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Italy Day 10, complications, consternation, and Luigi too!


The Promenade, Salerno

Departing Salerno

We awoke refreshed. As we do every morning when we are not rushed, we went out for a morning stroll and an espresso.  Luigi provided a voucher for a simple colazione at a café, nearby across from the Duomo.


An Open Air Market, Salerno

Much to my surprise Luigi was leaving as we arrived. “Buongiorno”   Luigi was working on the upstairs apartment, would we like to drop in and see it when after we’ve eaten?  “Certo, grazie”  Our espresso and cornetti were excellent. And we headed back to pack for our ferry to Capri.  You will seldom have a bad cup of cappuccino or espresso anywhere in Italy.


Luigi, Professore

“Professore, Professore” I called as we approached the apartment.  After watching Montalbano, Voice of the Violin, I’ve wanted an excuse to say that.  Luigi’s head popped into a window frame and called us upstairs and inside.  This apartment was larger and much brighter than the one we rented.   He would rent this one to us at the same price as the one below, if we wanted to visit Salerno and the Amalfi coast again.  Given prices in Positano and Amalfi, this is a tempting proposition.


Living Room & Dining Room from the Kitchen Level


Kitchen Level and the Stairway to the Rooftop Patio


The Kitchen Level and Front Door

We talked about the work he is doing on the upstairs apartment.  He showed us the patio upstairs above a charming circular wrought iron stairway.  We lingered enjoying each other’s company.  The feeling that Luigi would rather be having fun and not working was palpable.  Finally we had to pull away to pack.  Luigi asked where we were going next.  The ferry to Capri.  We discussed where it departed and were at odds.  He thought on one pier, we were told on a different pier.  Luigi called around, called again. looked serious, called another place. He had a few long conversations with who knows whom.  Something was amiss.


The Ferry Pier for the Amalfi Coast

And something surely was.  There was a single ferry each morning that departs from the pier we were told.  However, there is only one ferry at this time of year and it left at 8AM! We could take a ferry to Amalfi or Positano, then take the ferry at 8PM to Capri and arrive late. I knew the ferry from Salerno to Capri could be trouble, but the latest information I had was that the ferry would be running hourly by now.  Not so!  Luigi continued calling.  At one point he said, I know a fellow who owns a boat.  He will take you to Capri if the ferries are too expensive. By now we had finished packing.  Luigi mentioned that the only direct ferries to Capri now were from Sorrento and from Napoli.  He could drive us to Sorrento!


On the Train to Napoli

I know that train service between Salerno and Napoli runs regularly like clockwork.  I went round and round with Luigi about what the best method to get to Capri might be.  We finally settled on taking a train to Napoli and taking the ferry to Capri, “but be careful in Napoli.  It is not safe to leave bags outside”  We had left a bag outside the apartment for a long time wile researching ferry options.  “I can take care of myself, don’t worry Luigi. We will be fine”.  Luigi walked us to the train station and carried my bag the entire way.  We continued an interesting conversation about dialects, Napoli, Salerno, about life in general, and about being happy as a way of life.  We parted at the train station after we had verified that ferries from Napoli ran regularly to Capri and having discussions with women in line for tickets about options to get to Capri.  It was agreed that going by way of Amalfi, while possible, would get us there late in the evening.

The tickets to Napoli were under 5 euro each, very reasonable.  The train was scheduled to leave at 12:10.  It was not 11:45.  We were good to go!

The train ride was fast, 40 minutes, and uneventful. Departing the train station a fellow asked, “You want a taxi? Where To?”   I said “Traghetto per Capri”  “Si, I take you”  (Lesson Learned Prior)  “Quanta Costa?”  “venti euro”  “Ma, No. diece euro”  “quindici”  I walked on.  Another 50 meters a second fellow asked “Taxi?” “Traghetto per Capri” “quindici Euro”  “dieci”  “dodici” “certo” and off we went to the ferry for 12 euros.

On the way the taxi driver asked Traghetto or something else.  Not being sure what the “something else was” I said “Si, traghetto” and shortly we were dropped of at a street corner.  The driver accosted a coupe crossing the street with baggage and asked if they were going to the ferry. “Si”, and he motioned to us to follow this couple.  The four of us eventually found the Traghetto, the car ferry to Capri.  We parted ways as they already had tickets and followed the signs for biglietteria.  By now we knew that was the ticket counter.  We arrived behind a very talkative group of Italians who seemed to have an issue with the agent.  They went on and on about the same thing forever it seemed.  All good natured, but the group was trying to find a way around or through some problem.  Eventually they gave up.


Ferry to Marina Grande, Capri. Ellen Chatting with justin and Kate

Our turn. “Il traghetto per Capri a qui?” “Si” “A che ora?”  “sedici e mezzo” “Ma troppo tardi”  The agent switched to broken English and said that there is another ferry that leaves sooner down that way, pointing further down to our right.  Great.

We turned around and the couple behind us asked, “there’s another ferry leaving sooner?”  “Yes”  “can we follow you”  “Of course”, not that we knew anything more than it’s “that way”.  Off we went.  Justin and Kate from Texas were newly weds (well less than a year married) and this was Kate’s first trip to Italy. We had a great time chatting about Texas, travel, languages. As we walked I stopped frequently to ask “Dov’e il Traghetto per Capri” and often people wanted to send us back to the car ferry.  We persisted.  Eventually Justin said they had dropped a car off right there, “Oh, that’s the car we dropped off.  They told us to go to the ferry where we met you!”  There’s lots of confusion about ferries.  We pushed on baggage in hand.  We saw an arch with people coming and going, “that could be it”.  “It looks like a cruise ship portal”, Ellen was correct.  By now we were flagging, it’s been over a kilometer and no sight of ferries.  Turning a corner we noticed a low white building across the street. It was nondescript, but could be a ticket counter.  “Wait here, I’ll go check it out”, and off I went. I entered the front door to find a long counter with two agents staring at a display to my left and an agent helping someone to my right.  It still was not clear what this was, ticket counter, private tour operator, local undercover police, who knew.  Again the agent and the Italian were having a great time discussing the pros and cons of the color of the tickets or whatever was of interest.

After a few minutes of this, out of my mouth popped, “allora”  The two agents looked up from the screen and both said, “prego” (it’s that easy?  Who knew.)  “Dov’e il biglietteria per il traghetto per capri?”   “e qui”  “Si?”  “Si.”  I went outside and signaled that this was the place.  Not getting a response I shouted, “Andiamo”  wrong context I should have shouted “Vieni qui” but it worked.  We all bought tickets.  Leaving I asked, “Dov’e il Traghetto”  what I meant was where do we board, but the agent got the message. “andare in giro poi dritto e sinistra”, motioning around then straight and left.  Cool. we were off.

With a few missteps, we found the boarding area, got aboard directly and were on our way to Capri.  Once aboard the ferry, I texted Luigi that we were safely headed to Capri.  Ellen gave Justin our travel card.  We never have pen and paper to exchange contact info with like minded people we meet travelling.  With “retired” cards we no longer have that problem.  We arrived Capri mid afternoon, beating the car ferry by many hours and not inconveniencing our hosts.  GPS guided us toward the rental and up to a dead end.  Great, GPS is useless.   We turned back and took a reliable route.  I called Nunzia who said Toni would be waiting for us at the supermercato superiore. “OK”, I said knowing I had no idea where it was.  We could always ask.  Walking back across the marina promenade, I asked a waiter where I’d find supermercato superiore.  He pointed across the street then wanted to have us sit and eat.  “troppo, non adesso per favore”  Clearly the market across the street was not “superiore” we kept walking.

A few hundred meters I asked again and got a gesture of up the street then around left and back around right and it’s up there. Vague, but something to go on.  Nunzia called and said there’s a stairway on the left we’ll see as we walk that’s a shortcut.  Toni will meet you at the market.  Cool, Up and around left then right, was quite a slog.  Then up a long flight of stairs.  Then left along a very narrow curvy road with cars and an occasional bus going buy (slowly luckily). Eventually we saw the market and a fellow hopped off the wall beside us and asked, “Ron”  “Si” Toni introduced himself.


The View onto Our Terrace

We are roughly the same age.  I may be a number of years older.  Toni showed us down a long walkway then left and right (or was it right and left?) through a locked gate ( just reach around and press the first switch to open the gate) and here you are.  Up a short flight of stairs and there’s a view of Marina Grande, Capri. The water sparkled in the sunlight.  Ferries and tour boats left white wakes streaming behind.  We were “home”.


Marina Grande, Capri

This was a relief.  We could have been stranded in any number of places between Salerno and Capri.  Toni showed us how to work the heater/AC while talking about Capri.  He could not find an English version of a map of Capri, but he marked up a French copy.  “Here’s the bus schedule,, you can reach the blue grotto from Anacapri.  No need to take a tour boad, the rowers will pick you up from the shore here.  There are old English forts along this side of the island and a walkway between them.  There was a famous sea battle between Napoleon and the English that took place here.  The forts were there to protect the British. You should walk.  Don’t just sit outside in the sun. Walk.  Explore.  See the Island!”  That’s toni.


Sunset Over Marina Grande, Capri

I was late.  We had had two long days with uncertain connections.  We turned on the heaters, warmed up the apartment, and relaxed some, then headed off to Capri before sunset.  There was one restaurant I wanted to try.  I knew it was close to the two rocks, Faraglioni di Capri, the symbol of Capri. To reach it we would take a bus to Capri and walk down the south side somewhere.  Not knowing the restaurant’s name put us at a disadvantage.  It was unlikely we would find it among the nest of narrow streets and walkways.


A Typical Capri Stairway

Capri is steep. There is much more up and down than walking on the flat.  We walked down to dead ends and private property a few times.  We always retraced our steps and continued in a east south east direction.  Eventually we passed a restaurant that “looked right”.  “I think this is the place”, I told Ellen.  Let’s eat here.  The restaurant was closed but opened in half an hour around 7:00.  Could we have reservations at 7?  Certainly.  See you then.


Terrazza Brunella is Villa Brunella’s Restaurant

Terrazza Brunella

A bit further along east, we found the Faraglioni overlook and a trail that winds below.  We easily consumed half an hour walking, watching the sun set, and taking a photo or two.  At the witching hour (a bit early perhaps) we returned to the restaurant and were seated. Ellen would have preferred a window seat, but accepted what we were given.  Often an Italian restaurant will have reservations for particular tables at 9:00.  That table will be held even at 7:00.  It is not unusual for a party to spend three hours over dinner.  The excellent Italian restaurants are much more interested in the qualify of the food and the dining experience than they are with turning tables.  Many a US diner has complained either at slow service or at not getting the table they want.  Understand the Italian culture and roll with it. Why not?


The View from Our Table, 7:15 PM



These Were So Yummy We Ordered a Second Serving!

On the menu for an appetizer was fresh sardines in olive oil and lemon with balsamic pearls and chili. I like the canned sardines we get in the US, Ellen does not.  Still she acquiesced and let me order the sardines as an appetizer.   She ordered a filet while I had dorado.  The house wine was a good choice.  When the sardines arrived, they were small thin individual rolls drizzled with oil.  I tried one having no idea what to expect.  Surprise, surprise.  These were mild and melted in your mouth. They were not fishy nor salty, but a mild clean fish flavor enhanced with a mild olive oil flavor and a hint of lemon.  They were outstanding.  I suggested Ellen try one.  Again I had no idea how she would react.  I had high hopes of consuming the entire appetizer myself.  That would be heaven.


Dinner By Candle Light as the Sun Set.

Ellen loved the first bite and the second.  Wanted another, then three more. My dreams of “drowning” in this exquisite sardine dish evaporated.  When the sardines were gone, Ellen said, “we should order another!”  Really?  I signaled a waiter and said, “we would like another order of the sardines, provided it does not interfere with preparing our main course”.  In no time another dish of sardines appeared and was quickly consumed.


Scrumptious Filet Mignon

Fresh sardines, and they must be fresh as the oils change character quickly, but fresh they are a delicate soft meat very unlike anything else. These were extraordinary.  My main course was very good; fresh fish sautéed in olive oil with nothing else.  Only fresh fish can be prepared this way.  Ellen’s filet was slightly charred on the very outside and medium rare inside.  Prepared, seasoned, and cooked perfectly.


Not Masters of the Selfie

We shared a dessert and espresso.  We enjoyed talking about our trip thus far, relating current events to past humorously, with hints of the next few days and weeks adventure.  Food courses were presented in a slow even flow along with an occasional top-up of our wine or water glass.  We watch the evening change from late afternoon to sunset then dusk as our table was lit by the sun. But slowly the candle light became the only source of light (there were low wattage ceiling lights that were outshined by the candles).  It was a very romantic evening in a romantic setting. We left the restaurant a little after 9:30, a wonderfully slow paced meal.


The Funicular Terrace, Nearly Deserted

A walk and a bus ride took us back to our apartment.  We were “home”.


Late Night, Capri

Italy, Day 9: a Ferry, a Bus, and Luigi too!



On the Ferry to “the continent” as the Sicilians Say

Messina, 5 AM

We dragged out of bed with under four hours sleep, packed, and headed out to find the ferry Villa San Giovanni.  Wisely (so I thought) I booked the 8:20 train to Salerno, but didn’t expect we’d go to Catania and back the night before! The plan was to get to bed early.  That just did not happen.

Ellen suggested (wisely) that there might be taxis at the bus terminus.  We were intimately familiar with that building, and it was only three blocks away.  At the terminus we found a taxi who was very accommodating, knew where the ferry departs, and would take us there.  Here I made a crucial mistake.  I failed to ask, “quanto costa”.  Establish a price or you are doomed.  We were doomed.  First off this fine specimen of humanity became tour guide.  Over here is the Duomo.  “But we want to go to the Ferry”.   “Yes, but you have time, let me  show you the palace”.  “No, we want to go to the ferry”,  “And over here we have…”  “Ma, No! Adesso. Take us to the ferry”  Eventually he complied.  My 2nd mistake, pulling a wad of 20’s and 50’s from my pocket with this shark standing at my shoulder.  Brazenly, he pulled first one 20, then a 2nd, then a 3rd from the wad while I stood there dumbfounded.  I just could not believe this was happening and couldn’t speak.  When he went for a 50 I stopped him.  He left with far too much for that fare.  Worse, he got away with it will feel more confident with the next sap who comes along.  LESSON LEARNED!


Villa San Giovanni Train Station, Platform #3

Sometimes timing is everything.  We got tickets and walked right onto the ferry.  It departed immediately.  “And over here…” We could have missed this ferry and had to sit for an hour. I am still steaming over the taxi “ride”,   Ellen had a few choice words for me over it too.


Twenty minutes later my Italian smart/dumb phone guided us to the train station along with a few “Dov’e il stazione ferroviaria” and “Dritto e a destra”.  At the biglietteria I asked “a che ora e li treno per Salerno”  “alle otto venti”, but he spoke so fast I only heard “8”.  Then he offered “platform 3” with a quizzical look.  We turned toward the platforms, then II thought I’d better see if the ticket I printed from the web is actually a ticket and not a voucher.  I handed the tickets to the attendant and he nodded, “Si, questi sono I biglietti”.


On the Train to Salerno

Next, let’s find an espresso.  We found a very seedy bar with an espresso maker and a tall bearded tattooed fellow with a stud earring in his left ear.  I ordered cappuccino for Ellen and my macchiato doppio.  “Where are you from?” and that started an on again off again conversation with Frankie (Francesco, but I called him Frankie) about travel, family, where is good to live, there’s noting happening in Italy (if by Italy he meant Villa San Giovanni, he’s probably correct).  Time flew by. customers came and went, and still we chatted with Francesco.

As 8:15 approached, we left Frankie for platform 3 and our train to Salerno.  I texted our landlord, Luigi, that we were on the train from Messina and would arrive in about three hours.  I did not hear back from Luigi in those three hours.

Italian trains, particularly the non-local ones, are very  comfortable.  Not the seats so much, but the train and the tracks.  There is very little screeching and no side to side wobble that you get on English trains in particular.  We could doze off from time to time.

Arriving Salerno, I called Luigi.  He picked up and after a Buongiorno or two asked, “where are you”  “We’re at the train station”.  I’ll come right over.  I’ll be driving a green Mercedes. “   “Ellen is a short blond woman wearing a blue jacket.  We’ll be waiting across from the station”  A short wait later, a quintessentially dressed professor walked up asking “Ron?”.  He wore a shirt and tie under a sweater with a brown/gray jacket to top it off.  He grabbed our bags and ushered us off to his car where he introduced his stunning wife and their son, who speaks English.  Luigi’s English is fine for communicating, far better than my broken Italian.


Luigi, Renaissance Man Extraordinaire

Luigi and family took us on a brief tour of Salerno.  Then he and his son accompanied us to Santa Maria Dei Barbuti.  Along the way, he gave us a history lesson in Salerno’s past and the Longobardi who ruled Salerno and were so named for their long beards.  The apartment is in a converted Church; very interesting architecturally.  Luigi has been selectively removing plaster to expose the old original stone walls.   With its half meter thick walls, the apartment was cold, though there was adequate heat.  We spend most or our time out anyway.  The bed was firm, comfortable. 

The apartment was exactly as shown in the photos, perfect.

IMG_1717  IMG_1721

First up, some lunch.  After, we’d find the ferry to Capri.  With only one evening in Salerno, we wanted to know ahead of time where we’d catch the ferry.  Luigi has recommended a number of restaurants,  we went to a pizza place he suggested.  I thought the pizza was a bit under cooked.  The crust was not firm, but the beer was good!

We walked down the waterfront promenade, past a carnival like amusement park, and asked a parking attendant where we’d find the Capri Ferry.  “lungo diritta, molto (sounded like Mollo)”, back to from where we had come.   We opted to go back to the apartment now and find the ferry tomorrow morning.

Back at the apartment we turned the heat on and relaxed some before heading out for dinner.


A View to the Marina

My schizo Samsung phone showed Luigi’s favorite restaurant close to where the ferry should be.  I say schizo because I cannot figure out how this thing works.  It often appears inconsistent. 

Apparently the Amalfi Coast ferries leave from the south end of Salerno and the Capri ferry leaves from the north.  We can have dinner then check out the ferry schedule. Great.  With little sleep last night and after walking most of the day, we were looking forward to a good dinner and some sleep.  We found the restaurant windows dark, not a light on in the place. It was closed!  Strike one. 

A bit further on and we found that the ferry terminal with its lights on!  It too was closed. No schedule for any ferry was posted outside.  Strike two.


The Old and the New

the new could easily be older than most US buildings

No problem, we’ll just walk around and find a nice place for dinner.  We walked and walked, no we did not want pizza, nor hamburgers (?!?), nor the pizza place overlooking the duomo. We found bars and cafes open, but very few ristoranti or osterias open.  Those that were open did not appeal.  We walked and walked some more. We were getting cranky, not to the point of homicide; not yet. 

By now it was approaching 10:30. On one of the main streets Pinocchio was open.  We had an oscillating moment of uncertainty Ellen wanted to eat there, I didn’t, then I said OK and Ellen didn’t want to.  We eventually were seated.  Ten minutes later we had menus in hand, slow even by Italian standards.  The menu was typical of U.S. Formica tabled nondescript eateries.  Each page, encased in well worn plastic,  showed a series of photos, each with a description of a dish. “Strike Three”, I thought.  Ellen found a cheese plate she wanted.  I saw vongole (clams).  Wow, clams here?  OK.  As we ordered I noticed for the first time the human sized statue of Pinocchio against the wall.  Not an inspiring site if it’s a good meal you want.


A Sure Sign of Quality?

I was not at all encouraged by the décor, the couples behind us smoking, the rock playing conspicuously, nor our waitress’ interest in serving food.  The outlook was bleak.  We expect we may find a “best meal of all time” on this trip.  We’ve also been looking for a “worst meal of the trip”.  I thought Pinocchio’s would be a contender.  I was wrong!  The plate brimming with baby clams was perfectly seasoned and came with dipping bread.  The cheese selection was good and bruschetta with very fresh tomatoes was excellent.  After dinner we had their home made tiramisu and complimentary Limoncello that had quite a kick.  Despite the restaurant’s ambiance, which I think was catering to a young crowd,  this was an excellent meal.


The Vongole Disappeared FAST!

It was 19 hours from the time we awoke to catch the Messina to Villa San Giovanni ferry to lights out in Salerno.  We were exhausted.