Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Italy: The Final Chapter

I have been meaning to do a last post about our trip to Italy, but the longer I’ve waited, the harder it’s become to remember all the details. Luckily I kept a travel journal to remind myself where I’d gone and what I’d done, so I will tell you a little about the Cilento Coast and the day I spent alone in Salerno. In case you need a refresher, I wrote two other posts about our vacation, which you can read here and here.

Having two weeks for the vacation really gave us a chance to see things at a leisurely pace. If Sonny had his way, we would have been at the beach each and every day. BIL and SIL were more about hiking and getting outdoors in nature. If you’re that type, you will love the Cilento Coast. There are tons of hiking possibilities and numerous grottos you can visit, if you’re into dank, dark places and bats. I’m not. Bedstemor wanted to see archaeological ruins and she enjoyed Paestum and Pompeii. I preferred visiting towns and cities to see what they had to offer. I even ventured alone around Salerno while the rest of the group went to Pompeii.

Paestum is the site of an ancient Greek temple. I thought this was a funny picture taken by SIL of BIL debating with his imaginary friends.

Pompeii. The picture was taken by SIL.

Notice the kid's wearing sandals? Bad idea if you are going to be walking in dust. By the time he got home, his feet were caked and black.

This kid is a hoot! He's vogue-ing! In Pompeii!

If you plan on sight seeing along the coast, you will need two things: a car and a good supply of Dramamine. Buses will get you to Paestum and Pompeii and the cities along the coast, but it’s just easier to have a car at your disposal. You’ll get to see more in less time and you won’t have to worry about deciphering bus schedules, late buses and the occasional crazy Italy dude (more on this later). Be warned that driving amongst the Italians can be a little nerve wracking, but BIL said that after a couple of days, he figured out there was some method to their madness.

The Cilento Coast highway is not as jaw clenching as the Amalfi Coast, but if you are prone to carsickness, you’ll want to have a barf bag handy. Even the Dramamine wasn't enough at times. The upside is the scenery. It’s gorgeous. You’ll want to pull over and snap photos every half mile. The only thing to keep in mind is that the national “nap time” is generally between 1 to 5 PM, which happens to be prime touristing time. Luckily the outdoors are so gorgeous you could just pack a lunch and explore outside while the locals are "napping".

As I mentioned, I spent a day by myself venturing around Salerno and a little ways up the Amalfi Coast while the others went to Pompeii. Hubby’s parents dropped me off near a post office in Salerno with their cell phone on their way north, and the plan was to pick me up a few hours later on the way home. Did I mention I didn’t have a city map? Or a GPS unit or even a compass? I just decided to follow the signs toward the stazione, which I believed would be a train or bus station. My plan was to squeeze in a bus trip to Amalfi since Rick Steeves said it was worth a visit. I got a little lost, and after a little aimless wandering and some gelato to help me get my barings, I found the station. The ticket to Amalfi only cost 6 Euros, which was a good bargain.


The next bit that follows is what Rick Steeves would call turning a travel mishap into a magic travel memory. Or something like that.

When I got onto the bus at the terminal, it was already over half full, but I was lucky enough to snag a window seat. At the next stop a guy with a big bag sat down sat next to me and his mom sat in the seat in front of us. He set his bag down between his legs so he had to spread his legs as far open as they’d go. Compared to what Americans are used to, the circle of personal space is a bit smaller in Italy, but he was really pushing the limit. I suppose I could have given up my seat so he could sit next to his mother, but I wanted the window seat. Almost immediately the dude introduces himself as Marco and begins to rattle off in Italian. He asked me my name, but I tried to politely indicate that I didn’t understand what he was saying (although I did understand he was asking my name and where I was from). His mom kept turning around and rolling her eyes at him, like she knew he was annoying. Did I mention he was like 35 years old? Once he realized I wasn’t able to socialize, he put on his earphones and serenaded the entire bus. And he was no Eros Rammazotti. Occasionally he’d reach over me and point his Razor phone at the window and snap a picture. I can only imagine what they looked like, pictures taken with a camera phone from a moving bus. I wanted to move, but there weren’t any seats left and I would have definitely barfed if I had to stand for that bus ride, despite taking a dose and a half of Dramamine. I thought I could get off at one of the bigger stops and wait for the next bus, but once we got to driving on the cliffs, the stops were in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t want to get out to wait half an hour by the side of the road. I ended up sitting next to Marco for a good 45 minutes (he sang most of that time and used my side as an elbow rest), until we reached Maiori, a small town about 5 km of Amalfi. I walked around Maiori a bit to shake off the Marco experience. Snapped some pictures. Ate gelato...again. Got back to my vacation happy place. I never did make it all the way to Amalfi, because the next bus was very late. I decided to head back to Salerno and have a look around. It turns out I didn’t get to see much of Salerno either. By the time I got there and got myself another gelato (that's number 3, if you were counting), Hubby’s parents were on their way to pick me up. The day definitely did not turn out the way I planned, but it was certainly quite memorable.

Snapped this picture when the bus stopped along the route. You can't really see it, but there is a road cut into the side of that cliff!


The beach at Maiori was nice and calm, and as you can see sparsely popluated. But I heard it can get really crowded during peak season.

Our trip to Agropoli was completely the opposite of my Salerno trip. Agropoli is probably the largest city on the Cilento Coast yet it doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention. Maybe because it doesn’t look very welcoming from the highway. The only notable thing we saw all the times we drove by was the gi-normous, dreary looking hospital. But once we got to the city proper, it was so pretty. The pedestrian shopping street was very charming and lead up to the old town. It was very similar to Castellabate in that the streets were narrow alleyways and steps. The view from the top of the old town was just as beautiful as the view from Castellabate. We saw the harbor, waterfront homes, and the sea.

Entering the original portion of Agropoli. The next picture shows the view of newer Agropoli from these steps.

Looking down from old Agropoli towards the newer portion of town.

Looking north from old Agropoli.

We were also fortunate enough to happen upon a large outdoor market a little ways from the town center. It turned out to be larger than it looked and I scored the most awesome souvenir of the trip. It was an extra long (19.5 inches / 50cm) wooden spoon I use for stir-frying or making a big vat of tomato sauce. Some of you are probably rolling your eyes, but I honestly haven’t been able to find a tool long and heavy duty enough to withstand high heat cooking. Sonny scored some clothes (the Transformer pajamas were his favorite) and sweets. Agropoli was my favorite of our ventures and to think we almost didn’t make it!

In addition to plants, clothing and foodstuffs, one could buy chickens.

Nuts and dried fruits.

Who knew there were so many types of beans?

I hoped you enjoyed this final bit about our trip!


Manggy said...

Well, I certainly enjoyed it! Despite feeling a bit uncomfortable (by way of empathy) reading about your new friend. Ouch. I love the market pics, everything looks very idyllic! :) I'm glad you kept a journal-- once those memories fade, you'll be stuck looking at pictures and struggling to remember which coast you're taking a picture of and what's so special about it, haha! :)

Dee said...

manggy, you're right, the memories fade too fast. In fact, they seem so distant now that I need another vacation. LOL

QGIRL said...

Great post. Loved the photos! Where to start..
Sonny vogue-ing slayed me! He is so cute.
When we toured the Amalfi Coast we found that the ferry boats were the cheapest and best way to go - the views were amazing. We tried a bus from Positano to Amalfi and I was extremely car sick. I actually swallowed my own vomit a couple of times so that I wouldn't throw up on the poor man next to me. I was so happy to get off that bus! The winding roads and the stop and go, really did me in. I love that gelato was your antidote! I should have tried that. :)
I totally understand why your wooden spoon was such a prized find. I love finding stuff on my travels, it make the find so much more meaningful. We bought a couple pieces of pottery from Capri and the Amalfi Coast. I use them with great pride and love telling the story of where they are from etc.
I should stop now. Sorry so long!

Dee said...

qgirl, I know the feeling when you can totally identify with what someone else is saying. I love commenting on people's blogs about the stuff they say, food related or not. A lot of the time, it's not even food related at all. Usually it's something in the story they tell that gets my attention.

It's so cool you know exactly what I'm talking about. When I was on that bus, I kept looking around thinking how these people could be so passe about the ride. Stop and go and swinging around those sharp turns. When I got off in Maiori, my knees were wobbly.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I love the photojournalism here! We were in Pompeii and Southern Italy back in 2000. What a great time we had too. Thanks for this bit of nostalgia!

Dee said...

WORC, I love that you call it "photojournalism".LOL They're really more like "random" or "lucky" shots.