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Naples, Procida, Fendi & a bucket of fish

Naples, Procida, Fendi & a bucket of fish

Old Nov 12th, 2001, 03:05 AM
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Naples, Procida, Fendi & a bucket of fish

I?m from Corpus Christi, Texas and am in the US Navy, stationed in Naples, Italy. I have been here since the end of December 2000. Before, I was stationed in Chicago (Great Lakes) and Washington DC. My biggest regret about my last duty station was that I often thought about going to see many of the sights, but always put it off ?because I live here.? I thought I?d have forever to see all of DC, but before I knew it my tour was up and I still hadn?t been up the Washington Monument or to Monticello. What a shame! I did get to The Capital, The Smithsonian, an opera at the Kennedy Center, Arlington National Cemetery, The National Cathedral, FDR Memorial, The Mall and many of our other national treasures. There was, however, so much more that I would have like to have seen and done before I left. When I arrived in Italy, I was determined not to make that same mistake again.
In the 10 months that I have been in Naples I have learned to speak fluent Italian and have learned so much about the rich history of this misunderstood city. Sometimes I even find myself giving little history lessons to my Neapolitan friends! Naples has a bad reputation for many things, but the city is aware of it and has made and continues to make so many changes to improve its cultural and touristic resources. I know that many improvements have been made because I have spoken to military reservists who have returned here 10 years after having been stationed here and are amazed at the city?s new look and feel. Naples, however, still is (and I guess forever will be) Naples, so some of its crazier characteristics still, thankfully, remain. There?s crazy traffic, beautiful hip youngsters whizzing around on mopeds, black market street vendors, and a colorful vibe and vitality that I hope it never loses.
After 10 months though, it can get a bit overwhelming?. I really needed an immediate break last weekend?not only from the wild city but from work too. Many of us in the military have been understandably stressed these last several weeks and we all need a little vacation. Capri, Ischia and Sorrento automatically come to mind, but Capri and Sorrento are quite pricey, and all three are usually so overwhelmed with tourists that it?s not much difference from the crowds, noise and traffic of Naples. An Italian friend recommended Procida, the forgotten jewel of the Bay of Naples?only 20 minutes away by hydrofoil. The locals say that this is the only real getaway in the bay.
Old Nov 12th, 2001, 03:09 AM
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My first impression of Procida was a great one. When I called the hotel I found on the Internet (Hotel Celeste: www.hotelceleste.it ) , the man who answered asked if I had been there before. When I said that I had not, he told me to let him know what ferry I?d be coming in on and he?d meet me at the port. He spoke English very well. I inquired about restaurants that were close since I?d be arriving around dinnertime, but I was easily convinced to try the hotel?s restaurant?in fact, for a very reasonable upgrade fee I opted for full board?dinner, breakfast, and lunch at the hotel. The people seemed so friendly on the phone that I immediately began entertaining gastronomic daydreams of multi-course, home-cooked Italian meals!
Friday after work I made the easy commute from the Stazione Centrale (Piazza Garibaldi) to the Mergellina Port via the metropolitana (subway.) I bought my cheap hydrofoil ticket ($9 US), called the hotel to advise them of which boat I would be on, and was in the Procida port in less than half an hour. When I got off the boat I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the friendly hotel guy waiting there for me was actually the owner! The pride he had for his island was instantly apparent and endearing. We took an indirect route back to the hotel in order to see some of the sights like the fishermen?s port, the castle, the convent, the cathedral and the awesome views of Ischia, Capri, Sorrento, and Naples?. I had never seen Naples look more appealing than from the sea on this beautiful, clear evening!
On the way to the hotel Mr. Lubrano greeted almost everyone on the street by first name. The small town familiarity was so refreshing, as was the courtesy of the other drivers on the small streets?a far cry from the adventures of driving in the streets I had just departed across the bay. A couple of store owners standing outside their shops let Mr. Lubrano know that they had just sent some guests his way. When we arrived at the hotel I let him know that he left his keys in the ignition. He said ?Lo so???I know?, and proudly boasted that there?s no crime on his island!
My single room was large enough and equipped to sleep at least 6, which I am sure it sometimes does in the summer season. The view was over the NW side of the island?the gardens across the street, the small port of Chiaiolella, the nature reserve (Vivara) and the lights of the port of neighboring Ischia across the water. I got lost for about 15 minutes in a sea of tranquility that I had not known since I arrived in Naples last winter. I was soon interrupted, however, by a friendly reminder from my eager and grumbling stomach. When I arrived downstairs I chatted for another bit with Mr. Lubrano and his wife before she left to make the last minute preparations for our dinner. He then explained to me that all the vegetables came from their own garden, as did the grapes used to make their homemade wine. Also, since his in-laws were fishermen, each morning around 4am he was privy to first choice of the night?s bounty.
Old Nov 12th, 2001, 03:15 AM
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We sat together at the table and my previous daydreams started coming true right before my eyes! The homemade wine was outstanding and the first course was my favorite pasta dish: spaghetti alle cozze (spaghetti with mussels). The light and simple sauce of garlic, fresh tomatoes, parsley and olive oil was so good that I risked embarrassment and sopped up every bit with crusty bread. The main course is a local specialty: Orata al?acqua pazza (sea bass in crazy water). The whole fish is roasted in seawater mixed with parsley, lemon, garlic, tomatoes, and olive oil. The flesh was mild flavored, flaky and tender. Again, I couldn?t bear to leave even the sauce on my plate! For the next course we had some local cheese and salami followed by a plate of grapes. It was all a dream come true!
After some after-dinner wine and conversation I decided to venture back to the port area to see what the locals were up t this Friday night. I caught the frequent mini-bus at the corner. It goes from port to port (one side of the island to the other) about every 20 minutes. I stopped into a pub (Pit Bull) and had a couple of beers while chatting it up with the local patrons. The home grown DJ was quite better than I would have expected, and the barmaid was beautiful and friendly. I was, however, back in my hotel room by midnight, where I once again took in the serenity of my moonlit view before turning in for the night.
I woke up around 9am (that?s ?sleeping in? by military standards), got dressed and headed downstairs for marmalade, pastry, and caffe latte. Mr. Lubrano asked me if I?d like to have a tour of the island from his boat. I almost wanted to cry because I had not been treated so graciously since I don?t know when. It was the perfect beginning to a perfect day!
We hopped on a moped to one of the small ports. I was surprised again that he left the moped just standing there. In Naples if it?s not chained down? it?s gone. He showed me some of the not-so-accessible parts of the island that had hosted the likes of Princess Di and Jackie Kennedy. Magnificent cliffs and coves mostly accessible only by boat dominate this part of the island?s shore. It looks as if a mighty giant pushed the island up out of the water about 50 feet. You can see the erosion that currents carved ages ago when it was still underwater and many other geological curiosities. We also saw the fisherman?s port (Marina Corricella), the historical center, and an incredible view of the Bay of Naples with sleeping Vesuvio looming in the background. As we passed the main port I took in the view with a heavy sigh; this was the Italy I had imagined when I first received my orders 11 months before! Pastel colored villas with narrow tufo-stone streets, fishermen mending nets by the pier, and clean, outdoor cafes criss-crossed by sunlight and seabreezes. I even began to wonder how much trouble it would be to live here and commute to Naples for work!
Old Nov 12th, 2001, 03:17 AM
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When we had finally made a full circle around the island we came across some small fishing boats. Mr. Lubrano pulled up and asked them if they were catching anything. Before they could answer they were hoisting in a feisty tuna. We looked at each other and immediately knew what we had to do! After getting far enough away from the other boats (so as not to infringe on their ?territory?) we began by tossing alice
(fresh anchovies) overboard to see if we were in a good spot. Before long we could see the fierce silver-blue hunters darting up from the depths in the clear blue water, snatching the smaller fish. After enticing them for a short while, we baited some hooks on rudimentary fishing devices (small squares of cork with line spooled around them and a rig at the end) and tossed them out, cursing the little bastards each time they took the bait without getting hooked! After a while we had four 10-15 inch tuna? plenty for a nice dinner? so we headed for port. While I steered the boat back, Mr. Lubrano cleaned the catch with a routine that I am certain had been handed down from generations.
Back at the small port I was happy (although not surprised at this point) to see the moped standing where we had left it. After taking some pictures of me and the fish for my scrapbook, we hopped back on the moped and there I found myself? sporting Fendi sunglasses, riding on the back of a moped down narrow village streets, with a bucket of freshly caught tuna on my lap. I felt like I was at the pinnacle of my true Italian experience? and I loved it!
We arrived in time for a late lunch of orecchietti (ear-shaped pasta) with broccoli sauce, flour-dusted & fried alice, assorted grilled & marinated veggies, and grapes. After a short nap I took a walk to the other end of the island which took about 25 minutes. The day was glorious and after some shopping I sat at a port caf? and wrote postcards in the sun. When the sun started setting I drank in the colors along with my caffe. As I watched the crazy city across the bay begin to light up for the evening I began to wonder what excitement awaited me tonight. What luscious feast, what bitter cocktail, what feverish love? Some of my friends think I am a little off my rocker for going on these little adventures alone, but it?s much more conducive to discovery, getting lost, and flirting!
Procida would make an easy, beautiful, and memorable base from which to see Naples and the Amalfi Coast. Ferries to Naples, Capri, Ischia, Sorrento and Amalfi start early and are frequent and cheap. Coming to Naples and not seeing the area by boat would be a travesty. Even going to Pompeii from Procida (ferry to Sorrento, train to Pompeii) is far more scenic than going from Naples through it?s slums. It?s easy to take the wrong train to Pompeii from Naples (I?ve done it!), but there is only one from Sorrento to Naples via Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Oplonti. When you want to relax, rent a small boat and take in the island?s rustic charm? or better yet, stop by the Hotel Celeste, say ?Ciao? to Mr. Lubrano, and ask him for a boat ride. Sometimes the best tour guides are those who are not.
Old Dec 2nd, 2001, 06:11 AM
Steve James
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Topping... Is this it, Nancy?

Old Dec 2nd, 2001, 06:48 AM
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Amazingly this post was ignored! It was only because I just finished a book that talked about Procida that I checked it out. Joedy's experience was echoing the author of the book I read (particularly regarding the food, views, serenity and incredible hospitality). This sounds like a long lost version of Italy and I fear this post will turn it into a Rick Steve's Italy before I get there!
Old Dec 2nd, 2001, 09:25 AM
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I missed this first time around so thank you for topping.

Joedy thank you so much for sharing your wonderful weekend. It sounds absolutely perfect and next time I am back in the Neapolitan Riviera I am defintely going to check out Procida...

Thank you!

Old Dec 3rd, 2001, 03:08 AM
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thanks Steve!
Old Feb 11th, 2002, 02:51 PM
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Old Feb 11th, 2002, 05:00 PM
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Joedy: What a wonderful weekend and experience in Italy. You lived the dream we all hope for. I am so glad it happened to someone who appreciated it. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Old Feb 6th, 2005, 06:43 AM
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This was the posting that made me decide to visit Procida. We stayed at Hotel Celeste for three nights and had a wonderful time.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 04:21 PM
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