A visit to Salerno 11.09.06
It's a rainy Sunday morning. Where we normally can see the Cilento Coast south of Salerno from our terrace, it is all socked in with dark clouds. The sky is the color of gray flannel; the sea a deep blue gray. The fishermen were out in their boats early this morning and I watched one of the tourist ships bringing people and cargo in from Messina, making its way into the harbor at Salerno.
We had planned to go see the Greek temples at Paestum today but that will have to wait for better weather. One of the absolute joys of living here in Italy is that we have the time to do that.
This has been an amazing week. Having only arrived a week ago Friday, we spent the first couple of days getting settled, resting up, buying groceries and finding our way around. By Wednesday we were ready to hit to road and see some sights and we have already posted some of those photos along with our first impressions.
Thursday was a trip Salerno and we opted for the bus, not wanting to hassle with parking and wanting to see how this would work for us on these short trips. Salerno is only one bus stop away from Vietri and while Bob went to buy tickets from the Tabacchi I went to locate the bus stop. The ladies who were waiting there told me to go across the street. A man saw me looking around and motioned up to the sign above his head, the place to wait for the bus to Salerno. We struck up a conversation and I found out his name was Antonio, he is retired from a job as a longshoreman, his cousin lives in Brooklyn and his son is a fire fighter in Salerno! He made sure we got on the right bus and we were off. Every time he wanted to tell me something he tapped my arm, which reminded me so much of my Uncle Fred back in the states.
Salerno has a lovely tree-lined promendade along the sea, the Lungomare Trieste. It is unfortunately one of the southern Italian cities that suffered greatly from Allied bombing during WWII and much of the center consists of the not so attractive 1950s architecture that plagues a lot of these cities. As with our first impressions of Palermo, we don't want to rush to judgment here until we have seen more of it but at first glance, we didn't find it all that appealing, with the exception of parts of the old quarter, a maze of little streets and crumbly facades. It does seem authentically Italian however and not just geared to the tourists. The 11th century Duomo has some beautiful Byzantine mosaics on the ceiling that are as gorgeous as any we have seen - a wonderful Madonna over the altar, where you would normally find Christ, the Pantocrator, which we found refreshing, bronze doors from Constantinople and completely stunning marble and polychrome mosaic floor patterns and pulpits.
The weather turned rainy on us around lunchtime and we ducked into a small trattoria near the Lungomare and enjoyed a delightful little pranzo (lunch). Bob had a soup made with cecchi (chickpeas) and I loved the pasta fagioli in a creamy tomato broth with a bit of a bite. The toasted bread they served, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled liberally with salt and oregano was to die for. The atmosphere was simple, the walls decorated with ceramic plates and painted tiles with scenes of the area and the service was good and friendly, the prices cheap. We lingered over coffee hoping the rain would subside then made a run for the bus stop. We probably could have picked a better time to return to Vietri because the bus was packed to the gills with kids going home from school and it was standing room only and a good thing the ride was short! The rain had slowed to just a light mist as we walked down the hill to our apartment and an afternoon nap!
(to be continued: Benevento)