(Busker in Salerno)
We awoke in the late morning, after a wonderful sleep, to the cosy sound of rain on the roof, washing all the salt from the long voyage off Nettle’s flanks.
We had nice and hot, refreshing showers, and by the time we were all dressed and ready to head out, the rain had stopped and a cautious sun was peeking through the clouds. Oh, what a feeling to be looking forward to spending a day out in the world!
We were parked about a half hour’s walk from Salerno’s centre, and the walk along the foreshore was lovely. We marvelled at everything, soaking it all in — with a little bit of wry joking here and there: Ah! Solid footpaths! With people walking on them, instead of on the road! Finished buildings! Not a bare concrete wall or patch of bare dirt in sight! No one staring at us, asking for money or alcohol, or sleazing up to Katherine!
More earnestly, we were charmed with this pretty little town. Our last time in Salerno, we were here just briefly, passing through on the way south. At the time, we were still a trifle shell-shocked at the rather unpalatable urban sprawl of Naples, and didn’t really give Salerno much of a chance. This time around, though, we opened our eyes and were impressed. The beautiful hills that marked the southern end of the stunning Amalfi coast loomed over the town, making me feel like we were walking through a pretty matte painting. The delightful canyon-like alleyways, packed with interesting shops, cafés and restaurants, as well as immaculately-dressed friendly Italians, brought big smiles to our faces.
Our first stop in Salerno was a café for breakfast: A nice little place with a warm wooden interior, a counter with lots of exciting looking pastries; we grabbed a couple of croissants and cappuccinos and sat at a table. We enjoyed our coffees so much, we ordered two more.
Fed, coffee’d and feeling good, our next task was to grab some credit with Wind and get our mobile Internet access up and running. We’d taken so long with sleeping in and having breakfast, though, that everything had closed for the afternoon — Those 1:30-4:30 closing hours will take a bit of getting used to. We did find an open wi-fi network just outside the Wind shop, though, so we jumped online and I looked up the info I thought I’d need to set up the SIM cards once we had credit, which we could buy anywhere.
With the shops closed, we wandered aimlessly through the delightful little cobbled streets of the town.
I said a cheerful “Ciao!” to a woman in her late 60’s or early 70’s we passed, and she stopped and said a very friendly “ciao!” back, and asked us where we were from, how long we were staying, and if we’d seen the Amalfi coast, then when we parted, warmly bid us many wishes! Katherine and I grinned at each other — we love Italy!!.
We walked back to Nettle to pass the couple of hours until the shops opened again. On the way I bought a little Wind credit, hoping to set up one SIM card (we have two, one to use with a volume-based plan, to stay online doing low-volume stuff, and one to use with a time-based plan, to do lots of downloading with). No go, though — I couldn’t figure out the Italian system, so I postponed until we could visit the Wind store again.
We ventured out again later (after carefully checking our appearance — very high fashion standards here!), and headed straight to Wind; thankfully, one of the assistants there spoke a little English, and with the help of a little sketching on a pad we brought along, we managed to work out how to make it happen: We bought a new SIM card and activated the 4.5 Gb/month plan, and got a little extra credit to activate the 100 hours/month plan on the other SIM card we had. Sorted! We couldn’t wait to start catching up on all the TV and film we’d missed!
We wandered on, in search of a couple of things. We were delighted to find a little home-wares shop with impressively cheap throw-rugs; we bought two, to keep us warm during the cool evenings.
Evening had fallen and Salerno looked magical with the lights from shops spilling out onto the cobbled streets, while buskers played accordions. For dinner, we found a pizza restaurant after a little wandering: A tiny, brightly lit place called O’Spicule one street back from the foreshore towards the town’s western side, near an old church. We took a seat beside some locals; the menu was a bit cryptic, with no descriptions — always a good sign. Katherine ordered a Siciliana, and I asked for “qualcosa vegetariano” (mangled Italian for “something vegetarian”). Katherine’s Siciliana turned out to be eggplant on a tomato base, and mine was, amazingly, lettuce. It was basically the best pizza we’ve ever had, quite possibly the equal of Sharamanika in Sicily. The lettuce pizza was our favourite — who knew lettuce could work on pizza? It was extremely garlicky, and absolutely brilliant.
Astonishingly, our two pizzas, plus two glasses of wine and a coke to satisfy Katherine’s craving came to €8 in total. About $12 AUD, with the current brilliant exchange rate. That’s the same or less than we would’ve paid for a meal in Tunisia! Our whole day had been full of surprises about how cheap everything was. Amazing.
So, full of fantastic pizza and feeling like Italy has given us the best welcome we could’ve hoped for, we happily wandered home along the foreshore.
Aah. Italy, vi amiamo.