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Dawn in Monte di Procida

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WORLD Radio - Dawn in Monte di Procida

Italian fishermen and their families return to their roots after moving to the United States


Little harbour in Procida island IvanBastien/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Friday, February 9th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Up next: the call of the sea.

Working as a fisherman is difficult. A lot of hard work, little income and a lot of sacrifice. But once you have experienced life on a fishing boat, it is hard to go back to anything else.

BROWN: WORLD Associate Correspondent Chiara Lamberti brings us this audio post card from an Italian fishing village.

MUSIC: [SOLE MIO]

CHIARA LAMBERTI: Monte di Procida is a small village in the province of Naples, built on a hill that falls sheer to the sea.

Its few inhabitants breathe in the saltiness of the air every day. Every evening, watching the sun dip into the sea, they know what the weather will be like the next day.

It’s a very quiet village and its streets are almost always empty—unless you go down to the small port.

SOUND: [Activity at the port]

At 7 a.m. boats are returning to the small harbor. They’ve been out since 3 this morning, fishing and gathering what the sea has to offer.

The boats are all different colors. The locals can tell which fisherman is coming by the color of the boat.

On the backs of the boats, as they dock, you can catch a glimpse of buckets of fish. Their scales glisten in the first light of day.

From the pier, you can hear customers shouting to ask which are the best fish caught. When the fishermen land, it is the customers crowded on the pier who help them with ropes. Everyone here knows each other and has experience with the sea.

For generations, the men of the village have handed down information to each other to learn how to recognize winds, currents, fish spawning seasons, and the most effective fishing techniques.

AUDIO: [Man speaking Italian]

For the oldest fishermen, the depths of the Gulf of Monte di Procida hold no secrets for them. These waters are full of octopus, cuttlefish, squid, gilthead, mackerel, small tuna, redfish, amberjack, fluke—all these make up the basis of the local cuisine.

But while the sea calls to everyone born here, not everyone can stay. After World War Two, some families were so poor that they did not have enough money to buy a boat and nets. So they sought their fortunes further away.

ILLIANO: I come from a family of fishermen. Back in 1976 we decided to emigrate in the U.S. in order to make a little money to buy a big fishing boat.

Alfonso Illiano left Monte di Procida and went to the United States for what he thought would be only a few years.

ILLIANO: But after being there for so many years, we realized it wasn’t the case. It was worthwhile to stay in the States instead of coming back here to do fishing.

Illiano is not the only one. Everyone in Monte di Procida has at least one relative on the East Coast of the U.S.

Giuliano Carrannante lived for 40 years in New Jersey. Carrannante always planned to return to become a fisherman, but along the way, life happened.

CARRANNANTE: I got a beautiful family overseas. Wife, three kids, six grandkids.

Carrannante is grateful, but as soon as he retired and got his pension, he and his wife started coming back to Monte di Procida.

CARRANNANTE: I’m here every year, four or five months of the year. And I love it.

He spends his days down at the port with the fishermen.

CARRANNANTE: We throw the net out at night, and in the morning we go and pick it up. See the wheels there? That brings it in.

After decades in the restaurant business, Alfonso Illiano also recently retired. Like Carrannante, he is using the time he has now to return to his village and live a more traditional way of life. He wakes up early and comes down to the port to spend time surrounded by the fishermen.

ILLIANO: That’s what I want, that’s what I’m looking for, no more than that. I don’t want anything more. I don’t need anything more. Go back to the roots.

SOUND: [Activity at the port]

Down at the port, customers have bought their fish. The fishermen stay to clean and mend the nets where they broke. Then they’ll go home to get some well-deserved rest—until 3 a.m. tomorrow, when they’ll go out onto the sea again.

MUSIC: [SOLE MIO]

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Chiara Lamberti in Monte di Procida, Italy.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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