We arrived in Salerno midday and took a taxi from the train station to our B&B. We had a slight problem contacting the owner, who wasn’t there when we arrived, but once we got in touch he had another guest come down and let us in. The room we had was large and airy and had a balcony facing the ocean. It was a beautiful view and Mom spent much time out there doing her readings while I messed about or played with my camera. The sunsets were beautiful there.
That afternoon we headed to the beach (avoiding the nearest beach on the recommendation of our wayward host) and found a beach full of locals (large woman sunbathing, old men smoking, young girls giggling with their friends and young men showing off their prowess at sports). They seemed quite surprised to see tourists there (and I, with my blindingly white skin was obviously not a local) so we got gawked at a bit, but everyone was friendly. Because it was Sunday we were worried a lot of the shops and restaurants would be closed and at six, after we’d gone back to the B&B to get changed and find dinner, seemed to be the case. But we wandered through the little side streets to the main thoroughfare of our neighbourhood and found a few bars and restaurants that were open. We ate at a pizzeria which was pretty average, but everything tastes better when you’re hungry! When we left we hit a local gelateria which seemed to have a very loyal customer base, all around the shop were little kids playing and people chatting with their friends and neighbours. As we walked back to the B&B around eight we saw more and more shops opening and realized that in the very non-touristy parts of Italy, shops have very specific opening hours and restaurants do open (even on Sundays!)
The next day our host’s wife showed up to make us breakfast which consisted of pastries, strong Italian coffee, tea and orange juice. She was an artist and her art was displayed all around the B&B (mostly ceramics) and she was just a lovely woman. She and Mom really seemed to hit it off, although we had to use the translator on her phone to communicate sometimes! Mom bought a couple of pieces from her that were reminiscent of the bright local style and she showed us pictures of her kids and family. That day we were heading out-of-town to Paestum, the ruins of an old Greek settlement. On the way we ran into our hostess again and she helped us buy umbrellas because of the pouring rain. Of course, once we bought the umbrellas it promptly cleared up and we didn’t need them again. She put us on the right bus to get to the train station and even set a gentleman getting on the same bus to make sure we got off at the right stop.
The train didn’t leave for a few hours so we wandered around central Salerno for that time. We spent a bunch of time in a bookstore where I searched the shelves for an Italian cookbook I could both carry and understand (my search was in vain unfortunately) but we found a fruit market and bought some cherries to eat on the boulevard after finding a little art gallery and wandering through the main religious complex of Salerno. Despite not being a touristy city, Salerno is very pretty with very friendly residents! We had some more pastries and coffee in a very glitzy café before grabbing the train out the Paestum.
The train to Paestum wasn’t long but the journey was very pretty, taking us through poppy fields and farmland with the mountains in the background. Once we got off the train (with about half a dozen other tourists) there was a distinct lack of signs or directions so our plan was to follow the other tourists who we hoped would know where they were going. Our plan backfired, however, when we accidentally ended up leading the little pack of tourists down this unmarked road away from the train station. Luckily it was the right direction and we happily stumbled upon the large and very impressive ruined city.
Paestum is exactly what you imagine when you think of Greek ruins (which wasn’t what I expected to find in Italy!) The city was founded in 600BC by Greek settlers from Sybaris. It’s funny to think of Italy as a place to be colonized like the Americas… but that’s exactly what we found! The city was named in honour of Poseidon but the name was converted to a more Latin form after the area was conquered by Rome. The Romans made some major changes to the city and its political structure, but the major religious temples were preserved. The three major temples at Paestum in the Doric style are supposed to be among the best remaining examples of Greek temples in the world. I’m very glad we had a chance to see temples that were still so intact. It’s hard to imagine how large the temples are without seeing them in person. I’m always surprised by how much larger things appear to me in person than they look in photos!
That evening we headed back to Salerno and had dinner at a seaside restaurant (spaghetti vongole for me) and a bottle of homemade wine before heading back to the B&B to prepare for an early morning meeting Nick and heading to the Amalfi coast.