The aperitifs arrived as the Capri sun dipped into an orange band across the Gulf of Naples and a couple on the terrace talked about how quiet the island had become. The hotel felt empty, and its barman, in elegant suit and tie, interrupted his revelry about the prepandemic days to shoo off a sea gull deprived of its usual tourist-scrap banquet.
“The birds,” the barman explained, “are famished.”
After more than a year of lockdown, the Italian islands off Naples are also hungry for visitors and a return to the bustling summer seasons that are their economic lifeblood. In May, glamorous Capri, that Italian Epcot of jet-set dreams, and its smaller, gritty sister, Procida, which feels like a neighborhood of Naples drifted out to sea, had managed to become among Italy’s first fully vaccinated islands. Prime Minister Mario Draghi urged travelers “to book your holidays in Italy.”
Those travelers who do have a chance of hitting a rare, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime sweet spot in which thinner crowds, wonderful weather and more motivated, vaccinated hospitality make for memorable stays. To be on the islands these days is to be present for the stirring of great beauties who, having slept late, are fully rested, rearing to go and full of aspirations about what the future might hold.
But the two islands want very different things. On Capri, luxury restaurant and hotel owners thirst for a return to V.I.P. normalcy, while some residents hope a momentary relief from the cruise ships might trigger a re-appreciation of the island’s biodiversity and local culture. On Procida, where the 17th-century pastel-colored fishing village has served as the picturesque Italian postcard backdrop for movies like “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Il Postino,” locals are both hopeful and wary that their inoculations and a surprise designation as Italy’s Capital of Culture for 2022 will thrust them into the upper echelon of southern Italian destinations.
但这两座岛屿所期待的东西却大相径庭。卡普里的豪华餐厅和酒店老板都渴望VIP常态的回归，而一些居民则希望能短暂地不受游轮打扰，好好重新欣赏岛上的生物多样性和本地文化。而在普罗奇达，色彩柔美的17世纪渔村曾被《天才瑞普利》(The Talented Mr. Ripley)和《邮差》(Il Postino)等电影当作展示意大利绝美风情的取景地，当地人保持着乐观谨慎的态度，因为接种了疫苗和意外被评为2022年意大利文化之都(Capital of Culture)，他们的岛屿将跻身意大利南部高端旅游目的地之列。
Yearning for authenticity
Despite having over time visited nearly every corner of Italy, I had never been to either. Capri’s crowds and schlock-and-awe reputation scared me off. Procida was eclipsed on my radar by its larger neighbor, Ischia. But their Covid-free status, proximity to my home in Rome, and need to get away after a brutal year all added up to it being time to go.
On that first night in Capri, my wife and I walked along winding bougainvillea-perfumed paths devoid of luxury shoppers and Limoncello-buzzed crowds. We looked nervously at all the shuttered restaurants and the clocks on our phones. Back then, curfew still fell over the island and all of Italy at 10 p.m. Like the sea gulls, we were hungry.
In the center of town, we followed some voices around a corner to the Hangout pub. Locals talked about school, and children ran around. We reluctantly ordered burgers and, as if characters in a Patricia Highsmith story, bumped into friends from Rome whose romantic getaway had turned into a reckoning over whether he cared more about her or his sailboat. Then their friend, the son of an Italian diplomat who had summered at his family villa in Capri for decades, turned the corner with his wife. We were suddenly a pod.
“Capri is coming back different, stronger,” Lorenzo Fornari, the Capri veteran, explained to me. He spoke rapturously about the Zagara orange blossoms growing atop the island’s towering Mount Solaro that he uses to flavor Solaro, the artisanal gin he had started making with local farmers.
A couple of days later I visited him in his terraced garden filled with kiwis, figs, lemons (one of which he plucked from a tree and used as a map to explain the island’s geography), wild fennel, even banana leaves.
“I swear,” he said. “Everything grows on this island.” A test batch of the spirits had just arrived from the distillery, and he dropped a sprig of rosemary into a glass of it before a final taste test. He approved and talked about how Capri needed more such sustainable projects, and how he worked with local artisans and a cooperative of farmers in Anacapri, the much larger, and less polished, part of an island, which, he said, had “a lot to offer.”
An exorbitant taxi ride across the island brought me to Anacapri, where a line of schoolchildren in uniform wished “buon appetito” to the people lunching in the garden of Gelsomina, one of the first spots on the island to serve the famously airy caprese ravioli, cheese-stuffed pasta sweetened with their garden’s tomatoes. As a waiter explained to a lone group of tourists that the island was usually overcrowded, his sister, Gelsomina Maresca, said “We are hoping that the Americans come back.” Just not too many of them, she added, as her mother cut baby artichokes in the kitchen. “Anacapri is getting bigger but we hope it will never arrive at the level of Capri. It’s too commercial. We’re authentic.”
Authenticity, of course, means different things to different people. Others in the fashionable center of the island argued that tourism and hospitality, starting with the Emperor Tiberius 2,000 years ago, were in Capri’s blood and that, for all its natural beauty, the island was not without its prodigal guests.
“What a pleasure to hear from you,” Nicolino Morgano, 64, the owner of the Scalinatella, a sumptuous boutique luxury hotel, said into the phone behind his front desk. He promised the return customer her usual room and impeccable service. Capri, he said to the woman on the phone, “is ready to give you the usual emotions.”
“People keep calling and saying they are coming and that ‘I want my table,’” said Francesco De Angelis, 55, whose family owns the venerable La Capannina restaurant. Days before reopening, four generations of the family, all vaccinated, sat in their quiet dining room, surrounded by clean glasses, photos of famous patrons such as Dustin Hoffman, and told stories about others, including Michael Douglas and Kirk Douglas, before him. They could feel Capri’s energy coming back.
“人们一直打电话来说，他们要来了，‘我要订我以前的那张桌，’”55岁的弗朗切斯科·德·安吉利斯(Francesco De Angelis)说，他家正是著名的La Capannina餐厅的老板。在重新开业的前几天，已经接种了疫苗的一家四代人坐在安静的餐厅里，周围是干净的玻璃杯，以及达斯汀·霍夫曼(Dustin Hoffman)等名流顾客的照片，他们还讲述了在霍夫曼之前光顾的其他名人的故事，包括迈克尔·道格拉斯(Michael Douglas)和柯克·道格拉斯(Kirk Douglas)。他们能感觉到卡普里岛的活力又回来了。
“It’s joy, joy, joy,” Mr. De Angelis said.
‘The year of rebirth’
Italy’s culture ministry also had reawakening in mind when it chose nearby Procida, a low-slung volcanic island of nearly 4 square kilometers (about 1.54 square miles) and 10,000 people, as 2022’s Capital of Culture. Procida would “accompany us in the year of rebirth,” the culture minister said in a decision that prompted what the Procida mayor, Raimondo Ambrosino, told me was an “explosion of joy.”
Mr. Ambrosino, who was an extra in “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” said Procida, the first island in Italy to be fully vaccinated, had planned a dense schedule of cultural events that included the “regeneration” of abandoned places. The ruined 16th-century Palazzo D’Avalos, which in 1830 became a prison that ultimately held some of Italy’s most hardened criminals until it closed in 1988, would become a cultural center. The old lighthouse could be a museum about the surrounding sea life. The old medieval walled Terra Murata town at the northern tip of the island, where the Abbazia San Michele Arcangelo features a Nativity scene made from shells, could be spruced up.
在《天才瑞普利》中跑过龙套的安布罗西诺说，作为意大利首个全面接种疫苗的岛屿，普罗奇达已经策划好了密集的文化活动日程，包括对废弃旧址的“重塑”。废弃的16世纪建筑达瓦洛斯宫(Palazzo D’Avalos)在1830年变成一座监狱，在1988年被关闭之前，这里关押了意大利一些重刑犯，后来又成了一个文化中心。古老的灯塔可以改建为一个介绍周边海洋生物的博物馆。位于岛屿北端的城镇特拉木拉塔(Terra Murata)被中世纪的古老围墙环绕，坐落于此的圣米歇尔·阿尔坎杰洛修道院(Abbazia San Michele Arcangelo)展示了以贝壳制成的耶稣诞生场景，这里也可以进行修缮。
But really, he said, they had no intention to make any big changes.
“We don’t have to do anything new,” Mr. Ambrosino said as he reclined in the shabby City Hall against an open window facing the sea. Maybe the national attention, government funds and additional tourist dollars could be used to refurbish the island’s many ruined buildings into new Airbnbs, he said, but there wasn’t any appetite for luxury hotel complexes. “They tried to build one once,” he said. “And it came to a bad end.”
If Capri is stained by decadence, Procida is marred with decay. But there is a Havana-like romance to its shabbiness, to the fallen plaster caught in chunks by nets above the altars or dusting the seats in the churches, to the older women with their forearms folded on windowpanes as they stare motionless at the sea, to the gray blotches left by disintegrating pastel facades that are like a Rorschach test on what type of Italy you see here. Is it run down or the real thing? Something to move beyond, or to keep at all costs?
Procida doesn’t seem sure either. The mayor acknowledges that the culture award would draw more tourists, but he says there are only so many ferries to bring them, and that the island nominated itself so that it could stay the same and “to tell our young people about our past so that they would understand they had a future.”
He saw Procida’s past, present and future as an authentic story of a seafaring people, where native sons, as they had for centuries, become fishermen and cruise and merchant ship captains. After long and often well-paid spells at sea, they would return to wild, almost imperial, gardens, fragrant with the lemon trees planted by their mariner ancestors who harvested citrus to fight scurvy at sea. But now those inhabitants favored oranges and apricots, angel’s trumpet flowers and broom. On land, they stroll unbothered down treacherous streets without sidewalks but filled with Vespas sputtering under portly drivers, tiny Ape trucks making deliveries of concrete, and hundreds of the whizzing electric bicycles, equipped with a little seat for a child or groceries, that have become the preferred mode of transportation.
“If anything,” Mr. Ambrosino said, “the Capital of Culture puts us too much in view.”
The last thing its locals wanted were crowds of tourists visiting discos, pubs and luxury boutiques to clog things up. God forbid anyone suggested they open up a tourist trap to sling coffee. “They want to be the guests. That’s why the rhythm is what it is. There’s no rush.”