In the waters of the Gulf of Naples, between the Phlegraean Islands and the Area Marina Protetta Regno di Nettuno, in English, Marine Protected Area of Kingdom of Neptune, there is a small island that fascinates everyone with its wonders: the spectacular Procida, Neapolitan pride, elected capital of Culture 2022.
A popular destination for tourists, Procida amazes its visitors with the cheerful pastel colors of the fishermen’s houses and its spectacular landscapes and sunsets. Riches that inspired literati such as Elsa Morante who describes the island in her work Arturo’s island and directors, like the beloved Massimo Troisi who shot on the island many scenes of the famous film The Postman. What fascinates about Procida are also the mysterious legends and incredible tales, born in an indefinite time that are now part of the history of the island.
The origin of the name Procida: between history and beliefs
The name of the island of Procida remained unchanged for a long time. There are several hypotheses related to its origin, which still today appears as an unsolvable mystery. The Romans they called it Prochyta, which would derive from Prima Cyma, that is next to Cuma. According to this hypothesis, the name was to indicate not only the geographical position of the island but also as it probably appeared in the eyes of sailors.
Those who came from the sea saw this small island behind which stood out the Neapolitan land. Thus, according to some, the island was colonized by the Greeks even before Cuma was founded. In a reconstruction of the philosopher Abbate Scotti, born in Procida in the eighteenth century, instead, the appellation Prima Cyma or its abbreviation Pro Cyma, would have derived from the misspelling of a Jewish or Aramaic term that indicated the proximity of the island not to Cuma but to the top, that of Cape Miseno, which stands right behind his shoulders.
According to hypotheses formulated at the time of Greek, the name of the island derives from the term pròkeitai, that is lie (on the sea), as the small land seen from the sea appears. Geologically Procida is a land of volcanic origins, born as a result of the movements of the earth caused by the force of the magmatic activity of seven volcanoes. From the consequent deformation of the Earth’s crust seems to have emerged Procida, whose name it would be to be sought from the Greek verb prochyo: hence the term proikeein, that is profuse, raised or put out of the depth of the abyss.
Procida in Greek legend and myth
The Roman historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus, said Dionisio, he imagined a fantastic story. During his studies, in fact, Dionysius came across the great epic poem of Virgil, the Aeneid, which tells about the legendary exploits of the hero Aeneas. In his story the nurse of Aeneas was called Procida and died at sea during the journey that the hero made to Rome. So Aeneas decided to bury her on a small island, near Vivara, which from that day would forever bear the name of Procida.
Greek mythology provides yet another explanation for the origin of Procida: the Gigantomachia, a bloody battle that took place between the Gods of Olympus and the Giants. The latter rebelled against the Gods and challenged them off the coast of Cape Miseno. The powerful gods managed to defeat the three Giants and punished them like this: on the shoulders of the giant Tifeo threw Ischia, the immense Vesuvius, instead, crushed Alcioneo. At the last and smallest of the three giants, Mimante, instead touched Procida, under whom he still lies today.
The Legend of St. Michael the Archangel
The island of Procida was often plundered by the raids of the Pirates. In 1535, however, the dreaded Barbarossa landed on the beaches of Procida and pillaged the island. At this dramatic siege the Islanders could not resist and it is said that they called for the help of their patron, Saint Michael The Archangel. He received the scream of his protectees and descended menacingly from the sky, wielding his fiery sword in his hands. The Pirates, frightened and helpless in the face of all this, could only flee away in a lightning storm that lashed at them. In a sign of deep gratitude the islanders dedicated to the saint the abbey that dominates the walled tower.
What do you expect to see up close the places of these fascinating tales?