Trip report...Salerno and Amalfi Coast

May 1st, 2011, 10:30 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 14
Trip report...Salerno and Amalfi Coast

It is hard to believe that I have been in Italy for 2 weeks already.

Salerno is a charming, seaside town at the beginning of the Amalfi Coast.
There is a good sized old town near the waterfront. That is where the school is located.
Lots of tiny storefronts selling everything from fruit, meat and bread, to clothing,shoes and hand bags, but without question, there are more bars, pizza, and panini joints than all the other stores put together. The competition is fierce and there is no reason to fall in love with any particular place.
The streets in old town are narrow and relatively dirty. New exterior paint seems to be a foreign concept and pressure washers do not exist as they would blow the stucco off the walls.
The drivers hmmm. Highly skilled, They can parallel park a car into a space that I cant even see. There are more rules about eating than there are about driving. I have no desire to drive here. People pass when there is no room, and even if there were lane lines, it would not matter. Motor scooters are as popular as cars and the drivers have less rules and are much more crazy. Car and scooter drivers do things that you would never see in the US,and on a regular basis. Can you say Road Rage! I never hear anyone scream or flip anyone off, they just keep going. Crossing the street is an adventure in itself. The safest way is to wait until there are no cars. The real world way is you just walk and presume that they will go around you. Interesting to watch, really interesting to experience.

The most common activity that I can discern is the passiaggiatta. There are 2 places where the art of the evening walk take place. The Lugo Mare is the walkway/ park along the waterfront. This seems to be more for daylight and weekend walks. The other is the Corso that runs through Central Storico and connects to the main pedestrian and shopping area. The best part of the passiaggiatta is the husband and wife couple that have been walking the same walk for 2 or 3 generations. The husband crosses both hands behind his low back and the wife wraps one hand around or between his two and they stroll. Younger couples aften stroll in groups. The wives walk together and chat, and the men follow doing the same. Some of the streets are so narrow that patience is required for a proper passiaggiatta on a busy night. Teenagers move in packs, sometimes over a dozen strong. It is very common for 2 men to be strolling arm in arm as it is for women. Definitely watch out for dog land mines. The concept of picking up dog shtt seems totally foreign to them. This lesson you seem to only find out by experience.

As for dress, blue jeans seem to be the choice for the vast majority of applications. Scarves are a fashion accessory worn equally by men and women. Italian women Love their Boots! Men often wear sport coats with blue jeans, a t shirt and a scarf. One thing that you do not see is baseball type caps. They know I am a tourist immeddiately because of my Avila Cap. I saw a tiny store front that would be perfect for a Cap Store. Maybe I could set up a massage table in the back.

The food in the restaurants has been good, but nothing compared the home cooking of Signora P. When I first booked my accommodation, I did not include dinner. After having 2 small meals, I completely changed my mind. She cooks simple, Traditional southern Italian meals. They eat in courses.
Primi = pasta
Secondi= meat of some type
Then come some vegetables, usually served cold. I cannot figure that one out. Zucchini or artichoke just seems to taste better caldo, no freddo.
Insalata or salad is served at the end of the meal.
Dolce or dessert is last and consists of home made biscotti or these pies that are a cross between pie and pound cake.
During passiaggiatta the Gelato is almost a requirement.
Breakfast or prima colazione is just home made Napolitano cappuccino, with bread that her husband goes to Campagna to get. It is toasted and served with home made Fraggole (strawberry jam). I have always been a grape jam person but I am converted I usually take a bananna and an apple for break and head of for school.
They call me the Pazzo Americano (crazy) because I do not like to eat in courses. I want my salad first and everything else served together. She has been serving such a large salad that it is difficult to save room for the really good stuff. Dinner is usually served at 8 and thus part of the reason for an evening walk.
Some of the more memorable meals have included a pasta fagoli that was just pasta and beans but magnificent. Zucchini and potatoes, lightly fried veal, fresh sauteed fish, a squid dish that I thought I would not like but was fantastic, fried cheese, pasta with clams, and sauteed artichokes and of course different types of pasta cooked numerous different ways. Tuto Buono.
Whenever she asks me what I want to eat, I tell her qualque cosa cuccinare, io mangio. (whatever you cook I will eat)

Let me start the school part by saying that the Italian Language is a Bitch for a pseudo Spanish speaking Florida Cracker. The nouns and numbers are so similar to Spanish for the most part that they are pretty easy. The masculine, feminine, the articulos, and the verbs are driving me crazy. The irregular verbs are the worst. I know it has only been 10 classes, but I am having trouble turning off the Spanglish.

My first outing was a trip to Amalfi by boat. Amalfi is small, touristy, and very beautiful.
I got lost on the back streets trying to find some ruins and ended up at a small local restaurant with a half liter of wine, and some excellent Linguini alla vongole.

Next was an outing after school to Vesuvius. There were 2 Japanese, a Russian, 2 italian tour guides and the lone American. I am, in fact, the only American at the school. The drive to the embarking area is crazy and the walk to the caldera is brutal. Especially when carrying school papers and a computer. All you hear is never leave anything in the car that you cannot afford to loose. The mountain is sleeping, but when it awakens, there will be a million people who will feel its wrath.
After Vesuvio, we drove to Sorrento for dinner. The two tour guides left us to our own devices, and after much gesturing and pantomiming, along with pidgin Italian, and a liter of Lomoncello, we were all best friends.
It is amazing how much fun can be had even b people who have virtually no common language.
Sorrento is another touristy city, but the cathedral, and the views from the Grande Terrace make it worth the trip.

Last weekend was Easter (Pasqua) and as you can imagine it is quite a holiday in Italy.
Saturday previous, to Easter, I organized a trip to the Greek Ruins at Paestum.
Paestum is about 40 miles south of Salerno, and is reached by a peaceful drive down the coast.
The site of the ruins is Spectacular! Acres of “How in the Hell did they do that?” Homesites, Temples, an amphitheatre, water supply, and a wall that must have taken thousands of people and decades to build. Toured the Museum then off to lunch on the boardwalk. Typical pick a little of this and a little of that along with a large hunk of lasagne, and no need to eat dinner.
Maurizio, our guide, then took us to a deserted beach where we frolicked fro about 3 hours. The Tyrhennian sea is beautilully clear, crisp and cold.
After the beach, we toured a cheese farm where they make Bufalo Mozzarrella. The cheese actually comes from the milk of a long domesticated strain of water buffalo.

Sunday was myself and 3 Japanese to Capri. The boat ride over takes 70 minutes along the Amalfi coast and then it is a quick jump over to Capri. First we circled the Island on a boat tour and stopped at the Island’s most famous attraction...The Blue Grottoe. They then wanted us to wait for over 2 hours and pay an extra 11.5 euro to go in for a 4 minute pass. Needless to say, we did not wait.
We took the funiculare, a type of cable car up to Capri Town and boarded a bus to AnnaCapri. We then took the cable car to the top of Monte Salaro which is about 600 meters above sea level. The day was perfectly clear and the view was spectacular. So was the cappuccino with Sambuca, and the gelato.
Upon returning we did passiaggiatta and ended up at a bar owned by the father of one of the instructors at the school. Mistake. It is hard enough to negotiate these hills without that last Gran Marnier.

Last week there was a tour of the 500 year old Gardens of Minerva that was fun and I ditched class on Tuesday afternoon to take the train to Pompeii.
I will tell you this...If you plan to visit Pompeii, wear your most comfortable shoes. THE PLACE IS VAST! It is also completely surrounded by the modern city of Pompei. They spell it with only 1 i. The first McDonalds that I have seen in Italy is a stone throw away.
Walking on the giant cobblestones of the road is challenging enough, but the 3 or 4 miles of additional walking along with the walk from the train will challenge even people who are not eating La Signora’s cooking. There is a lot of cool stuff to see, but it is mostly a feeling. What was it like when these streets were alive. Where did all the food come from? How did they get enough wood to cook, heat and light a city that large. When you walk the streets, there are actually wheel grooves worn into the solid basalt rock of the pavement. Of course, there is a snack bar right in the middle selling pizza and cokes. There are lots of columns and walls, but most of the murals are gone and you have to go to the museums to view the artifacts.
Yesterday I ditched half the class to take the ferry to Amalfi again. Not to go to Amalfi, but to take the bus to Ravello. Ravello is an amazingly charming and picturesque town at the top of the mountain facing the sea. I met a retired American woman from Wisconsin on the boat and offered her to tag along if she wished. It seems that the journey becomes more joyous when shared. We wandered the tiny streets for a bit before stumbling upon a a long walkway down to a restaurant that I neglected to write the name of....Crap.
We decided to share and ordered a tomatoe and lettuce salad, a spinach pie baked in pizza dough and the local baked fish. Along with a liter of local wine, the total bill was 40 euro.
The fish was amazing. It was simply baked with olive oil and green olives. It was almost like taking that first bite of the most amazing lobster or king crab, in every bite.
The view from the terrace WOW! Looking almost straight down hundreds of meters to a Mediterranean blue sea , and looking across at the mountains wondering How did they build that, was a truly magical experience.
I convinced my new friend that since she had experienced the boat ride over that she should consider taking HOLY SHtT HIGHWAY back to Salerno.
Until you experience it, you cannot imagine that so many cars, motor bikes and Tour Busses could possibly fit on this tiny, winding, weaving, up and down, cliffside, ancient highway. Personally, I would rather pick up dog shtt in Salerno than be a bus driver on the Amalfi Coast Highway.
All in all, I made an excellent choice by choosing Salerno as the beginning of my journey. The people are gracious, the city, charming and the food...aah the food....
I am certain that my dad would approve of my decision to “not wait”
Ciao for now.
BruceinTampa is offline  
May 1st, 2011, 11:00 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 20,785
Thanks for posting, BruceinTampa!

> Salerno is a charming, seaside town

Agree! It sounds like you are finding some wonderful memories along the way.

I think Salerno is vastly underrated, and am happy to see your comments about it. If you have any interest, do see the cathedral and the collection of ivories at its museum - they are quite special.
kja is offline  
May 2nd, 2011, 01:59 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 4,392
Mille grazie!! Loved readig your report and it whet my appetite even more for a trip to the area next month. Sounds like Ravello is a "do not miss" place???
CaliNurse is offline  
May 2nd, 2011, 02:31 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 3,884
Fun report. Sounds like you're having a wonderful time. This is the first time I've really heard much about Salerno as a place to stay rather than just a place to use to get to another place on the coast. Good info. Thanks.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
May 2nd, 2011, 02:56 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 2,550
"It is amazing how much fun can be had even by people who have virtually no common language". Yeah but a litre of Limoncello, certainly goes a long way as an icebreaker.
Love your report. Hoping to go next year so I'm taking notes.
worldinabag is offline  
May 2nd, 2011, 10:33 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 14
Thank you for the kind words. I head to Rome for 2 weeks on Saturday and hope that report will do Justice to Bella Roma.
BruceinTampa is offline  
May 3rd, 2011, 10:21 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 15
BruceinTampa, Wow, loved reading your report. So well written. I live in Port Charlotte, and I leave May 6th for two weeks in Priano. That is my favorite place to stay when I go to the Coast. I stay in villas as to closer to the locals. This time I am taking my two best friends from Iowa. I want them to see what I love about Italy. We will end our trip in Rome. But you made me feel so close to the areas I love. Thank you, Ciao,Sher
mimi052347 is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 07:29 AM
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 87
BruceinTampa thanks for all the info. Planing a trip to the same area later this year or early spring next year. Would it be possible to get information on who you used as drivers?
Thanks, Brenda
flirtinfilly is offline  
May 15th, 2011, 05:38 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 570
Loved your account of road rules (or lack thereof) and the passeggiata. Enjoy Rome!
hamlet is offline  
May 17th, 2011, 08:29 AM
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 81
ever figure out the name of the restaurant in Ravello?
Jynx is offline  
May 19th, 2011, 02:21 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 14
Sorry, I have been doing the Rome thing and completely forgot to check the Forum.
For more specific info you can contact me at [email protected]
BruceinTampa is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2011, 05:32 AM
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 50
I really enjoyed the Salerno part. The trip to Paestum sounded very well organised - did you set it up yourself or join one?
Patricia1066 is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2011, 07:28 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 22,278
Enjoyed it BinT! Will you do a Rome TR?
TDudette is offline  

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