Tales of a wandering lesbian

Unexpected beauty

Our trip to Salerno was a scouting mission.  An attempt to find interesting towns where the Ant could retire.  We spent our time taking day trips around the region, with days off in Salerno.  The days off were mostly days of rest, the two of us lounging around the apartment, or heading to the café down the street.  Food was always a part of the equation, whether pizza from our favorite place, or fried balls of stuff from a cart.

On one of our days off we decided to explore Salerno’s history.  We knew three things about ancient Salerno.  First, it had an important duomo.  Second, it had a big castle.  Third, it had some medicinal gardens.  We were most interested in seeing the castello, which overlooked the city from a big hill, so we took the bus into town and started walking up.

Our map, which wasn’t topographical and only showed us streets, indicated that it would be feasible to walk to the castle.  We picked out the right road and wound our way through the streets of medieval Salerno.  We happened upon the duomo, which seemed much more interesting in the guidebooks than in real life.

The dreariness of Salerno was only slightly less here.

Up, up, up we wound, the streets getting narrower as we walked.  Somewhere along the way we began to wonder if we were still on the right road.  So I ducked my head into some kind of a historical center, and found a beautiful young woman who seemed to be waiting to help us.

“Mi dispiaci, no parlo bene, l’italiano.”  I smiled my usual greeting, noting her abrupt movements as she came over to us.

“English?”  Like so many others, she’d guessed right.

I handed her our little map and asked where we were.

“Oh, mmm, allora, mmm.”  She muttered as she looked at the paper, turning it around on the counter we were leaning over.  She located our position on the map, after a good bit of studying.

“What are you looking for? Il giardino della Minerva?”

“The Castello,” the Ant and I answered together.

The woman looked at us.  “No, no, no.  It’s too far.  It’s not possible.”

The Ant and I exchanged dubious looks.  We wanted to see the castle, but we weren’t especially up for an impossible climb.

“But the gardens are very close.  Very beautiful.”

The Ant was nodding fervently.  “Okay.”

Our guide folded up the map and handed it to me as she led us to the door.    “Walk up here, and keep going, always forward.”  Good advice.  She returned the amused smile I flashed her.  We thanked her and headed up the hill in the direction she had pointed.

The Ant turned to me with a wry look on her face.  “Well you certainly do know how to find them.”  A little embarrassed, I chuckled and looked at the cobblestones we were walking.  Yes, it seemed I did know how to walk into a shop and find a helpful, pretty girl.

And she was right, it wasn’t far, but it’s not likely we would have found it without her instruction.  The undulating streets of this part of Salerno were a bit maze-like, due (as we would find out) to the fact that it was built on the side of a cliff.

Inside the unassuming gates of the garden, we paid our euros, grabbed the 4 page, single-spaced, English-language info pamphlet on the gardens and started mulling about.  The pamphlet told us that these gardens are recognized as the first medicinal gardens – ever.   The sense of peace and calm inside the gates was beautiful.  We spent the next hour or so wandering through the three levels of the gardens, snapping pictures, taking video, smelling plants, trying to identify some of them.  Plants strange to that part of the world, like Taro, materialized in the boggy beds around fountains.  Fish swam in pools with lily-pads.  I’m not sure if we saw any other visitors to the gardens.  It was like our own, private playground.

The gardens are built on the site of natural springs, so the entire location is filled with channels bringing water to the myriad of beds and fountains.

The terraces were connected by a staircase that was built as part of the outer wall, on the side of the cliff.  It treated us to spectacular views.

As we reached the top level, the woman from the admissions office came up behind us to tell us they were closing for lunch.

I grabbed a couple of last pictures and we made the climb back down to the gate.

We hiked back out toward the duomo, winding back through the streets where people live among a remarkable history.

We hadn’t eaten in something like 2 hours, so we were starving and stopped for a calzone at the first place we came to.  The Ant had something meaty, and I had something that equated to a salad in a calzone.

Much like the gardens, and the woman who led us there, it was quite unexpectedly lovely.

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June 28, 2010   2 Comments