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Italy from Bottom to Top: Visiting Salerno and Paestum

I’m taking a SITA bus along the Amalfi Coast. If you’ve ever taken this nerve-racking trip, you know it’s a roller coaster ride. Paestum 1Every time we go around a corner we swing well into the other lane of traffic, and the driver’s blowing his horn frantically. A year ago I actually had to walk the road along the Amalfi Coast in the middle of the night. I’d waited for a bus that was two hours late, and then I was taken only a few kilometers toward my destination. Unbeknownst to me, the road was closed to SITA bus traffic for a 100-meter stretch. While I had to walk this supposedly dangerous stretch of road in order to get another bus, other traffic encountered this piece of the highway without a problem. But rather than wait for the next bus, which was scheduled to arrive in two hours, I decided to walk the 4.5 miles to Amalfi. There are no sidewalks and I had both a heavy backpack and a wheeled suitcase. But I made it. Eventually.

Before getting on this bus, I spent two days in Salerno. Salerno is located on the eastern edge of the Amalfi Coast and though it’s primarily a transportation hub, it’s worth checking out for one or two days. With inexpensive restaurants, happening bars, and a seaside promenade, Kristin and I usually stay in Salerno before hitting Amalfi.

Paestum 2Yesterday we visited the ancient ruins of Paestum, located on the coast just south of Salerno. The train to Paestum costs the same as the bus, 3 euro, and takes less than half the time: 40 minutes. This trip is one you can easily do without a car. The weather stayed the same, alternating between dark clouds and warm sun. The ruins at Paestum date back to 600 B.C., and the three colossal temples that remain demonstrate the bulging Doric columns of the time period. Photos do not do them justice. Tickets are priced at 4 euro. While the only place that I know of that rivals Paestum’s temples is the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, I wouldn’t pass up a trip to Pompeii to see Paestum. However, if you have time, it’s well worth visiting.

The BeachA trip to the sight does have other rewards. A beautiful beach is just a short, 20-minute walk from the archeological area. Again, no sidewalks, but there’s a beaten down path on one side of the road, and on the walk you’ll pass two buffalo farms that produce mozzarella di bufala. The famous cheese, often found atop Neapolitan pizza, is only made in this region. It comes as a ball, the inside of which is a mixture of cream and fresh cheese. The first time I tried it, I didn’t believe it was made from buffalo Fresh Cheesesmilk. There’s not only mozzarella, but also ricotta, which I write about here , scamorza cheese, and even gelato. First, we visited Azienda Agricola Barlotti, which offers generous tastings of the cheese. Next, we stopped at La Fattoria del Casaro di Di Lascio Luigi. Surprisingly, the two cheeses were quite different. Both were excellent, but I preferred La Fattoria del Casaro’s because it had a good balance of creamy flavor and texture. Barlotti’s had a tang to it that makes it good for pairing with tomatoes. The buffalo were huge, happily eating fresh hay.

BuffaloThroughout Italy, it’s important to remember that many smaller train stations do not have ticketing booths that are open all day. Such was the case in Paestum. Fortunately, I bought my train tickets at a tobacconist, which usually sell regional train and bus tickets. The next problem was finding a functioning machine to validate the tickets. No luck, so when the ticketing agent checked our tickets on the train we explained the situation, and he was very understanding.

When I returned to Salerno, I couldn’t miss visiting one of my favorite gelaterie in all of Italy. Bar Nettuno, located at 136 Lungo Mare Trieste in Salerno, offers an incredible invention called Nettuno, which is a light chocolate gelato with caramel, pieces of fudge, and crunchy pieces of chocolate. Other excellent flavors include Ricotta-Pistachio and Ricotta-Pear.
The bus ride’s almost over. In my next post I’ll talk about the Amalfi Coast’s excellent beaches, hiking trails, and seafood restaurants.

Written by Mattie Bamman for

Michael Tyson

Thursday 1st of July 2010

Wow, we walked a stretch of the Amalfi Cost road in daylight and nearly got run over! That must've been pretty hair-raising! Congratulations on surviving against all odds :)

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