Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Salerno, here we come!

03/19, Monday
Watching BBC this morning, we are stunned to hear and see that Mt Etna (on the island of Sicily) is erupting. The video is enthralling, yet disturbing...are we still able to travel there? It turns out the eruption is pretty common...4 times last year, March 2012 the most recent...our host says, "Don't worry, you can go there, no problem".

Okay, we're on our way to Salerno for a couple of days before we catch a train to Taormina, Sicily, not very far from Mt Etna. Maybe things will have settled down by then.

Salerno is a pretty big town, 120,000 people. The Centro Storico (central city) is near the sea front where there is a strolling path. Our B&B faces the main walking street. It has a small balcony with Italian window-door. Our host is Ludovico. He also owns a jewelry business across the street.

The bathroom is spectacular with a big tub for two which we make good use of. Our legs are getting pretty weary from stairs and strolls. Lemoncello helped relax our muscles along with the hot water.

We ate dinner at a nearby restaurant,Il Vicollo Della Neve, serving typical Salerno family meals. We shared three great things, a baked pasta with beans, a pizza with the best mozzarella cheese I've ever tasted and an artichoke stuffed with egg and salami and then broiled. Finished with more babba for dessert.

03/20, Tuesday
Our breakfast-mates are from Savannah, GA. About our same age. They have been in southern France for a month in Arles. They wanted to see Pompeii and then on to Rome.

This morning we are visiting the Gardenia della Minerva, a short uphill walk. It is still too early for the flowers and trees to have buds, but we are fascinated by the design and the original purpose of the garden. It makes use of water flowing from inside the hill to fill basins and fountains, then into "canals" that distribute water to the plants.

It was designed by Dr Matteo Silvatico in the 12th century, not only for beauty, but for ingredients for medicine, using parts of the plants. The doctor introduced some of the first logic to curing illness at that time by relating health to a balance of the four humors.

Everything is based on "fours": 4 human humors (blood, black bile, yellow bile, and are familiar with these, I'm sure); 4 natural elements (air, earth, fire, water); 4 primary qualities (hot, cold, moist, dry); 4 grades (something to do with physiological power, i.e., degree of illness up to death); and, 4 terraces, each with a pergola, stepped up the steep slope to display the plants.

Ludovico recommended a small trattoria hosteria, Il Brigante, owned by his friend Alessandro. (Il Brigante, The Robber or Bandit, is an old Italian film.) The tastes were extraordinary. We both enjoyed a soup with beans and spinach and then a pasta dish. The wife does the cooking upstairs and it comes down in a dumb waiter to the tiny restaurant. Very cute. Again, so much fun watching the locals in their animated conversations.

If there's a castle nearby, we make the effort to see it. The one in Salerno is in ruins, high above the city, reachable only by bus (#19) or car. An hour walk around the ruins and the museum satisfies our curiosity. It has a great view of the city far below and the Salerno Bay. It is over a 1000 feet above sea level. During recent archaeological digs a remarkable quantity of medieval ceramics and coins were recovered. With three to six feet walls everywhere, it will be around for many more centuries. (I wouldn't make this a primary or secondary stop if you ever get to Salerno...Dick.)

Enjoyed another fantastic pizza around 8pm, which is early for Italians to dine, so we have no problem getting seated. We've pretty well walked around the old town now and it certainly isn't touristy. A few B&B's, but no large hotels. Our place is very, very nice and we have definitely enjoyed our stay in Salerno.

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