Travel

Moments from a weekend on Procida

Posted on July 21, 2015

One: Lemon salad

We were on the bus, jolting down a terrifyingly narrow street, when I learned how to make lemon salad. I was perched sideways on a slippery plastic bucket seat that made cracking noises whenever the bus hit a pothole or a poorly placed cobblestone, and Alessandro was wedged in the back with a young family. Like us, everyone on the bus was on their way to the beach and generally looking very relaxed and jovial in the way a person does when they know that they’re minutes from a lounge chair next to the sea.

I can’t remember exactly how the conversation turned to lemon salad. It’s likely that I made a comment about the lemon trees visible from the bus windows – Procida is home to a specific type of lemon that reaches the size of a small, knobby boulder, and it’s almost comical to see them dangling heavily from the slender branches of a tree. In any case, the individual conversations on the bus ceased and then re-formed, as a group, around the topic of Procida’s famous insalata di limone. 

The woman next to Alessandro began to reel off a list of the ingredients – the lemons, obviously, but also an abundance of olive oil, chilli pepper flakes, mint, onion – and then a guy jumped in to debate that the onion was, in fact, optional, but garlic was essential. This caused some degree of disagreement and muttering (Italians hold strong opinions on matters related to onions and garlic), which gave the woman seated in front of me an opportunity to twist around and insert herself into the conversation with a detailed explanation of exactly how the lemon itself should be prepared (for the record, you shave off the yellow peel, but otherwise eat the entire thing, substantial spongey white pith included).

That night, at dinner, I ordered the lemon salad. The waiter delivered a little white bowl of it with a flourish – the famous lemon salad of Procida! – and I looked down to see immense chunks of spongey white lemon pith swimming in a luxurious quantity of olive oil, the whole thing peppered with flecks of chilli pepper and bits of garlic, and noticeably onion-free.

It was… interesting. Good, even – or, at least, it certainly wasn’t bad. It exceeded my expectations, but to be honest, my expectations of a dish comprised primarily of a normally discarded part of a lemon hacked up into cubes weren’t exactly high to begin with. I enjoyed trying it. I probably wouldn’t order it again.


Two: Book your sandwich

I was draped over a lounge chair on the beach, half asleep, when a loudspeaker crackled to life in the bar – a hut, really; just a battered espresso machine under a little roof – behind me.

Attenzione!”, announced a slightly disembodied but authoritative voice. “If you would like to have a sandwich for lunch, you must book it beforehand at the bar! I repeat, you must book your sandwich in advance!

I laughed. The Italian word used was not the equivalent of to order, but rather to book, to reserve, which seemed fitting for a table in a restaurant or a train ticket but not so much for a few slices of tomato between two pieces of bread. The Italians propelled themselves off their lounge chairs and towards the bar, presumably finding nothing strange at all about this lunch-time situation; one that I hadn’t yet encountered in the larger beach clubs with fully equipped kitchens and a more liberal attitude towards sandwich acquisition.

An hour later, the sandwiches were handed out in little plastic bags along with carefully folded squares of paper towel, which felt oddly reminiscent of a school field trip.

Later in the afternoon, the loudspeaker came to life again: “Attenzione! There is granita di limone at the bar! Granita di limone… at the bar!” It sounded like a warning, not an advertisement.


Three: Just a drop

After returning from the beach I left Alessandro to nap in the hotel room, spread-eagled dramatically over the bed in exhaustion, while I grabbed my camera and headed out to wander through the town. Eventually, deciding that a granita di caffè was necessary, I sat down at a little bar beside the marina.

I was savouring the granita, staring out at the sea and generally ignoring everything around me when a man, tanned to the point where he resembled a well-worn shoe, appeared in front of me, brandishing a glass of prosecco.

“You are alone,” he stated, “and you know you can’t eat alone, it’s bad luck!”

He pointed at the glass of prosecco, then inclined his head towards a group of tables hastily shoved together where about ten middle-aged men, each one tanned darker than the next, were assembling. Someone whipped the lid off a box to reveal a mound of Neapolitan pastries. Someone else plunked a few bottles down. The owner of the bar rushed over with a cake on a foil-covered tray.

“You must come join us. We are celebrating Giuseppe’s new fishing boat”. I shook my head. “Dai!” he insisted, “just a drop of prosecco!” At this point, the men were squeezing another plastic chair around the table and pushing a glass towards me, then loading up a paper plate with pastries. I clearly couldn’t back out of this invitation.

And so I spent the next half hour with a group of fishermen – real island men, who spent each day on the sea – alternating between making toasts to a shiny new fishing boat that I had never seen and answering a barrage of curious questions, all in strong, almost indecipherable Neapolitan accents, about how a Canadian girl ends up living in Italy.

Share this post: Pinterest Facebook Twitter

Comments on this post

Yasmine 22 July 2015 at 11:37 am

Beautiful photos. That’s it, I’m definitely going to have to visit Procida when I’m in Naples in September – it looks like a perfect little Italian island!

Yasmine | http://peekingduck.co

    Sara White 22 July 2015 at 11:42 am

    Thanks Yasmine! Definitely take a trip to Procida, it’s quickly become one of my favourite places in Italy – and it’s so convenient from the Naples harbour (about 45 minutes each way) that you can easily do it as a day trip too. September will be a lovely time to visit, I think.

Natalie 14 August 2015 at 3:19 pm

Ah! I love Procida. These photos capture in perfectly, and it sounds like you had the true island experience. Makes me wonder if we can still squeeze in a weekend there in September… maybe!

Myk 30 August 2015 at 9:54 pm

Great pics and interesting stories, as always.

Leave a comment

Recently Written

Travel

Bold and stark: The colours of Burano

Burano is a strange kind of place. If you search for photos of it, you’ll mostly come up with shots of ultra-saturated rainbow-hued buildings bathed in golden sunlight and girls in sundresses twirling cheerfully in front of doorways. Any maybe it’s like that during the spring or summer, when it’s warm enough that your lips don’t feel numb with cold after a few minutes of wandering around – but I was there in winter, mid-January, the deepest part of the season where sundresses and warm sunlight felt like a long-lost memory. So Burano, a tiny island in the Venetian lagoon, felt...

Food

Winter isn’t over yet: A warmly-spiced cookie recipe to keep you cozy

The wind is blowing hard today, a cuttingly cold wind that slices its way down through the narrow streets, slamming shutters back and forth on their hinges and ripping leaves and twigs off plants. The sky is brilliantly, deceptively blue; it looks like a perfect nearly-spring day until the wind gusts again and tips over a parked bicycle while sending a stray plastic bag flying through the air. “Senti che tramontana”, remarks an older man at the market as his scarf whips out behind him. The tramontana is a cold wind that comes from the north, from somewhere cold and snow-covered...

Travel

Venice: The allure of Italy’s most unique city

If you ask me, a good portion of Venice’s appeal lies in that fact that it seems so unbelievable. Here is a city that regularly floods, seawater gushing out of canals and covering sidewalks, creeping under doorways to invade homes and businesses. Here is a city of islands knit together by over four hundred small bridges, a city where water replaces streets, where boats replace cars, trucks, scooters and bikes. Here is a city that seems hostile towards the very old, the very young, the disabled, the distracted, and anyone who has to pull a wheeled suitcase for any distance...

Life

The trauma of underwear shopping in Italy

The scene played out something like this: I was in Intimissimi, enclosed in one of those woefully undersized changing compartments harshly lit by hot and unforgiving halogen bulbs and closed off from the rest of the store by a single strip of beige canvas that left a two-inch gap on either side no matter how firmly I tugged on the fabric. I was also in the middle of trying on a new bra, which is always a traumatic experience in and of itself. So I was standing there in that tiny cubicle, undressed, wincing at the effect of the world’s...

Food

A bright cranberry cake for those cold winter days

In most places, the holidays are officially over. By now, decorations are making their way back into boxes, people are back at work, and schools are back in session – a return to the usual, now that the new year has kicked off and gotten underway. In Italy, though, things aren’t finished quite yet. While the bulk of the festivities are over, there’s still January 6th – the holiday of Epiphany – to get through before real life really gets going again. Decorations stay up, trees stay lit, and streets stay draped with lights until at least the 6th –...

Life

Momentum

About a year ago, as 2017 started winding down, I found myself thinking that my life was feeling just a little bit stagnant in a few ways. The last couple of years had been pretty uneventful and consistent, which always seems like a really good thing until it goes on that way for just a bit too long and starts to feel more like being stuck in a rut than moving smoothly along. So I told myself that 2018 would be a year of change – by which I mostly meant growth and learning, where and when I wanted it...

View more posts
Show me posts about...