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.
Walking 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.
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. (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.
So, 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).
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.