Exploring Procida

We have never stayed more than one night in Procida before, but had ventured so far as the adjacent harbour of Corricella with Lara one evening, with the help of her phone navigation skills. This morning we set out to retrace those steps and then climb up to have a look at the impressive fort that guards the channel. First we stopped for coffee in the main harbour. As we sipped our cappuccinos the place gradually filled up with young people carrying backpacks and motorcycle helmets. They arrived in clusters of four or five and tagging on to groups already seated by hauling chairs and tables across the café. First the girls arrived and ranged on three tables along one side, then some boys took the armchairs along the opposite front, they were soon joined by another bunch of lads who pulled more of the armchairs and a small table across to form a barricade across the entrance. Undeterred a further mixed group squeezed in and formed a nest just behind us. The young man serving quietly took the orders and threaded his way back and forth through the tangle of furniture, he would no doubt have to put right later, to serve them all. As we rose to leave our table was absorbed into the huddled collective behind. The pastries and small pizzas looked very tasty, so we resolved to come for breakfast tomorrow, but earlier, before school was out.

We made our way up the street away from the port and managed to retrace our steps from before up the hill with the shops either side, parked bikes and two-way traffic. This early in the day we were spared the pairs of impeding grannies. In this cooler weather we made better progress up the steep hill, but remembered to turn left along the quieter side road before the square at the top. We kept to one side as motor scooters hurtled by and stood in gateways for the occasional small car to pass. The walls are high and largely windowless. In one small opening someone had made a shrine with a plaster bust of Jesus, candle ends and a nosegay. In the next such opening was a battered electricity meter. We emerged at a viewpoint looking out across to Naples and then headed steeply down another of the narrow streets. This time we did not turn down the steps to the fishing harbour, but continued on, climbing again, to arrive a bit breathless at the start of the fort. Close up it looked pretty derelict. Two large British cannon stood sentinel facing the channel. From their vantage point the view was spectacular. The curve of the pretty fishing harbour of Corricella, with brightly painted boats strung out inside the rocky breakwaters before a backdrop of dusty pastel houses mounting the steep hillside. It reminded me of my first visit to Capri back in the day. Beyond the headland opposite rose the even higher crags of Ithaca. Spectacular.

Eventually we tore ourselves away from the view and headed up into the fort, closely followed by a small bus and a pair of taxis. The bus stopped in the open area inside the outer wall, but the taxis pressed higher, squeezing through a stone archway, with the first taxi sounding a warning on his horn. We followed them and the road continued up between houses with flower filled window boxes and metal balconies, along which washing fluttered overhead. There was a large domed church with bells and a museum. We decided to visit the museum, which meant more stairs to climb. The walls of the staircase were lined with old photographs, with captions in Italian. We arrived at a landing where an old three piece suite had been thoughtfully placed for those needing to rest before tackling the next story, but we pressed on to the top. There was another sofa and chair before a doorway barred by a red tape and a sign promising guided tours in Italian, English and German. Peering over the tape through the doorway we could see rooms displaying household items, old tools to the right and embroideries to the left. All was silent. The place felt deserted and we had turned to go back down, when a girl appeared and asked if we wished to see the museum for three Euros. When we did she let us through the tape and after checking we were English took us into the room with the tools and asked us to sit on long wooden benches behind the doorway. We waited politely for the English speaking guide. The same girl came back with laminated cards, these were the English guides, which we could read, before making our own way round. The cards told a story, the tale of a young poet arrested in his world tour by the love of a local girl, causing him to go native for a while before resuming his travels, promising to return. She then died of TB, but managed to send him a letter absolving him of his promise to come back for her. This inspired a torrent of purple prose from the young man, for which he became renown. The artefacts on display were the sort of objects people of that time would have used in a typical household setting, though of course the rooms of this museum were more exalted than those that would have been inhabited by a local fisherman’s daughter. After we had finished reading the girl took the cards back, in case there should be a spate of further English visitors, and we were free to make our way round. In a room of lace making cushions and spindles was a drawing of the local beauty herself, rather in the style of Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic. This room led out to a terrace with stunning views and a charming collection of succulents. The final room was actually a shop of artefacts the museum had obviously been given, but for which it had no space. There was some beautiful lacework, crochet and embroidery and various small tranklements of dubious value. All in all well worth the three Euros and the climb to the Sleeping Beauty eerie.

We headed back down to the harbour and had lunch in the same restaurant where we had dined with Lara on our previous visit, apparently the site of the film The Postman, though not the Kevin Costner one.

It was most pleasant sitting in the shade, eating more of the lovely spiral pasta, this time with spinach and shrimp, watching the fishermen mend their nets.


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