Often overshadowed by Capri and Ischia, the island of Procida in the Bay of Naples can actually make for a more relaxing and less expensive day out than its bigger neighbours. You can reach its shores in just over half an hour by boat from Naples. Once you arrive, it offers a range of attractions: colourful and picturesque villages, stunning views of the sea and the natural forms of the island, interesting history and delicious and reasonably-priced food.
Here’s a suggested itinerary for an enjoyable day out on Procida:
Start your day with breakfast at one of the bars in the port of Marina Grande, where the boats from Naples arrive. At Bar Dal Cavaliere (Via Roma, 42) you can have a coffee accompanied by a “Lingua”– a local speciality consisting of pastry filled with cream, sometimes flavoured with lemon. Then stroll into the island and up into Terra Murata, the old city fortified by walls in the 16th century to protect settlers from pirates. On your way you can look back over the colourful port of Corricella, and once you reach the Belvedere of Terra Murata you can admire breathtaking views of the Bay of Naples and Capri.
From this square you can also see the Palazzo d’Avalos perched on the cliffs, a castle converted into a Bourbon prison in 1830. Criminals were locked up here until 1988, including political prisoners such as senior members of the Italian Fascist regime. Once you’ve enjoyed the views you can head to the nearby Abbey of St. Michael the Archangel for an insight into Procida’s fascinating history and traditions. Guides offer interesting tours of the site, where you can see trapdoors leading to catacombs beneath the church, a nativity scene made out of shells, a library with a range of geographical, historical and musical documents, and several chapels containing votive offerings to St. Michael, Procida’s patron saint. The catacombs on the lower floor are closed at the moment as they need renovation, but the rest of the abbey is still worth a visit. For me on this see here.
After your tour of the abbey, you can wander down the hill and into the colourful port of Corricella, where each house is painted in a different pastel shade. This picturesque village has inspired many film directors, and has been the setting for films including Il Postino: The Postman and The Talented My Ripley. When you reach the port you can stroll along by the sea, where you might see fishermen repairing their nets, chatting or getting ready to go out in their boats.
You can take your pick of restaurants in Corricella for lunch. This is your chance to enjoy a range of Mediterranean specialities, including fresh fish and favourite local dishes such as spaghetti with sea urchins or lemon salad. I have enjoyed great meals in the Lampara (Via Marina Corricella, 88), which also has splendid views of the bay. The seafood ravioli were delicious, washed down with Falanghina wine.
When I visited in January I also had a very pleasant meal in La Locanda del Postino (Via Marina Corricella, 43), which was one of the few restaurants open at that time of year. I enjoyed fried dough balls as a starter, followed by spaghetti with mussels. The owner was very friendly and spent time chatting to my friends and I about Procida and its history while explaining the different types of fresh fish he had on offer that day. After an additional plate of fried seafood, we finished our meal with three limoncellos.
In the afternoon, you could head to one of Procida’s beaches for a few hours of relaxation and sunbathing! Chiaolella, opposite Ischia, is the longest beach and can be reached by taking buses L1 and L2. Chiaia is an alternative beach just a short walk from Corricella, which involves a journey down some steep steps. When we visted Chiaia in June there were no tourists to be seen, just local families and children playing on the beach. The sand is boiling– make sure you bring your flip-flops!
In the late afternoon, you could take another stroll up to one of Procida’s higher points, so that you can look back over the beautiful island as the sun sets. At Belvedere dei Due Cannoni you have a great view right across Procida. The pastel colours of Corricella look very pretty in the evening sun.
Marina Grande is a lively place for the evening aperitivo. You could have a pre-dinner drink in GM Bar (Via Roma 117) and do some people-watching. For dinner, try La Pergola, (Via Salette, 10) where you can sit under lemon groves in the summer. If you fancy an alternative to seafood, you can try rabbit– another local speciality.