Another spot worth visiting in Procida is the beach of Pozzo Vecchio, in the north-western part of the island. This is a quiet and relaxed bay also known as “Spiaggia del Postino” (postman’s beach) because some scenes of the famous movie were shot here. There’s a family-run bar called Annamaria, which offers some light snacks, as well as sun-beds and umbrellas in the summer. Pozzo Vecchio Beach is another great spot to admire some spectacular sunsets.
Marina Grande, the island’s biggest port
Marina Grande is Procida’s main port, where all ferries and boat tours arrive. Small buses and taxis depart from here to take you around the island. This is also where you’ll find most of the offices and shops. There’s a pretty piazza overlooked by the bright yellow Church of Santa Maria della Pietà, known as “Sailors’ Church.” You can swim at Lingua Beach, just a stone’s throw from the piazza, or browse the artisan shops dotting via Roma and via Vittorio Emanuele, Procida’s main streets. Here’s an interesting tidbit: Elsa Morante wrote her famous book at number 225 in via Vittorio Emanuele during her stay at Pensione Eldorado in the Fifties (sadly, the place is now closed).
Useful tips for your trip to Procida island
- Procida is easy to reach from Naples, either by ferry from Porta di Massa (about an hour) or by hydrofoil from Molo Beverello (about 40 min.). Check out the timetables and ticket prices on the SNAV and Caremar websites.
- You can see pretty much all the highlights of Procida island in a day. Still, I strongly recommend spending at least one night on the island to appreciate its magical atmosphere fully. I spent two nights on the island and stayed at Hotel La Corricella, a refurbished fisherman’s house nestled in Marina Corricella. Rooms are spacious and cozy, and there’s a fantastic terrace with spectacular views over the little marina.
- Procida is best explored on foot, as there is something to discover around every corner. Alternatively, you can move around using local buses. The local transport system is based on 4 routes, which is pretty impressive for such a tiny island, right? Check out Procida local bus website for schedules and prices (just remember to keep an open mind when it comes to timetables).
- If you are a foodie like me, then you will be spoilt with choices in Procida. I tried La Locanda del Postino (super fresh and tasty fish dishes), Bar Ristorante Graziella (spaghetti with lemon and anchovies to die for!), Pizzeria Fuego (if you crave some pizza after all that fish, then this is the place to go) and La Panetteria (a fantastic bakery where you can try, among other delicacies, the famous local sweet treat lingua di bue).
- Grab a copy of “Arturo’s Island” or “Graziella” at Libreria Nutrimenti, a lovely bookshop along via Roma, in the Marina Grande neighborhood. The stories of these characters will foster your memories of this beautiful Italian island once back home.
Until next time,