Adored for its simplicity, panoramic views and natural island beauty, Procida — one of a group of five small islands that make up the Partenopeo Archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea just off the coast of Naples in the Campania region of southern Italy — has served as the backdrop for novelists and screenwriters alike.
One of the most notable novels set on Procida is Graziella, penned by Alphonse de Lamartine, who came to Procida at the beginning of the 19th century while a member of the French army. Another celebrated work is L’isola di Arturo (1957), one of the better literary efforts of Elsa Morante.
Hollywood and Italy’s counterpart Cinecittà (Cinema City) both came calling, too, as Procida has routinely been chosen for location shooting on a number of films due to its pastel panoramas and traditional Mediterranean architecture.
The most famous feature-length movies shot on Procida to date are The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), starring Matt Damon and Jude Law, and Il Postino: The Postman.
Il Postino tells a fictional story in which real-life Chilean poet and devout Marxist Pablo Neruda is exiled to a small Italian island for political reasons in the early 1950s. An unemployed son of a fisherman is hired on as an extra postman to exclusively hand-deliver the deluge of mail arriving daily due to Neruda’s residency.
Over time, the two form a relationship and soon the simple postman begins to love poetry. The postman, falling silently and madly in love with Beatrice, a barista at her aunt’s caffè, enlists Neruda’s help and guidance to express his feelings.
Il Postino stars French actor Philippe Noiret as Neruda, and Italian thesps Massimo Troisi as postman Mario and Maria Grazia Cucinotta as Beatrice. Sadly, writer-actor Troisi postponed much-needed open-heart surgery so that he could complete the feature, and the day after filming wrapped Troisi suffered a fatal heart attack and never saw the director’s final cut.
Fortunately, Troisi’s “capo lavoro” in Il Postino left behind a memorable and endearing performance for movie fans everywhere to enjoy again and again. He was posthumously nominated for a best-actor Oscar at the 1995 Academy Awards. Il Postino is must-see cinema and right up there with Cinema Paradiso (1989 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film), another small budget, big hit Italian classic.
And what about the tiny island of Procida? It’s situated between Capo Miseno and the island of Ischia. Spanning less than 4 sq. km. (2.4 sq. mi.), it has a very jagged coastline. Terra Murata (Walled Earth) is the island’s highest point, topping the horizon at 91 m (300 ft.). Geologically, Procida was created by the eruption of four, now dormant and submerged, volcanoes.
Mycenaeans, Greeks, Romans – who made Procida a patrician resort – Normans and French laid claim to the island over the centuries. Legend has it that the all-powerful Greek god Zeus exiled two misfits — Cercopes from Ephesus – who enjoyed playing pranks on the gods, to the islands of Ischia and Procida, turning them both into monkeys along the way.
Today, Procida remains an uncomplicated, simple, laid-back picturesque dot in the sea when compared to its vibrant, larger and more popular sister islands of Ischia and Capri.
Flourishing gardens and fragrant lemon and orange groves beckon travelers to its quaint port. It’s just the kind of charming retreat where a simple postman can while away the days writing poetry to impress and win over the woman he loves.
©The Palladian Traveler