An all too brief trip to Procida

Procida is the smallest of the islands in the gulf of Naples, and a lot less touristy than Capri and Ischia.

To get there you either get a hydrofoil from the Molo Bevello or you can get a slower ferry from Porta di Massa about a kilometer down the road in the opposite direction to Chaia.

20140504_095457To get to Molo Bevello, go to the coastal side of Castel Nuovo. With your back to the castle and facing the sea, the ticket office is the low one storey structure in front of you, as opposed to the more imposing cruise ship terminal in the background.

20140504_131753The hydrofoil takes forty minutes and costs around €15 whereas the ferries take an hour and cost about €10 (in May 2014). The two main companies running them are Caremar and SNAV.

It’s a good idea to get to get to the pier early (say 8am to give you time to queue) if you want to have time to do some sightseeing in Procida before and after lunch and get back to Naples the same day.

I arrived at the the Molo Bevello at about 10am on a Sunday to find that only SNAV were running hydrofoils that day. I’d missed the 8.25 am sailing and had a couple of hours to wait till the next one at 12am, To kill time I walked down towards Chiaia to have a look at Naples’ second seafront castle, Castel dell’ Ovo, which is quite near (see separate post).

20140504_165918_2I finally got to Marina Grande in Procida at about 1.30pm. I didn’t want hang about as I was half an hour late for my lunch reservation, so I decided to cancel my plan of hiring a bike and instead jumped in a cab to get to the other side of the island. You can apparently ask the restaurant to pick you up in a boat from Marina Grande, but I hadn’t been that organised.

20140504_132713For €10 I think the friendly cab driver took me the long way round but he probably wanted to give me a good impression of the island, as well as a great view of my destination Baia di Chiaia, from the top of the cliffs. Please click on the thumbnails to appreciate the views properly.

According to Fodors, Procida is the most densely populated island in Europe and certainly everywhere I saw was pretty built up, although not in a bad way.

La Conchiglia (Intermediate B+), Via Pazzaco 10, Baia di Chiaia, Tel. 0818 967602, Mobile 339 384 9050 www.laconchigliaristorante.com

20140504_134046I needn’t have worried about getting a table here as I was there in early May before the main season had started. There were only two other tables of customers so I could get one of the coveted seats on the terrace next to the window and enjoy the stunning view.

20140504_134030The Baia di Chiaia is one of the most beautiful spots in the Bay of Naples. From my seat I could see the pastel coloured buildings of Marina Corricella, nestling below the dark walls of the fortified Terra Murata, with Vesuvius in the background a little further to the right.

This was most definitely a top spot for some serious luncheon and as it was my first day in Italy for several months, I decided to treat myself.

First of all I had Soute de Vongole e Cozze, or larger clams with mussels steamed in white wine with chunks of air hardened bread soaking up the sauce. The Italians always seem to make this very salty, but I’m a salt addict so it’s still delicious (B+).

20140504_135007Following this,  one of the specialities of the house; Paccheri pasta in a sauce of baby clams (B+).

20140504_134325To drink a bottle of Fiano de Avellino (Macchialupa 2013)  which was good again but could have been more chilled (B+), as could the complimentary Limoncello at the end.

20140504_153056The Panna Cotta con Frutti di Bosco was a bit of a letdown too as I think it was ready made, out of a tub. Although it looked good, it didn’t have the delicacy of a homemade version and I didn’t feel any desire to finish it after a few mouthfuls (B).

The total cost was €50, with water, cover and a 10% service charge. The latter rankled a bit because my young server (a guy with a star tattoo on his neck) was unsmiling and completely inattentive. I’m guessing he’d been partying hard the night before because he forgot everything (e.g. coming to take my order, giving me the wine list, an ice bucket, the ice to go in it and more ice for my warm limoncello). The lady taking my money smiled though.

So, for me this place is trading less on their food and more on the wonderful view. The food is okaybut it could be better, and the waiter needs to get more sleep.

20140504_15571220140504_161536_1120140504_162244_1After this binge I faced the challenge of getting up the 192 steps from the beach with a full belly.

It took a while but I got there eventually and ambled down the road to Marina Corricella looking for an unlikely (and unnecessary) taxi to take me back to Marina Grande.

20140504_162746My three hour lunch sadly hadn’t left me enough time to take in the medieval citadel of Terra Murata and its magnificent views. Must do this next time if I get here early enough.

20140504_162501I stopped in the first little square I came to take these photos and have a macchiato in the tiny Caffe’ dei Martiri.

20140504_162418A couple of old boys were sat outside and they gave me directions back to Marina Grande in their thick Procidano accents.

As you can see from my Google map, it was so close that I could have walked to the restaurant in the first place if I’d had time and knew where I was going (along Via Umberto).  I’ll be better organised next time I go.

20140504_165318_120140504_171538_3 When I got back to Marina Grande, after buying my ticket at the ferry ticket office, I took a stroll up and down the waterfront.

20140504_172032 20140504_17114120140504_16491420140504_164510_120140504_173729_15 20140504_16550020140504_16033920140504_131734_1The buildings are quite quirky as you can see and look lovely from the sea, but they’re a bit dingy once you get close up.

I decided to wait for the ferry in Bar di Cavaliere at 42 Via Roma, which has lots of favourable reviews on the net.

I asked the owner if I could get a limoncello made with one of the lemons for which the island is renowned. He told me that in Italy it was against the law for bars to sell homemade products (which surprised me as it’s obviously not the case for restaurants).

Sadly, even though he had his own lemon grove, there’s no market for the fruits and they are just left to rot on the trees, an absolute travesty. He was allowed to give me a slice of peel in my glass of mass produced limoncello though, which noticeably added zest and flavour.

20140504_173402When I asked where I could buy some lemons to take home he told there wasn’t anywhere open on a Sunday that sold them but that I could have some some of his that he’d brought for the bar from his grove. With true Campanian hospitality he then handed me a heavy carrier bag containing a dozen huge lemons! I can’t begin to tell you how happy this made me.

20140504_173430Individual Procida lemons can apparently grow up to a whopping 2kg and these were all different sizes, some with green speckles, and others with minor signs of blight. There was even a conjoined pair of twins!

None of them were anything like the standard lemons you would see in a UK supermarket, which is perhaps why it’s hard for the growers to sell them outside their home market. Such a shame as they are delicious.

The spongy white pith (technically known as the albedo) of the Procida lemon is so thick that the locals call it ‘bread’. A local recipe uses the albedo and some flesh of the lemon in a salad called Insalate di Limone-Pane.

20140504_170214_1I attempted to make it back in the UK with the lemons I managed to get home in decent shape. The results were pretty good but, although the salad was very tasty, and the lemons relatively sweeter than standard ones, it was still quite bitter and I couldn’t manage more than a few mouthfuls. Perhaps I should have included more albedo and less of the flesh.

I used the zest to have a go at making my own limoncello for the first time. I’d bought the pure ethanol from a supermarket on a previous trip (cheaper than using vodka). Not sure if I quite got the proportion of lemon syrup to alcohol quite right but it certainly put hairs on my chest!

So, a thoroughly enjoyable Sunday in Procida. Another trip is definitely needed to do it properly.

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