Culture

To be a teen on a tiny island

Procida, Italy, spans 1.6 square miles. For some of its young dreamers, that may not be big enough.
Culture

To be a teen on a tiny island

Procida, Italy, spans 1.6 square miles. For some of its young dreamers, that may not be big enough.

When you’re a teen, the future is often halfway between a far-off dream and a certainty that you can shape as you please. You’ve been alive long enough to know what you want but not quite long enough to feel crushed by existence, ready to give up on choosing your happiness. For the youth of the tiny island of Procida, which sits off the coast of Italy, just a little bigger than Central Park, the future is a matter of practicality and pursuing dreams: leaving home to find career success, finding a balance between family and work, observing tradition, letting go of home. Photographer Marta Giaccone has been spending time in Procida, documenting the life and times of one crew.

This is how she explained it: “Inspired by Arturo, the main character of the Elsa Morante’s novel L’isola di Arturo, I visited Procida, the small island where the story takes place. Arturo, all alone, leads, a wild and magical life in Italy in the late ‘30s. I wanted to find my own Arturos and I made friends with a group of teens. They welcomed me and let me in to this delicate and tumultuous period of their lives. I asked them to take me to their favorite places and so I discovered a little spot of earth outside of time. It seems to me I found the same atmosphere described in the book: a sort of enchantment Procida casts over its inhabitants who, very attached to their isle, live on a land faraway from everyone and everything.”

Here is a peek into their lives and plans for a future that is closer than it may seem.

Macallan Rare Cask

SORAYA, 15

Soraya: I think I want to go to sea as a purser on cruise ships. Pursers are like a second captain because they are responsible for all administration and supply and report directly to the captain. A shipboard job typically lasts six months and then I’d come back to Procida for three to four months.

I don’t think I would mind being away from my family and my island but if I want to start my own family this kind of job is not suitable at all. I would be at home for four months at a time, then mother’s leave is six months so I would miss a shipboard job and also by then the baby would be too young to leave him at home. Once I decide it’s time to start a family I won’t be able to work at sea anymore. But once you’re used to life at sea, life on land is boring.

“I don’t know what I want to do when I’m older but I want to leave Procida and Italy.” — Giorgia, 15

YLENIA, 12

Ylenia: When you’re in your third year at the nautical high school you must choose which way you want to take: captain or engine driver and I will go for captain because I want a future on cruise ships. I want to become a purser, basically you walk around and ask passengers if everything is fine, if they need anything. The captain sets the routes and takes care of all the documents while the purser is a sort of helper and reports to him. Procida has had this tradition for a very long time.

Many young people here choose a life out to sea but our island doesn’t offer ships big enough — we only have ferries and hydrofoils. Here we grow up alongside ships and the sea; for example, my father started working on ships at 14 and now is a captain. I don’t see much of him as my parents are separated and he is always away.

I will be sad to be away from Procida because I was born and grew up here but it’s for work. When I start making good money I will send some to my mother. It’s hard to have your own family with this way of life because if your boyfriend works on ships as well it’s hard to get days off at the same time. Maybe after a few years I can stop and have a baby. I will get married in Procida in the same church where I was baptized and had my communion and confirmation. I don’t know if I will live in Procida or leave but I would like to stay so one day I can walk around the island with my kids and tell them “Here I went on a great adventure,” just like my mom does with me.

MIMì, 15

Mimì: I don’t see my future here because Procida, no matter how beautiful it is, cannot give you a future if you want a successful career. It would still be a wonderful place to come on holiday because... look, it’s beautiful! There is no university here, everyone who has studied went to Naples or Rome or even Milan, but no one started their business in Procida. They started where they studied and then returned here.

Many jobs have been passed down from one generation to the next. I want to become an architect; there are about two or three who live here but they all have their businesses in Naples because what more can you build here? It’s all taken. If you want to build something new you would need to take something down, but the most beautiful houses are the older ones so it must stay this way.

“I don’t see my future here because Procida, no matter how beautiful it is, cannot give you a future if you want a successful career.” — Mimì, 15

FABIANA, 12 and GIORGIA, 15

Fabiana: When I’m older I want to be a hairdresser in Procida because I’ve loved everything about hair ever since I was little. After middle school I will go to the Human Sciences high school like my sister.

Giorgia: I don’t know what I want to do when I’m older but I want to leave Procida and Italy.

GAIA, 15

Gaia: My dream is to become a hip-hop dancer so I don’t think I will stay in Procida. I will travel abroad or other parts of Italy that are more advanced as far as dance is concerned. To be a hip-hop dancer I think you need a lot of experience. But at the same time I also want to start my own family. Experiences come first, and then I will need to find a home. Home will be a city, or an island; I don’t know yet where I will be able to do my job in the best of ways. If I need to move away from Procida, I will bring my kids here to know this little colorful island because if you look at it, even if you’re on the ferry and look out, you see it and go, ‘Wow.’

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Marta Giaccone is a documentary photographer focusing on family, youth, and women.