Position: 40°45’38″N 14°01’47″E
Admiring Amalfi, Ignoring Naples
Never far off the grid, it was clear from news reports things were heating up Covid-wise in Italy. Mafia incited ‘No more lockdown!’ riots added more, albeit unnecessary, justification to our decision to avoid Naples. Thick, brown smog spread out from the city as far south as Cetraro. Not only could we smell it, but at times the haze was dense enough to fully obscure Mount Vesuvius 30 miles away.
We determined to drop an anchor at or near the island of Procida. Passing the Amalfi coast with its winding roads and tumbling whitewashed towns, we motored through the Bocca Piccola, the ‘little mouth’ between the mainland and the surprisingly solid, jagged lump that is Capri. A few fishermen and a couple of high-speed ferries kept us occupied. Winds, light and variable, teased us with barren promises of something more. Poo!
A short motor from Naples and its suburbs, the islands of Procida and Ischia are favourite weekending locations for the moderately well-heeled from the mainland. Surrounded by a marine park, daily fees are levied during busy summer months, and stiff fines keep the riffraff from anchoring at night. During the winter things loosen up a bit.
Corricella and its curving bay on Procida’s south side are protected by a headland with its own Château d’If. Reading over the marine park rules, we decided to anchor just outside the breakwater now that it was November. Rereading the rules the next morning, we decided that we could anchor there only if we were residents. Pity. This is one of the prettiest spots in all of Italy to watch the sun rise.
Procida lies low and flat in the channel between the mainland and Ischia. As a result, every pillager worth their salt laid waste to the island at some point in history. Some, such as the Ottoman corsair Hayreddin Barbarossa merely raided it. Others like (Bourbon king) Charles III stayed long enough to enjoy the hunting. Little wonder the historic centre became known as Terra Murata (literally ‘walled land’). Originally built on Norman lines, then expanded in the 16th century as the Palazzo d’Avalos, the main defences served as a military school and eventually became a prison – occupied until 1988.
The bright pastels of Corricella’s houses stem from a fisherman’s tradition of not painting two houses the same colour side by side. That makes their homes easier to spot from the sea. Monstrously picturesque, Procida frequently serves as a filming location and has its own film festival. Indeed, on our second day we moored at the tourist marina on the island’s north side. As soon as we stepped off Aleta, we bumped into a half dozen trucks filled to the brim with scaffolding, lights, cameras and costumes. We didn’t see actors, but perhaps we arrived on a day of interior shots. Exploring Corricella on foot the inevitable ‘wanker with a drone’ was in fact the B-roll camera crew hard at work. Perhaps we’ll be in the crowd shots of some lusty Italian potboiler.
Here are a few photos that will make you want to visit Procida: