Tag Archives: Salerno

Mi dispiace, Salerno!

I have departed the art residency, made it by bus to Salerno, checked in the B&B and visited the ancient ruins of Paestum.

During the bus journey from Noepoli, we stopped in a town for 10 minutes. Everyone goes into a little motel cafe and uses the restroom and grabs a coffee. When I ordered a cappuccino, the woman told me to pay at the end of the counter. I got in line, and within seconds, 4 or 5 men stepped right in front of me! But here’s the part I’ll hang onto…the barista yelled down to the cashier, seeing what the men were doing, and told her to ring me up next. So, just when you feel a bit trampled, someone steps up with a kind gesture. Many of the people I’ve encountered, have a terse facade with kindness not far beneath the surface. Similarly, in crowded Amalfi, I was in line pressed against the counter to order gelati. People behind me reached out over me and called their orders to the two men working. It only took a moment for an older gentleman working the register to take notice and he barked to one of the workers to help me before taking anyone else’s order. Traveling alone can be tough, but as each day passes, there are countless kind moments from strangers.

We are pulling into Salerno and a woman with a baby in a pram just stepped right in front of our bus. I guess you will turn into a petrified monument if you wait for traffic to stop. And I thought it was tricky for pedestrians to cross on quaint Kavanaugh Boulevard at home. Nope!

And, oh Salerno, I owe you an apology! I know not to judge a book by its cover and I judged you by your skeezy train station on a rainy day last week. Today, on the other hand, as I walked from the train station to my B&B, I saw you in a new light.

imageWalking down the posh pedestrian Corso Vittorio Emanuel, which is lined with upscale stores, cafés and trattorias, I was entranced with the monuments, piazzas, charismatic buildings, and fashionable people (who rival even those in Ravello!). I was initially hesitant when arriving at the B&B because there was a tiny sign out front and once I entered a small courtyard, there was no sign indicating where to go, what door to choose. I found the phone number and the woman who answered asked me to call another number. Once I finally made it in, I was greeted by a woman named Kaoru, who provided a map of the city, and wrote down specific suggestions and restaurants. She pointed out the famous Duomo, the Botanical Garden, a museum, and a castle at the peak of a hill overlooking the city.image

I don’t think I can do all that in only a few hours in Salerno, but I’ve definitely changed my mind about this being a worthwhile place to visit, and not just a central location that one should tolerate for convenient transportation transfers.image (Below is a boat heading to Capri, Postiano, or Amalfi). She also provided a copy of the train schedule to Paestum, including the return times and told me to be sure to purchase a round trip train ticket, as there is only one machine which is difficult to use and no office for ticket purchasing at the train station in Paestum. These little things make it SO MUCH EASIER traveling in a country where you don’t know the language. Oh, and to top if off, my room was ready and they let me check in three hours early! If you want a good value, a B&B atmosphere, and the perfect location, I suggest Salerno Central. There are many glowing reviews on Trip Advisor as well as what I read in the guest book here.

By the way, I figured out a trick. When you accidentally squeeze between two thugs who are potential gang members on a train, they stop glaring at you and your purse if you sketch their portraits during the trip. Of course, you better be darn sure you make them look more handsome rather than less.

imageSo, now I am sitting in La Basilica Cafe in Paestum, again freaking out at the wonders that surround. I’ve just exited the museum and need food before I can tour the ruins. To stand in front of artwork, architecture, and monuments that I’ve recently studied in art school is the equivalent, for my inner nerd, of someone seeing a famous person they’ve adored forever. I have the urge to run up and hug a column (don’t worry I haven’t completely transformed into 100% nerd, if George Clooney walked by, I’d be tempted to run up and wrap my arms around him, too).image image

In an art history class with Dr. Jane Brown, as I filled out “Temple of Hera” during a slide quiz, not ONCE did I think I would stand in front of that Temple in the middle of corn fields and wild flowers of Southern Italy. I won’t go on and on about the ruins, the various cultures who have been in power here (starting with the Greeks and ending with the Romans who were wiped out or forced out by mosquitoes carrying malaria). I’ll just say this is worth a 30 minute train trip from Salerno. Also, it is was unlike any other site I have visited in that visitors are able to touch and climb on the ruins, which surprised me. Discovery of the site is relatively recent and only a small percentage has been excavated (though it was plenty to see on a hot afternoon).

I am now on the train back to Salerno and the air is working and the crowd is a bit cleaner than on the way down here. A cute guy has been talking with me on the train platform and now on the train. It’s funny how I am more receptive to the feeble old men grabbing me by the cheek. As cute and nice as he seems to be, I just keep thinking about Ted Bundy….and my Stephen, for different reasons, of course.

Buonasera!

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Leaving the Amalfi Area

I’m about to leave Ravello by bus for Amafi to catch a boat to Salerno where I’ll take a three hour bus ride to Senise where I’ll get picked up by someone from the residency to drive to Noepoli in the remote area, Basilicata. Just before my alarm rang this morning, thunder boomed. We are so high up that when a storm comes, we are in the clouds – the thunder felt like it was in my teeth! Needless to say, I was awake and ready to get going.

I then checked out of the lovely Villa Amore. The owner called TravelMar for me to see if the ocean is too rough for transportation. We got the ok, the skies look clear so off I go down the mountain again. To my delight, there are the two English men who I saw on Saturday! Remember them? They were my cohorts in struggling with the luggage door under the bus. They did not recognize me initially but when I described the luggage experience, they enthusiastically confirmed it was them! They tried to help me with the luggage compartment this time, but we all failed and discussed how insistent the bus drivers are about storing the luggage but how disinterested they are in helping you do so.

At any rate, we had a good visit about Rome and London and Ravello and they were very kind. I might be giving the impression that this area is sparely populated, considering the fortuitous repeated encounters I’ve experienced. However, this is high season along the Amalfi coast and the area is swarming with people. To add to the crowds who are vacationing here, they come in by the droves from cruise liners parked offshore. The crowds can be stifling, especially for an Arkansan used to a less dense population. Ravello has been isolated from the madness which has been a benefit of staying there – unreachable by the cruise crowds. I also highly recommend Atrani which is a lovely 15 minute walk (albeit lots of stairs) from the town of Amalfi, and is much less crowded.image

I am now in the boat to Salerno, a 35 minute ride on the dot, as opposed to that 1.5 hour bus ordeal on the way. Travel tip: if you venture to the Amalfi coast, travel on a weekday instead of the weekend. Ok, while I’m at it, here are a few more suggestions: bring an umbrella, a little travel bottle of bug spray, one pair of very comfortable sandals, one pair of comfy Nike slip on walkers, one cute dress, a pair of cool blousey pants to travel in, clothes you can hike in, a hat, sunscreen, plenty of underwear, and plenty of undergarments.

Back to the boat ride, it rained hard but the ocean remained calm. I got to, again, sit by the English couple who kindly took my picture for me. imageOnce I finally found the Salerno train and bus station, and bought my ticket for the bus to Senise, I wandered around looking for a place to eat lunch and get out of the rain. It was quickly clear that the station was full of cons as I was approached by a persistent woman with a baby, and three aggressive men asking for money or something…this was my first place on my Italian adventure to feel harassed and I kept my belongings under tight grip. Aside from the gritty feel of Salerno thus far, it seems to be an ideal place for catching trains, boats, and buses to a variety of locations. Many prefer it to Sorrento or Naples because of its convenient access to Pompeii, Herculeneum, Naples, Paestum, the entire Amalfi coast (and the islands such as Capri), and trains south down the Silcily.

My next post will be from the Artist Residency. If you are interested in learning more about the program, there are some new videos posted on their Facebook page if you look for Palazzo Rinaldi.

Thanks for reading! Ciao!

Smooth Train, Scary Bus, and Still Not Quite There

WARNING, THIS POST IS LONG AND WINDING, LIKE THE DAY IT COVERS

I am now on Italotreno headed from Florence to Salerno which is a 3.5 hour train ride. I have a fear of getting kicked off the train from not stamping my ticket or following some sort of protocol. Or worse, getting on the wrong train and ending up in another country. But the announcer has said Salerno many times so I think I’m on the right track (ha, aren’t I hilarious, the “right track”).

This morning, before departing Florence, I ate breakfast with a woman from Lowell, MA and a couple from Germany. The man’s company makes the adhesive for New Balance shoes which are made near Lowell, MA. He was surprised that we had heard of New Balance so I let him know that they are a flat footed person’s best friend. He encourage me to keep buying them so he can keep providing the glue! Then, the woman from Lowell asked if we could go together to Santa Croce Church so off we went. Well, thank goodness I did not miss this church. I could have spent several hours there but only had one before my train. We saw the tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli…

News flash! The train conductor just came through asking for tickets. I showed her a number and she said Grazie and moved on. So I didn’t get kicked off and seem to be following procedure. PHEW!

Back to Santa Croce. This is the hot bed for art historians. I took many a slide quiz based on much of the work displayed in this very church, such as famous pieces by Giotto and by Cimabue. As I exited into the side courtyard, the voice of an angel signing a Les Miserable classic guided me to a vaulted room. There she was, a tourist (perhaps a broadway star?), testing out the acoustics in the room. A few tourists clapped as she finished, she grabbed her purse, and continued the tour. What a treat!

I said good-bye to my morning companion (who was amicable and talkative and clear about her need for English speaking company), hoofed it to the hotel for my luggage and then pulled my bags down the cobblestone streets to Santa Maria Novella train station.

Alright, the train ride was smooth and fast. The man who sat next to me was surly at first, watching me haul my luggage, which required a deep squat and major heave (again, thanks Drew!) to the overhead rack. During the last hour of the trip, I painted a postcard and for whatever reason, he turned into a gentleman! He helped me practice Italian (literally quizzed me with my flash cards), told me he lives and works in Paestum as a police officer and volleyball coach at the local school. And he was very helpful with my luggage as we departed, making sure I was aware of the Salerno stop and hauling my suitcase down the steps and to the platform. However, let me remind you (hi Mom, Dad and Stephen) my guard is up and I am not seeking conversation or companionship from strangers. He was perfectly polite though still distant, just helpful. Oh, and by the way, when people tell you that everyone speaks English, NOPE! Not on this route, at least. Which, so far, is fine with me, I just thought I’d mention it to set your expectations if you travel here. Maybe I’m just going a little more rugged than some which is casting me apart from the high-end service people who probably do speak English.

It was mayhem departing the train and finding the bus for Amalfi. Thankfully, last night I read in a Rick Steve’s book a tip about ducking into the Celeste Globo travel agency right there between the train station and the bus station where the workers speak some English and can answer questions about which bus tickets to buy and where to wait. Entrance on the bus was dicey and I am lucky I got a seat. There were many people standing for the long and winding ride up the Amalfi coast. I’ll change busses in Amalfi to get to Ravello.

OK, ANNOUNCEMENT: I’ll be taking a boat whenever possible from this point forward. We are winding around these cliffs with the driver blaring on the horn at every turn, which means constantly. A woman boarded at Vietre and promptly began yelling toward the bus load of people in anger about not giving up a seat for the women and children (at least I think that is what she as saying).

One hour later, shockingly, I am still alive and after a treacherous ride to Amalfi, I have boarded the bus to Ravello, up to the mountain top. I’m trying to enjoy the views but when one fears for her life, the panorama is a bit less pleasurable. But now I have feeling like I might survive, as opposed to earlier when I was saying prayers and telepathically telling my precious girls good-bye. NEVERMIND!!!! Quite the roller coaster of emotions. Once again feeling like death is near. There are pedestrians on the road and they flatten themselves against the cliffs as the buses careen by. There are cyclists for crying out loud! The kind woman from Bologna who is seated next to me said the cyclists are not Italian. That Italians would not do such a thing. Do you hear that Krissa and Michael? Stick with Tuscany but I beg, do not get any ideas about cycling along the Amalfi coast, capiece?

Ok, now I’ve been dispatched in Ravello. A nice cabbie told me how to walk to the hotel (he was waiting to take people down through the ravine and down the mountain to Amalfi – Ravello is pedestrian only so I could not get a ride with him to my hotel. But just a minute, did I mention the bus luggage arrangement? The driver yells at you as you enter the bus and tells you to store it underneath. (A note about the yelling, they do it as nicely as possible, many of the Italians I’ve encountered put a vigorous amount of volume and emotion in their voices so I’ve come to learn that they are just explaining things, not really yelling). Anyway, no one comes to open the compartments and this English man and I jacked around with the handles thinking the bus was about to take off. I then found a button and pushed it and pop – the door lifted open. I heard him on the bus later telling his partner thank goodness for some American girl who figured out how to open the compartment. I felt a tinge of pride, I admit.

So, I think, Thank you Lord Baby Jesus for not letting me get killed and making it to this remote mountaintop on roads that are perhaps not meant to be traversed. I erroneously thought I’d arrived. As it turns out, my villa is further up the mountain…but I thought, how far can it be? Well, if I’ve mentioned the stairs and hills and hikes in earlier posts, let me just say, thank the heavens for those hikes. I didn’t know it at the time but I was in training for Ravello. imageThe whole journey here, as it becomes more physically difficult and more dangerous, I am thinking, how and why to people go through such effort, such time, such risk, such discomfort to get here? AND THEN I FOUND OUT. Next up: Oh Ravello.image