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Terra Murata and Casale Vascello Procida

“Terra Murata”, the highest point on the Island at 90 metres, is the historic centre of Procida, the old “heart” of the Island, the towns oldest and only safe refuge for the islanders during centuries of political uncertainty. In fact, Terra Murata, although it was always a town, is a veritable fortress built purely for defensive purposes. Although protected by cliffs along the sea beyond the fortified walls, Terra Murata can seem to the visitor a place inviolable. Not only the walls, which were erected in the 15th Century but the whole village, was built for defensive purposes to protect its citizens against invasions from the early medieval Barbarian Saracens until the pillaging ended at the beginning of the 16th Century. In fact, before the construction of the walls, the houses themselves served as a shield from the Earth. They were built without leaving spaces between each other, one of top of another and with almost no opening to the outside, still today, the outer side of Terra Murata leaves the impression of being unfriendly and hostile.

Once past the steep incline and through the two majestic entrance ways into Terra Murata, one is rewarded by its medieval atmosphere, narrow streets and typical housing, a refreshing breeze, particularly during the warmer months and of course stunning views over the Bay of Naples. There is quite a difference between the outside fortress and that of the interior. The houses have been built with many openings, balconies, terraces, external staircases, arches and the facades are in the typical pastel colours also found in other parts of the Island. The most prominent building in Terra Murata is the Palazzo D’Avalos, built in the 15th Centruy by the D’Avalos family, rulers of the Island until the 17th Century. In 1830, the building was converted into a prison and was eventually closed in 1988. Currently, the Palazzo D’Avalos can only be seen from the outside. The religious and cultural core is the ‘Abbey of San Michele Arcangelo’ a Benedictine foundation dating back to the eleventh Century, destroyed an rebuilt over the centuries, its current architecture being 15th Century. Once inside the Abbey you can admire its alters, paintings and statues, whilst the lower floors hold the Ossuary and Museum complex with a library containing 8,000 books and manuscripts. For those wanting to avoid the steep climb into Terra Murata there is a bus service – C2, which leaves from Marina Grande every 40 minutes (behind the Church located in the centre of Piazza Marina Grande) and arrives at “Piazza delle Armi”.
It is well worth asking for an explanation on both the history and traditions of Terra Murata and the Abbey of San Michele Arcangelo by the experts of the Millennium Association.

The “Casale Vascello”, a large courtyard surrounded by tall terraced houses, is a unique example of residential architecture as well as being fortified. This area dates back to the 15th Centrury and was one of the first settlements build outside the township of Terra Murata. It is accessable only through narrow passages, including one from Via Principessa Margherita starting from Piazza dei Martiri. Once again inside you can admire the traditional architecture of Procida; its housing, balconies, external stairscases and arches centered around a communal courtyard.