It was many years prior but we’d once spent a portion of a single day in Naples and, frankly, that was plenty enough for me. Granted, the largest portion of the small-ish portion of that single day occurred mostly inside and within spitting distance of the city’s central train station, and transportation hubs, especially in Europe, but really most everywhere, do not exactly represent fairly a cross section of any population, culinary scene, or cultural tableau of a place, but it was a miserable enough time that I swore off Naples for good.
Well, it turns out that ‘for good’ has an expiration date because when we got booked on the 10-day Barcelona to Athens Carnival Vista cruise this past May, I was determined to shake off the tribulations of fifteen years ago and experience Naples anew during our day at port there.
That said, I actively searched “where can I go from the port of Naples” in Google Maps in the weeks leading up to our cruise, and it’s there that I found the tiny, idyllic Italian island of Procida. It was just sitting there, a rugged, pastel-hued gem in the silvery blue crown of Naples Bay. Ferries, mostly used by commuters, left the Port of Naples regularly enough to safely get us there and back with plenty of time to not miss the boat…the bigger one that housed all the stuff we brought to Europe with us.
There’s not much for tourists to do on Procida save for wandering, and no one we encountered during our day on the island spoke a lick of English,
which is precisely what I thought Procida would be like and exactly why we chose to spend our day walking up, up, up to an epic vista and down, down, down again to port for an al fresco lunch in a restaurant where, as I mentioned, no one spoke English.
This was true, unblemished European vacation perfection.
Authentic Italian island perfection.
I was over the moon and the Bear, some 6 months later, still counts Procida as one of the best places she’s ever been.
Oh that? That’s just the sound of me patting myself on the back for going ‘off the grid’ again to brilliant results.
Once the ferry dropped us back onto the Italian mainland, I proposed a short (well, short-ish) walk — because we hadn’t done enough of that yet! — to one of the oldest pizzerias in the world, L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele.
I really sold the long wait to eat we’d probably have once we arrived and, somehow, my tired kids bought it and agreed to push themselves a little bit more! I could sell ice to an Eskimo!!
Okay fine, I may have promised gelato to gain their buy-in on these extra steps. Whatever, you’d have done the same. Because, old pizza! Well, fresh pizza in an old place!! Yeah, that sounds WAY better.
We had to queue outside for about 30 minutes but we made the time fly by, by taking a slew of ridiculous selfies together outside of the pizza shop established in 1870! America was in the throes of reconstruction and the people of Naples were just starting to queue up outside L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, probably
taking goofy selfies with their kids feeding their horses and stepping over shit from said horses.
…and then we were admitted into the holy grail of pizza!
…and that pizza was delicious.
Incredibly delicious and SUPER DUPER cheap: 4 EURO for a pizza. A BIG pizza! A BIG DELICIOUS OLD PIZZA!!
Thanks to a day on Procida and a late afternoon stroll into the ancient belly of Naples for a legendary pizza pie, we managed to heal our old Napoli scars. Honestly, I’d return to the city in a heartbeat and not just to eat that pizza again and to pay another visit to the island of Procida, although both of those would absolutely happen.
If you ever get the chance, do spend a few hours on Procida with your kids. Walk up to the top of the island, gaze out upon the weathered shops and homes, all those pale yellows and pinks and baby blues, like a maternity ward hugging the coastline, wander through the convenience stores, sample strange candies, buy mystery blind packs of toys not sold in the States, speak with your hands and let your genuine smile ingratiate you to the locals, and sit down for a meal and fumble through the menu written exclusively in the native tongue. I bet you will, as we did, feel alive and present in a truly foreign place that will reveal itself to you as a beautiful, joyous mystery.