I’m not about to rant about the Italian government, I’m here to talk about the old-fashioned gorgeousness of Procida, in Campania.
Filmmakers are drawn to Procida because it’s frozen in time somewhere around 1959. You are transported to the Italy of The Talented Mr Ripley the second you arrive at the peeling, pastel port.
There are no hotel complexes or industrial eyesores; it’s hard to find much of a tourist industry apart from the odd, dog-eared postcard in a tabacchino. I couldn’t even find a guide book.
Our accommodation – the Hotel Corricella, with balcony overlooking the view above – was nonchalantly unsignposted and happened to be off the street where Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law did a lot of filming for Mr Ripley (below).
Procida is a tiny island – 3.6 km2 – but I heartily recommend it over its larger, brasher neighbour Ischia. If you’re in search of peace and escapism, stay on Procida and take the short boat trip to Ischia: hire a scooter at the port and you can cover Ischia in a day.
Ischia – Castello Aragonese
Procida is about pottering around on electric bikes and checking out the numerous beaches, which are colonised by the more welcoming, muffin-topped variety of Italian – the buff, judgey types are on Ischia and Capri. Or circumnavigate the nearby islands in a rented motorized dinghy. Or just watch the light change from your terrace with an aperitivo.
Procida is one of the most colourful places in Italy I’ve visited: Marina Corricella is a veritable fruit cocktail. It’s home to the unique 17th century architettura popolare – facades that are characterized by curious, “spontaneous” archways. Almost otherworldly, hobbity dwellings, as beguiling as the trulli of Puglia or the sassi of Matera.
Courtyards of Procida, above
Procida is easy to get to. You fly to Naples, take the airport bus to the final stop, Molo Beverello (the port), and look for your ferry provider. The boat trip takes about 45 minutes and costs about €30 return.
View from the sea, above
In the evening, the view of the old volcano Monte Epomeo (a brilliant climb!) on Ischia offers a superbly romantic backdrop at cocktail o’clock.
Procida at sundown
I had one of the most thirst-quenching drinks I’ve ever tasted here, watching the boats come and go at Bar Blanco in Marina Grande as the sun went down: a Tramonto di Procida. See below for rough instructions; tinned mandarin juice would work. Lo spritz seems to be the drink of choice on Procida at the moment, and comes in many varieties.
Il Casale Vascello is a communal courtyard hidden away in the backstreets of Procida and is a perfect example of the distinctive local architecture. These nooks haven’t changed since the 1600s and aren’t even accessible to cars: the entrances are simply narrow passageways that suddenly burst into colour (below).
Eating is best along the marina in Corricella, metres away from the water (below). Your biggest problem on Procida will be deciding where to have dinner. Look out for the local dish of bean soup with mussels (zuppa di fagioli e cozze). It can be fiery and garlicky and gets the holiday bowels moving if need be (just me?).
Old-world pleasures in Procida
Procida is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets: it’s like Portofino and Positano rolled into one but without the coaches, glitz and tourist hordes. Non-local vehicles are not even allowed onto the island in high season. Life slows down: it didn’t even feel as if our paltry week was over in seconds, like it usually does.
And when you come back, have fun location-spotting with The Talented Mr Ripley – you’ll notice they didn’t have to do much to the place to turn it into 1959.
View of Procida at sunset from one of its punti panoramici:
‘Il Postino’ and ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ were filmed on Procida