Procida is one
of the Phlegrean islands off the coast of Naples in
southern Italy. The island is between Cape Miseno and the island of
its tiny satellite island of Vivara, it is a comune of the
province of Naples, in the region of Campania. The
population is about ten thousand.
The island derives its name from the Latin name Prochyta. Probably, this name
comes from Prima Cyme, meaning 'near Cuma'. According to another theory,
Prochyta comes from the Greek verb prokeitai, meaning 'it lies forth', because
of the appearance of the island seen from the sea.
Procida is located between Capo Miseno and the island of Ischia. It is less than
4 square kilometres (1.5 sq mi). Its coastlines, very jagged, are 16 km (10
miles). The Terra Murata hill is the highest point on the island (91 metres
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Byzantine reconquest in the
Gothic Wars (6th century)), Procida remained under the jurisdiction of the Duke
of Naples. The continual devastation first by the Vandals and Goths, and later
by the Saracens, pushed the population to resettle in a fortified village
typical of Medieval times. The population was sheltered by a cape, naturally
defended by walls that peak on the sea that were later fortified, thus acquiring
the name of Terra Murata, (Walled earthwork).
Testimonies from this period are from those who
manned the watchtowers on the sea, which became the symbol of the island. With
the Norman conquest of Southern Italy, Procida experienced feudal dominion; the
island, with a mainland annex (the future Mount of Procida), came under the
control of the Da Procida family which continued to hold the island for more
than two centuries. The most famous member of the family was John III of
Procida, counsellor to Emperor Frederick II and leader of the revolt of the
In the 1339, the fiefdom, together with the Island of Ischia, was handed over to
the Cossa family, of French origin, loyal followers of the Angevin dynasty then
reigning in Naples. Baldassare Cossa was elected Antipope in 1410 with the name
of John XXIII. In this period a deep economic transformation of the island began,
as agriculture was slowly abandoned in favour of fishing.
During the rule of Charles V the island was granted to the D'Avalos family.
Pirate raids continued during this period. Particularly notable was one in 1534,
led by the infamous Turk admiral Khair ad Din, better known as Barbarossa.
In 1744 King Charles III made Procida a royal game reserve. In this period the
Procidan fleet reached its zenith, backed by a period of flourishing
shipbuilding. The population rose to approximately 16,000. In 1799,
part in the revolts that led to the proclamation of the Neapolitan Republic.
With the return of the Bourbon dynasty a few months later 12 Procidans were
The Napoleonic Wars brought several episodes of devastation due to the island's
strategic position in the naval engagements between French and English. In 1860,
after the fall of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the island became part of the
newly formed Kingdom of Italy.
The 20th century
The 20th century saw a crisis in Procidan shipbuilding due to competition with
industrial conglomerates. In 1907 Procida lost its mainland territory, which
became independent and is commonly called the Mount of Procida (Monte di
In 1957, the first underwater aqueduct in Europe was built in
In the last few decades, the population has slowly begun to grow. The economy
remains in great part tied to the marine industry, although the tourist industry
has also grown.
There are many religious traditions on the island
tied to the period of Holy Week before Good Friday. The most evocative of these
are the Procession of the Apostles of Holy Thursday and the Procession of the
Mysteries of Good Friday. The last one is based on a tradition going back to the
end of the 17th century. In the procession, the young males of the island,
dressed in the traditional dress of the "Confraternity of the Turchini", carry
allegorical wagons (called "mysteries") of religious character for a fixed
distance, from the village of Torre Murata to the port of Marina Grande. The "mysteries",
often highly artistic, are prepared by the young people and generally nobody
except them would have, at least in theory, seen them before the procession.
After the procession, they are taken apart or destroyed.
Every summer, there is an election of the Graziella ("Little Graceful"), a young
woman that wears the customary clothes of the island, referring to the history
told in Alphonse de Lamartine's novel, Graziella. Also during the summer, a
literary award dedicated to Elsa Morante and her novel, Arthur's Island, is