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Inside: After dozens of visits, Italy still holds some surprises. Tiny Procida is authentic, affordable & blissfully off the tourist radar. How to get there, where to stay and why the island should be on your Italy Bucket List.
After a fabulous 4-day road trip through Ireland, it’s time to move on to our next stop, Italy!
The plan? A week along the Amalfi Coast followed by a week in Tuscany (where we got married) for our anniversary.
Our evening flight from Dublin to Naples lands just before 11:00pm. Due to our late arrival tonight, we booked a room in Naples. Tomorrow, we’ll catch the morning ferry to our first stop along the Amalfi Coast, the island of Procida.
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Why is Procida famous?
It’s mostly not, which is kind of the best part. In fact, for many years colorful Procida was probably best known as “the extra ferry stop” between Naples and the popular islands of Ischia and Capri.
But last January, this tiny, soft spoken island in the Bay of Naples beat out nine other Italian cities and small towns to be named Italy’s Capital of Culture for 2022. Procida is the first island to win the award after its inception 8 years ago and assumes the crown from Parma, last year’s winner.
Note: Until this year, many travelers were unaware of Procida as a destination but that could change with the glowing press following this recent award.
Procida has been on my radar since my well-traveled friend, Janice, visited several years ago. She posted day-after-day of drool-worthy pictures of pastel-colored homes and shops cascading down a cliff to the sparkling blue sea below.
I immediately added Procida to my Bucket List and it seemed like the perfect place to kick-off our Italian holiday.
But first, Naples
The only downside of visiting the Amalfi Coast is its gateway…the (in my view) seedy city of Naples. Yes, yes, there are some lovely parts to Naples. I visited the city alone on Round the World #4 and had no issues.
In fact, I quite enjoyed it.
But I’m afraid Naples isn’t the safest place for tourists these days. Pickpockets are rampant and we even spoke to an Australian couple on the train who saw a tourist mugged in broad daylight the day before.
So, when you visit (if you have to), watch your back.
By the time we exit the airport, it is nearing midnight. We’re lucky to find a taxi into the city at all since only a handful awaited our jam-packed flight. A driver groups us with another American couple going to a hotel near ours and we hop in.
We know it’ll cost more than daytime rates but are still slightly surprised when he later demands twice the fare on the meter…from each couple.
Welcome to Naples…
Tip: If you’re ever arriving in Naples late in the evening, book an airport pick-up with your hotel in advance. Lesson learned.
A Sweet Sleep in Naples
But all is forgotten when we walk into our hotel.
For our one-night stay in Naples, we booked the Sweet Sleep B&B, located right across the street from the central train station. We are greeted cheerfully by the couple at the front desk and quickly given the keys to our room. They also helpfully provide directions for the train to the ferry terminal in the morning.
We mention we are headed to Procida and the wife lights up. “Oh, it’s so beautiful, we were just there yesterday!” she said.
Most of their guests head straight for Capri, she adds. She can’t understand why everyone thinks Capri is so wonderful with its fancy shops and hoards of tourists. They much prefer the tranquil beauty of Procida.
It’s always a good sign when a place is a local favorite. Based on their glowing recommendations, we are now positively giddy for our first glimpse of the island tomorrow.
But first, some rest.
All of the rooms at Sweet Sleep have clever names instead of numbers. Ours is the “Joker Room” and it’s circular in shape, modern – yet cozy – in design, and incredibly spacious. But the best part is the sublimely-comfortable Tempur-Pedic mattress (hence the B&B’s name) on the bed.
After a series of rock-hard beds in Ireland, it’s a welcome change.
The Ferry from Naples to Procida
The next morning, we sleep in a bit since we can’t check into our accommodations on Procida (a boat!) until the afternoon anyway.
We enjoy breakfast on the hotel’s rooftop terrace overlooking Naples and then book the noon ferry to Procida. At 11:00am we cross the street to the train station and hop on the train bound for the Beverello Port.
Ferries run from Naples to Procida as frequently as every 45 minutes during the summer high season. The journey takes 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the type of ferry. Ferry tickets range in price from EUR 14-20 per person, one-way. The best site to check ferry schedules and book tickets is FerryHopper.com.
The ferry ride is a pleasant 40-minute cruise across the Bay of Naples and as we approach the port in Procida, the chaos and grime of Naples melts into the horizon behind us.
Positively Perfect Procida
The second we step off the ferry in Procida’s Marina Grande, it is love at first sight.
We marvel at the Disney-esque pastel-hued storefronts along the water. It’s like something out of a dream.
“How have tourists missed this incredible place all these years?” I think to myself.
Wait, better question.
How have I missed this place all these years? I’m supposed to be good at this.
After more than a dozen trips to Italy, it seems this magical country still holds some surprises.
We continue down the main street hugging the waterfront in search of the cinema where we are supposed to meet our hosts. “It’s the only cinema on the island,” they said, “you can’t miss it.”
Where to stay on Procida
For our stay on Procida, my friend Janice highly recommended the island’s top boutique hotel (where she stayed), the Hotel La Casa sul Mare. Unfortunately, it was booked solid over our popular summer dates.
It was time to get creative.
After an exhaustive search, we decide on a more unusual style of accommodation, a boat. Actually, you might even call it a small yacht. Though the word yacht makes it sound fancy…and expensive. It was neither.
But it did turn out to be absolutely adorable!
Getting our Sea Legs
We were a little nervous about choosing it as a hotel option for our stay. Would it feel cramped or smell damp? But we shouldn’t have worried. It turns out to be everything we hoped for.
Stretching 40’ in length, the boat features three cabins, a salon area, a fully-equipped galley, and several deck spaces for sunbathing, watching the sunset, or just enjoying the view.
And what views! In one direction, spectacular views of Procida’s charming Porto; and in the other direction, the distinctive outline of Mount Vesuvius.
The owners give us a brief overview of how to use everything (including a marine toilet!), show us where we can pick up some groceries, and then leave us to enjoy the day.
As we unpack and settle in, Dave and I cannot stop smiling. We have arrived in our own Italian paradise and we can’t wait to get out and explore.
We need to secure some “provisions,” as the sailors call them, but the market the boat owners pointed out is still closed for a few more hours (pretty much everything shuts down mid-afternoon on Procida).
So we set off on foot to explore while we wait for the shops to open.
How to get around Procida – do you need a car?
This tiny Italian island is one place you definitely do not want to have a car. The diminutive size of the island makes it perfect for exploring the main sights on foot. If you want to explore further outside the main harbors, a scooter is the way to go.
For the less adventurous, the island also has a convenient bus service which runs frequently. The little buses can be picked up by the church in the main port or near the ferry jetty. Tickets can be purchased directly from the driver but are less expensive if purchased in advance at a bar or tabacchi.
The harbors (marinas) of Procida
The island of Procida is made up primarily of three marinas (or harbors):
- Marina Grande (or the Porto) – where the ferries arrive and where we are staying.
- Marina Corricella – the most famous and the view you’ll find on postcards of Procida.
- Marina di Chiaiolella – located at the far end of the island, it’s smaller and less crowded but still well worth a visit.
It’s an easy walk between Marina Grande and Marina Corricella, though the narrow streets often mean flattening yourself to the side of the nearest building each time a car passes by.
For our first afternoon on the island, we decide to stick close to our new floating home and explore the shops and restaurants of Marina Grande.
It is nearly 2:00pm by now and we are famished. Many of the restaurants have already closed for lunch service, but we manage to find a waterfront restaurant called Fammivento that is still open and packed with a lively local crowd.
Our first meal on Procida is lengthy and superb, as any Italian meal should be.
By the time we finish, the shops have re-opened and we wander in and out of a few before making our way back to the market for those provisions.
Limoncello – A Procida necessity
Locally produced all over the Amalfi Coast region – limoncello is at the top of our shopping list. We select a brand made right here on the island along with some other sustenance essentials before heading back to the boat for a post-lunch siesta.
Before we know it, the sun is beginning its descent and we settle in barefoot on the forward deck with our now-chilled limoncello to enjoy the show. It is a stunning sunset and the 360 degree views from the boat make it even more spectacular.
Yep, I’m starting to think we could really get used to life at sea.
Marina Corricella & Terra Murata
The next morning there is just one thing on my list.
I am dying to see the postcard views from Marina Corricella!
We sleep in a bit, take surprisingly comfortable showers in the small but efficient master head, and make breakfast in the galley before heading out for the day.
It is a beautiful morning so we opt to walk and explore the streets of the city on the way. The walk between the two ports is somewhat hilly but short and easy to navigate thanks to well-placed signs.
While Procida isn’t known for any specific cultural attractions, the Terra Murata is considered the island’s best historic site. As Procida’s oldest settlement and the highest point on the island, it has served as a fortress, a monastery and even a prison.
But today, it’s the best spot for those postcard-perfect views of the island.
Before descending the stairs down to the harbor, we head up the hill to take in the island’s best viewpoint along the walls of Terra Murata.
And WOW, what a view!
From above, the colorful, slightly ramshackle buildings bring to mind a swirl of cotton candy with their Pepto-Bismol pink, powder blue & lemon-yellow facades. Fishing boats bob lazily in the azure harbor below and as I look around, the whole scene feels like something out of a movie.
In fact, Procida has been the setting for several films including Il Postino and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Signs posted around the island proudly tell the story of Procida’s cinematic history.
Abbazia di San Michele
After taking some frame-worthy photos of Marina Corricella, we make a stop at the Abbazia di San Michele.
The main chapel is packed with art and guided tours (which aren’t available today) take visitors down into the cliffs through the lower levels of the abbey. Like most things on Procida the opening hours are limited and unpredictable, so it’s best to call ahead if the tour is high on your list.
A wander along Marina Corricella
From the Terra Murata, we descend the endless stairs down to Marina Corricella.
The picturesque fishing harbor is dotted with cafes and restaurants but its best feature is the relaxed, local vibe provided by the island’s fishermen tending to their boats and nets.
They are enthusiastically assisted by an assortment of island cats who appear to divide their time between napping in the sun and searching for their next free seafood meal.
In my next life, I would like to come back as a Procida cat.
We linger in Marina Corricella for lunch by the sea and enjoy another outstanding local meal – spaghetti with lemon, garlic, and olive oil (they put lemon in just about everything in this part of the country!).
Does Procida have a beach, you might ask?
While it’s better known for its pastel views, yes, Procida does have some great beaches as well.
After lunch, we take a leisurely stroll through town and then investigate whether those Procida beaches are worth a visit.
We start close to home at Spiaggia Lingua, just around the corner from the marina. Like many Italian beaches, the beach itself is pebbled but the water is clear blue and the views of Mount Vesuvius are stellar.
Like the rest of Procida, it’s tourist-free and it makes for a lovely spot to soak up the Mediterranean sunshine.
Procida has a number of other beaches that are worth a visit (if only we had more time!). Some of Procida’s best beaches are Ciraccio Beach, Il Postino Beach, Chiaiolella Beach, and Chiaia Beach.
So yes, Procida does have a few beaches, but they’re not quite the caliber of the exquisite Italian beaches of, say, Elba Island.
The evening brings another gorgeous sunset from the deck of the boat and one final delicious meal in town.
Leaving our Italian paradise
It’s difficult to put into words the shabby beauty of Procida.
Sure, much of the island could use a fresh coat of paint. But that’s all part of its authenticity and charm. It’s real Italians living their daily lives and paying little if any, attention to the few tourists passing through.
Can Procida be seen in a day?
Due to frequent ferry service, most visitors arrive on a day trip from Naples, Ischia or Capri. They assume that due to its petite size, Procida can easily be seen in a day.
Seen? Physically maybe, but to really appreciate the island’s appeal you’ll have to spend a few nights.
Walk the quaint, narrow streets long after the day-trippers have gone or dine with local families in a seaside trattoria.
Settle in with an early morning cup of coffee to watch the island’s fishermen return in their brightly-colored boats laden with the morning’s catch.
It’s a slower pace of life here and easily a place Dave and I could spend weeks if not months.
But for now, it’s time to move on to our next stop. We’ll be devoting the rest of our week on the Amalfi Coast to Positano. But first, a ferry from Procida to the island of Ischia for an overnight stay on the way.
Ciao for now lovely Procida….we’ll be back.
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