Today was traveling day from hell. The direct route from Rome to Naples was sold out and due to communication problems it was hard to figure out an alternate route. We finally decided on a ticket to Salerno. The plan is to check our bags there at the station and take a local train to Paestum.
The town of Paestum holds the last Greek structures established in Italy. They are also the most well preserved. We begin our journey of Paestum by disembarking from the train. All we can see is a rural road that runs perpendicular and a small path straight ahead but no directional signs. After asking someone we determine that we need to follow the path straight ahead. The path is a paved walkway lined with brush, flowers, and agriculture. At the end of the path we find a street lined with tourist shops. We arrived after the tourist office has closed and could not locate a map. We ended up purchasing a guide book to direct us around.
Once inside we witnessed how life would have been in an ancient Greek town. Lots of detail were given to the Greek temples where they practiced their pagan worship of gods and goddesses. We completed our visit with gelato.
Soon we begin our journey from hell. I am not sure if everyone in Italy makes it a sport of getting tourists lost, or we cannot communicate clearly, or they just don’t know the answer and are too proud to admit it. In regards to directions, what train to catch and such, we are inundated with wrong answers. Despite all of this, we ultimately arrive at our desired destinations, but not efficiently. It is frustrating. I have learned to view it as a comedy (sitcom) that I am in and to not let it ruin my days. When we arrived back in Salerno, I was in the understanding that we needed to take a train to Amalfi- our desired destination. I even had a train ticket that I purchased in Rome that had the destination as Amalfi. For this reason, we spent a great deal of time trying to locate the train to Amalfi. We finally discovered that no train to Amalfi existed and I guess my ticket was actually a bus transfer. I still do not know how I could have figured that out on my own, especially when the ticket looks exactly like a train ticket. Once we discovered it was a bus we needed, we could not locate our bus in the many stops that existed around the train station. After asking many people, it was a nice Asian tourist that directed us to the correct bus. Her opinion was that Italians give wrong directions on purpose, I am still not convinced that they are that evil. In addition to helping us, she informed us of a free concert that night in Amalfi.
The Death Bus
Our bus finally arrived and we climbed aboard what I would call the hour and a half death trap. I call this ride a death trap because it first takes you along the coast line on a very narrow two way road that at best it about 1 1/2 cars wide. It runs along the cliff looking down on the water. The size and height of the road alone would be scary but it is also very curvy with lots of blind curves. To inform cars around the corner that the bus is coming, the bus driver honks his horn constantly; there are many curves. Also because of the narrow road cars have to constantly stop and back up to give the bus room to pass. Meanwhile vespas zoom in and out of traffic while the madness is happening. It is not unusual to see cars double parked in Italy (we saw it frequently in Rome) but cars here actually park in the road, totally obstructing traffic. Additionally, I am almost certain that we hit a car that refused to back up out of the way and decided to continue forward instead (It might of been a building but I am almost sure it was the car we hit).
On the bus, we meet a local artist that has moved to the coast from Ireland. Leo tells us of nice places to visit and a cheaper place to stay up on the hill. Deciding to stay closer to the action, we check into our orginal hostel. We place our bags in our room, change clothes, and head down to amalfi to catch the concert.
Amalfi is about a 10-15 minute walk from our town, Atrani. Amalfi at night is so beautiful and charming. It is a picturesque coast town with houses and shops placed up all along the hill. Building restrictions ensure that now new development is possible and the town will retain its charm. Along the shore, a series of boats and ferries sleep for the evening. We walk into the city center just as the concert begins. The Broadway caliber singing group begins their program with the Star Spangled Banner in celebration of the current day. We sit on the steps of the church where they are performing. We witness great performances of songs from such shows as Les Miserables, My Fair Lady, and Phantom of the Opera. Toward the end of the concert we meet up with Leo who is visiting a friend in town. He recommends an restaurant away from the main piazza. We order a carafe of wine and enjoy good discussion. He expresses his disgust with our president and the way he is running our country. I ordered a superb handmade pasta with clams and mussels. Delicious.