In that regard, it did not disappoint. The window of our modest Airbnb was decorated with a typewriter because it was purportedly where Elsa Morante, the great Italian author, wrote her 1957 novel, “Arturo’s Island.”
“The Procidans are surly, taciturn,” Morante observed, adding, “The arrival of a stranger arouses not curiosity, but rather, distrust. If he asks questions, he is answered reluctantly because the people of my island don’t like their privacy spied on.”
All I spied through the bedroom window was a brood of hens and an incessantly noisy rooster, perched on the high branches of an orange tree. A path through the garden’s lemon groves led to a dilapidated outlook, its plaster of painted vines faded and fallen, that looked out onto the dark Chiaia beaches. To get to them, we walked through narrow alleys, down winding metal staircases or old concrete stairs as steep and straight as sluices.
We took an affordable boat ride around the island, with a stop for a dip in the cold, clear sea. To be honest, it was much less spectacular than a similar ride around Capri. There was no Blue Grotto. The Faraglioni of Procida are mere pebbles compared to the majestic rocks of Capri. The skipper in Capri had pointed out the cliff above which the Emperor Tiberius lived, and the Casa Malaparte, a favorite of fashion houses, which “doesn’t have paintings because the windows are the paintings,” he said. In contrast, our skipper in Procida shook his head at a concrete block with two tiny windows atop a small rise of Mediterranean scrub. “A squatter’s house, built overnight,” he said. “A travesty.”
At the Corricella fishing village, we grabbed fresh orange and lemon juice from La Locanda del Postino bar, where the movie was filmed. The mounds of white and brown fishing nets and lingering, leathery old men looked like props for another film. But the two fishermen bickering with one another for leaving a bucket on their boat were not acting.
“The people are going to go nuts,” said the chef at Caracalé when he finally inspected their haul of cod.
The food all over the island — from the cream-filled pastries in the form of ox tongues for breakfast to the nespolino nightcaps made from the seeds of loquats — is memorable, and compared to Capri, much more affordable.