The picturesque island of Procida has just been named Italy’s 2022 Culture Capital. Politicians issued enthusiastic statements and locals hailed the win by staging street parties. But why should you visit it, anyway? What makes it so special? First, believe it or not, even though it’s in the world-famous Gulf of Naples and real close to the city, Procida is an under-the-radar destination compared to its mundane sister-isles Ischia and Capri. Everyone goes to Ischia for its hot baths and to Capri for its VIP lifestyle and glossy boutiques, often forgetting to visit Procida. Which is a real pity. Procida is the most authentic of all. It has preserved a genuine, laid-back and sleepy vibe. Forget the crowds. The first time I visited was during a Easter holiday and I was the only one getting off the ferry. The other passengers were headed to the other islands. The patchwork of colorful low cut fishermen dwellings – flashy purple, yellow, pink, blue and green – make the village of Marina Corricella one of Italy’s most vibrant and mesmerizing. The harbor is lined with wooden boats and covered in fishing nets, buzzing with screaming fishermen eager to sell their daily catch. Families meet for gelato, espresso and sunset aperitivo at the dock, kids run around the streets and elders sit on chairs staring at the blue sea. The few shops sell cool cheap clothes. A killer uphill winding road leads to an overhanging ancient fortress, once a prison, where the view stretches across the gulf. The road is lined with little panoramic villas hidden in lush gardens of fig trees and lemon orchards. Farmers sell their fresh produce at street corners. Cars squeeze through narrow alleys. Procida is a mythological isle. Legend has it that this was the kingdom of the beautiful mermaid Partenope who founded the city of Naples. Partenope and her two sisters lived inside a deep sea cave and ruled over the gulf. Then, one day, a ship carrying Greek hero Odysseus, sailing back home from burning Troy, happened to pass by and the sirens sang their lovely, enchanting song for the sad, lost warriors. Cunning Odysseus tied himself to the ship mast and plugged his ears to avoid falling prey to their magical chant, which was believed to bewitch men and make them drown. And so it is said that Partenope, unable to seduce Odysseus, let herself die. Her beautiful fishy body was lulled by the waves to eternal sleep before washing up on a rock on the mainland – giving birth to Naples.

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