Need a beach vacation? An Italian beach vacation on Procida is a great spot for the sea, sand and seafood. Procida is the smallest island in the Gulf of Naples. It’s not as elegant as Capri or Sardinia’s Porto Cervo, but this picturesque, fisherman’s island is a fantastic getaway. From Rome take a high speed train to Naples (70 minutes) and then take a boat to Procida (40 minutes). We are drawn to the island for its uncrowded beaches but it draws tourists in need of a quiet break throughout the year. The port has easy access for day trips to the islands Capri and Ischia.
The island is only 1.5 square miles large but has six beaches. All beaches have public and private areas. At the public beach sunbathers stake out a spot on the sand with towels or umbrellas. We thought it was well worth it to spend 20 euro per day for a beach umbrella and two chaise lounges at a private beach club.
It’s easy to walk around the island. Buses run infrequently and are crowded. Taxis are inexpensive. We found a taxi driver named Vincenzo on our first morning and called him for trips throughout our stay. The island is filled with streets so narrow that it is baffling that cars can fit through them. Pedestrians flatten against walls or step up on the stoop of a building entrance to make room for passing vehicles.
We stayed at La Casa sul Mare, a charming hotel in the historic center with rooms overlooking the Marina Corricella. The views from the balcony and terrace are breathtaking. The staff is eager to please, ready to offer advice and tips. A generous breakfast is served in a small garden filled with flowers and ivy-covered walls. It’s a lovely way to start the day. Like an Italian grandmother, they make sure you plenty to eat. Each night we passed through the garden to reach our room, enjoying the fragrance of the flowers.
La Casa sul Mare provides transportation by boat for its guests to and from the Marina Corricella to Chiaia beach. This secluded beach can only be reached by boat or by descending over 100 stairs from street level (take the 5-minute boat ride!). This beach receives the most sunlight early in the day. By 4pm it is covered in shade. It’s best for those that make an early start of the day.
Our favorite beach is the largest, Ciarcciello/Ciraccio. This is where we landed up spending most of our beach time. It is lined with beach clubs, bars and restaurants. The water is crystal clear and you can wade out almost 40 yards with your head above water while still touching the bottom. The nature reserve Isolotta di Vivara is visible from the beach, as well as Ischia in the distance.
Eating well is essential to any holiday. Procida is know for simple cooking based on fresh seafood. Most menus are brief because the selection depends on what items are available that day. Seafood is the specialty: mussels, shrimp, calamari, anchioves, sea urchin plus a long list of freshly caught fish prepared a half dozen different ways. Most restaurants allow customers to pick the exact fish he wishes to eat. For those that don’t care for seafood there are always other options. With the island’s proximity to Naples, Neapolitan pizza is a staple. A meal would not be complete without ending with a glass of limoncello. The lemon liquor aides in digestion – at least that’s what they claim and we have no reason not believe it!
La Lampara – Features the best view of the Marina Corricella with superb service. At dinner the sounds of the nearby church hymns being sung at evening mass drift down to the terrace. Do not miss the seafood risotto – it must be requested in advance.
Girone – Ask any local to name the best restaurant and you will hear “Girone” over and over again. It sits on the Ciraccio beach with fantastic sea views. Great pizza, delicious fried items as well as seafood served by friendly waitstaff.
Caraclé – the food is presented in an artistic fashion and tastes as good as it looks. The spaghetti with sea urchin is heavenly.
La Conchiglia – The only restaurant on Chiaia beach. Service can be hit or miss but the sea views make it worth while. It’s hard to find a more romantic place to dine than La Conchiglia at sunset.