Procida: la cultura non isola
the culture does not... island
In all its colorfulness, liveliness and sincerity, Procida has taken over my heart, soul… and a sketchbook. It became the most picturesque place I have seen so far: its bright coastline houses, mosaic door numbers and lemon arches made me feel that I got stuck in a real-life Pinterest search. Painting and drawing the view in watercolor and pencil, I captured it in my beloved travel sketchbook, which has accompanied me on all my trips since November.
Using the ferry as the way to get to Naples was not initially the plan; however, I had to be back to what my mom ultimately called my favourite island (ironically, I already had one before – in Denmark). My freckles can tell the story of Italy much better – they soaked all the sun and speak about the South to which I feel I deeply belong with my impulsive, emotional temper. By the end of ten days spent in Italy I was trying to order dishes in Italian and it took me a while to switch from grazie mille to dank je wel. The country, which is still on my list to be visited later many more times, enchanted me, and this small vibrant island was described by me as the most beautiful place I have ever seen.

We could only reach Procida by taking a ferry from a port of Pozuolli (where we had to drive). Before getting on a ferry back, we took a gelato next to the port, which was, in all the best Italian traditions, great. When on the very last ferry I wanted to draw more, I realized the sketchbooks were gone. They were left on the island – together with the part of my soul – being an important bit of all my travel memories.

I had to come back: sketchbooks, which were left at the gelateria, could not be simply forgotten. All of it – Berlin-Rotterdam-Paris-Moscow-more Rotterdam-Alicante-Turin-Sauze-Dortmund-Cologne-Naples-Procida – was captured in drawings and words, embracing a small A6 collection of moments of happiness and excitement.
In the morning I woke up at 7:30 to get ready and go to Procida, to pick up the forgotten sketchbooks. Sveta was making jokes that maybe I had to be there for some reason – perhaps, I would be back with Southern Italian Captain of a Ferry. She drove me to Pozzuoli, I took a ferry and got to the gelateria. The Captain part did not happen – but Procida remains a bright memory of this Italian journey. However, I received my sketchbooks back and walked around Procida: the impression of the first noticed brightness enhanced; the port and narrow streets, together with the pastel colors of the architecture, softened my disposition. I noticed more signs-drawings-mosaics-colors-lemons-pavements-stairs-arches-shutters-stones – the small-scale amazing interventions creating a lively environment in combination with the already vivid coastal houses.
Procida was awarded the title of Italy's cultural capital of 2022; this is where its authentic colourfulness combines with the formality, attracting many new projects and cultural events (for example, one day there are the origami boats planned to be launched). Already beloved by many, Procida has been the place for filmmakers and directors – the movie of Il Postino and The talent of Mr. Ripley were also filmed on the tiny island. When applying for the title, Procida showed the vision of la cultura non isola – which, as a wordplay, translates as both the culture does not isolate and the culture does not…island.

Small and subtle in its landscape Procida might be overlooked by travelers. However, compared to Capri and Ischia, it managed to maintain its originality and authenticity thanks to that fact. The smallest island in the Gulf of Naples fits in the surroundings – it appeared by the Earth movement from the magmatic activities of seven volcanoes. On the periphery of myths and legends, Procida is closely associated with Mycenaean Greece and, with the recently found objects, gives a hint of being inhabited already in 16-15 centuries BC.

Already Juvenal (the Roman satirical poet) described Procida as a place suitable for a peaceful stay in Satire III. This cute tiny island has its rich history: it lived from being a renowned resort for the Roman patrician class, later suffered devastation by Vandals and Goths, the feudal dominion, pirates, and shipbuilding crisis. 4 square kilometers encompass facts and stories; whereas colored houses embrace the deep meaning behind it. It has a smaller brother – the islet Vivara, accessible by a bridge.

Sailors were the most important part of the economy of the island; by earning money from sailing and fishing, the island could live well without tourists. Moreover, Procidans are proud of maintaining the island's genuineness, and, from an overheard conversation, are not exactly happy with the abundance of tourists coming to the island: they say, they can barely leave their houses during touristic seasons.

The architecture of Procida is something striking if you have never visited Southern Italy: full of colors stacked on each other, it stands out in a clear blue sky.

Colors of Procida are famous far beyond its borders and are dictated by its deeply rooted marine culture. Neighbouring houses rarely have the same color; moreover, most of them are painted differently so that fishermen and sailors could distinguish their homes far away from the sea. This reconciles architecture with the perplexity of everyday life and cultural features of the region. Settled in its landscape and oriented to the sea, chaotically arranged houses represent its spirit. The combination of narrow streets, staircases, colorful window shutters (for which there is a beautiful word persiane in Italian) and the relaxed pace of life on the island create an impression of being a part of a well-forgotten fairytale or a plot of your favourite romance novel.

Clothes drying outside reveals the southern spirit – fewer restrictions on interventions from people give space for self-expression. It feels like an essential need for Italians – probably, that is why I am in love with their fascinating culture. You can distinguish Italy not only by its colors and people, but simply by looking into details – prevalent massive arches allude to Romans, lemons on door signs tell you it is the South, wooden window shutters – persiane – remind you of Italy. All of it strengthened by expressive human chatter, gestures, and gentle pace, create the movie-like image of Italy you would always think of. It feels incredible to understand that the movies are, actually, showing it truthfully and accurately, that you easily start wondering – is there a camera around the corner to film you?

La cultura non isolathe culture does not island – was once again proven by all the way I took to come back to Procida for my sketchbook. If Procida being isolated did not stop me from coming back – what could stop the urge to paint and create, the temptation to be a part of that abovementioned culture? If it is a cultural capital for 2022, it is also the capital of my memories of Italy. When about to leave Procida, I almost got lost in the ferries which were to depart from the port. At 10:40, me and another French woman were running around the harbour to get on the ferry to Naples – this is how I remember my last minutes on Procida – running as if cutting its peacefulness in pieces, giving a last look to the port houses, arches, shutters and gelateria, which kept a part of my heart (with the sketchbook – two, actually).

When returning to Procida two days later, I saw a handmade tote bag that said – visit Procida, and could not walk away from it. Now, when the travel sketchbook acquired even more value, I am thinking of what traveling means to me, and how much love I got for all of my travel memories. What I do know for sure is that Procida is, as the tote bag I bought says, a place to visit; and Italy, undoubtedly, is a place where I want to come back.

With love,

Made on