After spending time in Umbria and Tuscany, we returned to Rome where we spent a few days recreating memories we had in the Eternal city just two years ago before we took the train to Salerno.
We made the low key Salerno our base for 5 days while we took day trips to the Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Positano and Paestrum from there.
It was a busy, working port town and we like the authenticity of being able to experience an Italian town for what it is, without the tourists.
Since Salerno sits on one end of the Amalfi Coastline, it makes it a good transit point to visit the Amalfi Coastal towns. It also means that you get really fresh seafood! We had some of our most memorable meals here at Salerno.
Our first meal was dinner at Taverna Santa Maria De Dommo, we had a medley of seafood. The fresh regional clams on riso nero (black rice) was amazing. The clams were so fresh and the black rice was cooked in a seafood stock (probably from the shells). The lightly battered and deep fried squid in a light but flavourful tomato based seafood broth was an assault on the senses. I am a seafood lover and that menu made me feel like I’m in seafood paradise.
The next meal we had at Salerno was nothing short of amazing. After a long day, we settled down at Degustibus. Pizzas are the name of the game here. They are done really well and its best if you order something with buffalo mozzarella, this region’s specialty. We also had an antipasti platter of mixed vegetables to share – grilled, with olive oil and balsamic. If you learn about the vegetables in the Campania region, you would know that it is second to none because of the qualities that the soil possess. The vegetables here are really something. Remember to give it a go if you come here.
The next day, we took a regional train to Pompeii. The train ride took a short 20 minutes. I have to say that I didn’t expect to enjoy Pompeii so greatly.
The ancient city of Pompeii was buried under a thick cover of ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. The buried city was uncovered only quite recently in 1748.
I was completely astounded by how in tact the city remains after 2000 years. It looks virtually untouched, almost as if time stood still. You could see the remains of bars, food stores, streets, theatre, and family villas all in tact. The little details like frescoes, vases and pots are too fairly in tact and paints a picture of life in Pompeii.
Standing in the forum against the backdrop of the beautiful but ominous Mount Vesuvius is almost magical. Amidst the hustle and bustle of tour groups and tourists, you can imagine a thriving ancient city that the Romans lived in before this unforeseen and terrible incident that engulfed the city overnight. It is such a tragedy but at the same time, it is downright fascinating.
Since it was low season when I went, the ferries were not in operation and we had to take the SITA bus from outside the Salerno train station. The bus ride was slightly less than 1.5 hours but the tumultuous ride left me feeling quite sick on the infamous narrow and winding roads of Amalfi Coastal region.
Aside from the less than pleasant journey there, Amalfi was as pretty as a postcard. I love the quiet lanes of the small coastal town. The waters were of different shades of blue depending on the angle from which you admire it. The pastel coloured buildings that overlook the small black-sand beach bears witness to the most beautiful of sunsets.
We walked into this little town and was drawn in to this small store at the corner of the piazza. There were limones (lemons) hanging outside of the store and once you are close by, you may be able to smell a whiff of lemon. Antichi Sapori di Amalfi is one of the shops that still make limoncello by hand. In the nearby “lab”, you can see them preparing the lemons for the alcohol. The liquers are also bottled by hand (unlike those limoncellos that you find at any supermarket in Italy).
As I always have a innate interest in all things handmade. I had wanted to go to the Museo della Carta (Museum of paper) and also looked out for the two shops that still made paper by hand. For some reason, after a long trek to the museo, it was closed and I was very disappointed.
Amalfi is one of the first towns in Italy where paper is made and only two or three families still continue the tradition of making paper by hand till this day. I bought some paper products from the two shops (more than I should have) and spoke to a lovely lady in one of the stores who explained to us how her parents are making paper.
It is impossible to leave Amalfi without trying her lemons. I started with lemonade, moving on to granita and then limone sorbet – it was quite the perfect cure on a strangely hot autumn’s day. The lemons has a hint of sweetness that other varieties lack.
I definitely enjoyed the idyllic peace that we had in this town. We bought some freshly made panini with fresh mozerella from the Campania region with sweet tomatoes, olive oil. We had lunch on the beach and watch a painter do his magic on canvas of this pretty little town.
After lunch, we trekked down the narrow and steep slopes of this sleepy town taking in the pastel colours buildings, the olive trees, the turquoise waters and enjoy some of autumn’s remaining sunshine.
We left without any regrets as we were greeted by a beautiful, mellow glow of the sun set over the coast before we headed back to Salerno.
From Rome to Salerno: Train from Rome’s Termini Station. Takes about 2 hours on the high speed trains (FRECCIAROSSA trains)
From Salerno to Pompeii: Local train from Salerno to Pompei station. The train ride takes about 20 minutes (Fast train). It is about 15 minutes walk to the Piazza del Anfiteatro entrance. The main entrance is nearest to the Pompei Scavi train station which you only can reach from Naples.
From Salerno to the Amalfi towns: Best to take a ferry. It’s the fastest (and I believe the most comfortable way to get there). Do check if they are running before you go. Otherwise, you can take the Sita bus (buy a ticket from the news stand from the train station or any bar that has the SITA logo. They do not sell tickets on the bus.) from the entrance of the Salerno Train station. It takes about 1.5 hr by bus. The bus ride is not for the faint-hearted. So if you are prone to car sickness, remember to take your pills before departing the station.
We had our dinners in Salerno after our day trips and the food proved to be excellent. The ingredients are the freshest and they are treated with care and respect. You will enjoy your meals in Salerno if you choose well. However, they seem to have dinners late so you will expect to have your dinner at about 8pm or 8:30pm when you are in Salerno.
Taverna Santa Maria De Dommo
Masuccio Salernitano 63/65/67, 84121 Salerno, Italy
Great seafood menu that they have. Ignore the meat selection and just go directly for the seafood.
Via Masuccio Salernitano 45, 84121 Salerno, Italy
Tel: +39 333 6953085
A small place but it gets really crowded. Menu changes regularly and it is in Italian so it is best to bring along a pocket guide with the names of Italian dishes/ingredients. It’s safe to stick with the seafood dishes.
Ristorante Pizzeria Degustibus
Via portanova 7, Salerno, Italy
Very good pizzas done in a wood fire oven. Try the ones with buffalo mozerella. The vegetable anti pasti platter is also really good.
Hosteria il Brigante
Via Fratelli Linguiti 4 (Salerno)
Tel: 328/3423428, Closed on Mondays
A small place with simple, honest cooking with a changing menu with a few large communal tables. This place is cheap but really good so it gets filled up very quickly by the locals. We picked a few random dishes to share because we could not really understand the menu but there was little to worry about as every dish turned out great. The octopus stewed in a tomato based sauce was delicious! The pastas were great too.
Antichi Sapori di Amalfi
Piazza Duomo 39
Buy your bottles of limoncello from this store and not the rest because they still make their limoncello by hand. Try out their Amalfi lemon and white chocolate bar. Pretty darn good, I would say.
Shop that sells handmade paper. Bring back an Amalfi tradition of paper-making.
Check out the other store along the same street.
Sells handmade paper, journels, letter pads.