RANDOM TRAVEL TIPS:
Always carry a little toilet paper or napkin in your pocket. Multiple benefits.
Always carry a water bottle. You can refill them at public springs that are all over every place I’ve visited.
Use the restroom when you have the opportunity. When necessary, find a nice looking bar/cafe for a cappuccino break and use the restroom there.
Learn how to say compliments to the people around you. Nice words and the effort opens doors (I’m not suggesting to be fake, just gracious).
In your suitcase, pack an extra zip lock bag and an old plastic shopping bag.
Ok, on to the activities of the past day or two…
Salerno has a gritty charm and breathtaking beauty that is different from the other places I’ve visited so far in Italy. I walked around the city after returning from Paestum and visited the Duomo (barely, it closed within minutes of my arrival), many beautiful piazzas, and the Museo Dioceseno San Matteo. Many travelers suggest letting yourself wander without an agenda and getting lost in a city and that’s what I did, which is how I ended up being ushered into the Diocese Museum. Though it was 5 minutes before closing, a man at the door told me I could go up to have a look before they locked up. It was incredible and I got to see the worlds oldest ivory tablets from the Christian Middle Ages. The 69 tablets, depicting the Old and New Testaments, were lost and dispersed around the globe and have all been reunited. However, I almost got locked in, as the man who ushered me in left work for the day and when I tried to exit, the huge door (seen in the photo above) was locked. I had that throw up panic feeling starting to churn in my stomach (a similar situation occurred recently in a cemetary, of all places!). Thankfully, I found another worker who let me out. PHEW.
THE NEXT DAY: Now I am on the fastest train ever going (in a tunnel for a large part of the trip) from Salerno to Pompeii. I was afraid I would miss my train when I woke up this morning because my shower would not work. If I could even tell you how much I sweated yesterday, you would know the situation of a malfunctioning shower was dire. In my pajamas, I wasn’t sure what do do expect call the B&B cell number, though no one answered. After messing around looking for help for about 10 minutes, I had to act fast and basically bathe in the sink. Not to brag, but I was a impressed with my adaptability and got the job done. By the time the owners of the B&B arrived, I was dressed and ready to check out. They kindly gave me a 10 euro refund which was actually a large percentage of the bargain rate and as I was leaving, the owner, apologizing again and again, gave me a little boat souvenir. Although it was an inconvenience, they were so nice about it, my irritation was quickly quelled.
I should be too embarrassed to admit this, but I watched the cheesy Hollywood movie “Pompeii” recently and it really helped me imagine the streets full of people, the homes, the businesses, and the volcanic ash and heat rushing down and covering the town. Admittedly, I have a touch of fear every time I furtively glance over at Mt. Vesuvius which looks particularly ominous shrouded in today’s dark clouds. I know these images have been seen over and over, but the streets really were striking. One large stone meant the street was one way. Two large stones meant it was two way, and three large stones meant it was a major thoroughfare. We could see the groves in the stones from the cart wheels which was one of those eerie details making the daily human activity even more real in my mind.
POMPEII TIPS: I saw countless people fall down. Wear comfortable shows, do not wear sandals. Wear tons of sunscreen and a hat. Take an umbrella. Do lots of research beforehand, there is too much to see and you need to prioritize. Do a guided tour. The ruins are not the only old thing in Pompeii – the street signs and info signs, when you can find them, are disintegrated and illegible. When you buy your ticket, if you do not do a guided tour, ask what streets and sites are closed or impassable. Do not rely on your map. The site changes constantly. (Another good reason to have a guide). There were so many English speaking guides around that I inadvertently absorbed information along the way, which helped tremendously. But if I did it all over, I would have joined a guided group from the start.
Now I am waiting for the bus to Naples where I’ll have real Naples pizza before my train leaves for Rome. First order of business in Rome? A SHOWER!!!
Ok, I’m going to have to write a letter to Trenitalia about my hero, Gennaro F. He would not let me take his picture, but I made sure to jot down his name. I don’t even know how to describe the lengths this man went through to get me on an earlier train from Naples to Rome. First, let me say, the Naples train station was superbly designed and well run. Unlike most places I’ve visited, there were multiple Info kiosks and they were staffed with plenty of people to handle the crowds. My only regret with catching the earlier train was that I had to miss Naples pizza.
Back to Gerraro, initially he helped me at a fast ticket change booth. Knowing I would not be able to understand the ticket printing machine, he walked me to the machine and did the operations for me. It did some sort of system shut down and he rebooted it and tried again. When that didn’t work, he went to a supervisor and they tried again. That didn’t work so he went back to the machine, printed the ticket, and hand wrote new information on it while waiting for his phone gadget to calculate a new seat number for me. He then walked me to the correct platform and train while we waited on my new seat assignment. I asked him if what he was doing was usual, normal, and he laughed, shook his head and said “no.” He even walked me on to the train, helping with my luggage and pointing to my seat! And off I go to Rome, 2.5 hours ahead of schedule. Thank you, Gennaro! Yes, there are rude people who will plow you down and cut in line faster than you can blink an eye. But I’ve run into more Gennaros than jerks and I hope my good fortune continues.