Island Fever

In keeping with the ‘outdoors, by the sea’ theme of our Mother-Daughter trip, islands played a big role in our itinerary.  We visited three – well-known Capri, lesser known Ischia and the even lesser known island of Procida.  Along the way a funny thing happened.  The more time I spent on the islands, the longer I wanted to stay.


On the ferry to Procida.

Like all true Canadians – which excludes Snowbirds and anyone living in the Banana Belt of southern Vancouver Island –  I know all about Cabin Fever – a seasonal malady that strikes anyone who is stuck indoors in confined quarters for an extended period because of an aversion to one or all of – freezing rain, clothes soaked by slush from the spray of passing cars, slipping on black ice, clearing snow off the front and rear windshields – and don’t forget the roof!, digging her car out of the packed ice/snow mound left by a snow plough.  I could go on, but that’s the gist of it.  I wondered if there was such a thing as ‘Island Fever’, which instead of the dreary cabin syndrome would be the blissful state of longing I was experiencing?  I decided to take a meander around the web to see if anything came up.  Up popped pages of sites.  Who knew?  It’s a real thing.  One site described it as ‘a psychological illness involving feelings of  claustrophobia and a sense of disconnection from the world’. It sounded a lot like Cabin Fever, except that instead of being shut in by snow and ice, the feelings of claustrophobia came from the closeness of the shoreline, which presumably the afflicted were walking along.  In bare feet.  Under blue skies.  The fact that so many of the discussions focused on Hawaii didn’t help.


Earlier, on the ferry from Sorrento to Ischia we had passed by an enchanting little island complete with pastel-tinted buildings hugging the shore. I hoped it was Procida.

I dropped ‘island’ and googled ‘fever’ to see if something more helpful came up.   While it would be a stretch to call what I found relevant, I did come across enough bits and pieces to make my fever-focused, virtual peregrination well worth the time spent.  Naysayers of random web-surfing take note.  You just have to exercise a little discipline.  No lingering on the Mayo Clinic site, that venerable source of infinite maladies, or you’ll soon be convinced you’ve got some terrible disease you’d never even heard of.  Although – even they conceded that a fever might not be all doom and gloom, but rather ‘a sign that something out of the ordinary is going on in your body.’  The Mayo clinic somehow led to ‘Roman Fever’, Edith Wharton’s short story of two American women reminiscing by the Colosseum in Rome with a brilliant twist at the end.  And then, in the byzantine ways our minds work, ‘Roman Fever’ reminded me of ‘The Painted Door’ by Sinclair Ross, another short story with a heart-stopping ending.  Worried that things might be getting out of hand I shut down Google.

During our stay on Ischia, rather than dragging my daughter around the gardens, which I had already visited (‘Leaving Room for a Little Whimsy’, Jan 19, 2014; ‘Are Gardeners All a Little Crazy?’ – La Mortella, Part I, Jan. 26 and A Sense of Place – La Mortella Part II, Feb. 2, 2014) we took a ferry to Procida a few kilometres north of Ischia.  I was curious to see the island where much of Il Postino was filmed.  Not Kevin Costner’s post-apocalyptic ‘Postman’;  I’m talking about the 1994 movie by Michael Radford which portrays the fictional relationship between a postman and the exiled Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda.

Procida’s main harbour is on the north-east end of the island.  It took me a while to get used to that.  Its being on the north side, I mean.  My inner compass had impazzito (im-pats-zee-toe).  Gone crazy.  Again.  It had already happened on previous trips to Sorrento.  Sorrento is on the south shore of the Bay of Naples, which means that when you’re standing at the railing next to the Villa Comunale waiting for the perfect sunset shot of Vesuvius across the bay you’re facing NORTH.   But it always feels as if I’m facing south and the sun is setting where it should be rising.  In this ‘Post-truth’ era we’re apparently now living in, it’s an unsettling feeling.


Approaching the ferry harbour of Procida. On the NORTH shore of the island.

I’m beginning to wondering if my inner GPS’ bias for the south whenever I’m this side of Rome has anything to do with having grown up inundated with visions of the ‘Great White North’.  As if in this sun-drenched part of the world, the ‘True North’, as we northerners know it, does not exist.   Luckily Procida is small – barely four  –  so it doesn’t matter.  No matter which way you head, you’ll come to the sea before you even know you’re going the wrong way.


The façades of the buildings along the harbour were still in the shade, but given the laundry hanging from the balconies, not for long.


A carousel lends an earthy touch to  Santa Maria della Pietà.

Close to the church a narrow road leads up to Terra Murata (Walled Village), the highest point of the island, where the ancient settlers were somewhat protected from a seemingly endless line of would-be conquerors.


The road got steeper the higher we climbed. I’m sure of it.


Doesn’t papyrus have to grow in water?


From the ferry it was obvious why the early settlers had chosen this part of the island for their walled village.  From a distance it hadn’t looked as if the climb would be that arduous.


Luckily there were lots of places that required a stop to take a photo or two.  Or to catch your breath.

When we finally reached the top, 91 meters above sea level, we had a quick look inside the Abbey of St. Michael.



It was fascinating – and I’ll come back to it on my next visit, which I’ve already booked – the best antidote to the post-trip blues being to book the next trip – but for now we were in the mood for blue skies and the sea air.  We started down the hill to Corricella, the village of pastel-tinted homes I had wondered about on our way to Ischia.


Corricella is as far as we got.  Who knew 4 sq.k. could be so big?


To the left of this photo, at the end of Procida, a pedestrian bridge leads to the even smaller island of Vivara, a protected nature reserve.


I tried not to think about the fact that the only way to the ferry was back up these same stairs.  I did not want anything to spoil my enjoyment of the wine I was going to have with lunch.

We walked along the harbour checking out places to eat.  Apparently, when she was younger, this used to drive my daughter crazy.  Now she enjoys the search as much as I do.  At least I think she does.



Definitely not Capri.  In fact I don’t recall ever having seen a real fishing boat anywhere in Capri.


How do they ever keep those nets in order? Next visit I’ll try to be at the harbour in time to watch the boats come in.


It was the view from the terrace of La Lampara, the white building with blue trim at the far end of the harbour, that made us choose it for lunch.


The cozze grigliate – grilled mussels – a first for both of us – washed down with local white wine were as lovely as the view.

While we waited for our order to arrive I used up a lot of space on my camera’s chip taking shots of the harbour. The reflections reminded me of Burano, the island of lace-makers and fishermen north-east of Venice.  Does the water here ever get as still as it does along the canals?  I can’t wait to come back and see.


Next – A different side of Capri





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5 Responses to Island Fever

  1. LMSantarossa says:

    I love Il Postino! I think I have a VHS and a DVD! I was in Ischia for an afternoon 45 years ago. I keep dreaming of going back. Your daughter is beautiful! The Italians must love her.

  2. LMSantarossa says:

    This post made me so want to book a trip to the south of Italy. I’ve only been as far as Sorrento, then across by train to Brindisi where I too a ferry to Greece. I was 20. I love Il Postino! I think I have a VHS and a DVD! I was in Ischia for an afternoon 45 years ago. I keep dreaming of going back. Your daughter is beautiful! The Italians must love her.

    • donnafenice says:

      I love ‘Il Postino’ too. After the trip I tried to rent it but none of the video stores I know carry it. And yes, my daughter was a hit with the Italians. Even though I did feel a bit of a frump next to her, they were all extremely respectful, quite sweet and I don’t think she minded at all. Good luck with your TICO designation!

  3. Isabelle says:

    Donna, your blogs are the BEST! I enjoy them tremendously as I hope everyone else also does who has the good fortune to receive them. Isabelle

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