Tales of a wandering lesbian

Salerno, take two

So, here’s the thing.  We might have thought we had visited downtown Salerno, but we were wrong.  The day we arrived here, we had been traveling for something like 40 hours.  We were tired and disoriented.  We walked straight out of the train station and into a cab.  From there, we kind of lost track of things.  Water was on the right, we made some turns, and BAM, we were there.

When I woke up on our third day in Salerno, I remembered Carmine telling us something about a TI.  The tourist information office was right across from the station.  That was a good thing to remember.  We’d already figured out the bus, and thought we could probably stay on the one we’d ridden the day before, and hit the station.  At any rate, we’d have an adventure trying to get there.

We made some coffee and toast and heated our cornetta (croissants) in the toaster oven.  Then we hopped a bus headed to the station.  (I confirmed with the driver that we were, indeed, headed “alla stazzione”.)

We rode along, past the private beaches, through the run-down commercial district, and to the farthest point we’d turned around the day before.  About 2 blocks further, the bus pulled into the train station.  We had a good laugh and tried to clamber off the bus with everyone else, as hoards of others pushed on.

“Permisso!” I tried, nudging the Ant forward.

The “shhhhhh” of the door closing came and a little lady with grey hair hollered, “un attimo!” in her high voice.  I followed her lead.

“Un attimo!” I bellowed.  One moment.  It was too late.  We looked at each other, and the little lady shook her head.  We’d tried.  At least we knew were it was at, and we could walk back.  We were also good at walking.

As the bus turned the corner, I caught sight of the Vodafone store.  Brilliant!  I’d been borrowing wireless from the neighbors, and it was just about driving me insane with the cutting out and bad signal.  I’d spent hours on the patio with my laptop on my shoulder trying to upload pictures.  I had a Vodafone internet key from my last trip, and just needed to recharge it at a store.  This was my chance.

With a renewed sense of adventure, we hopped off at the next stop.  I bounced into the Vodafone shop and worked through the details in my broken Italian.  Fortunately, I still had a copy of the contract and my SIM card with me.  10 minutes and 25 Euro later, I was assured I’d have internet in a couple of days.  Fabulous!

We continued on, back to the station and found the TI.  I swear, every TI has a 20 year old, super-cute Italian woman working there.  One who speaks darn good English, and gives tons of help and tons of hot attitude.  This one was no exception.  After listening with amusement as we struggled through our first couple of questions, she stopped us and continued on in English.  We left there with a couple of maps of the city (thank the gods and goddesses), bus, train and boat schedules, and smiles on our faces.

It turned out the real downtown – the beautiful, medieval part, was on the other side of the station, nowhere near where we were walking the day before.  Hilarious.

We walked down the main drag, window-shopping; enjoying the different feel in this more touristy district (though it was still far less touristy than any other city we’d be in).  Past more clothing shops and other retail establishments, through piazzas we walked.  I picked up a wicked-sweet knit argyle trucker hat in green and pink.

It’s rare that things like this call to me, but when I saw it in the window, I squealed (also rare) and ran inside, spurred on by the Ant.  “It’ll be closed when we get back from lunch.  You better go now.”

Hat in hand (well, in my swanky bag) we headed back into the street to find a pizzeria.  It was past time for us to eat.  However, as we walked toward the water, we were derailed.  Walking by a bread shop/rosticceria, we saw tins of pasta, peppers and eggplant parmesan.   Super-yummy.  “Let’s go in.”  I was thinking about the wood-fired bread that could be waiting inside.  We ducked through the plastic beads hanging down, and found ourselves in a dimly lit shop, over-stocked with bread, cheese, crachers, biscuits, and a thousand types of carbs.  It was heaven.

The woman came from behind the counter to help pull the food out of the window.  We pointed out one tin of eggplant and one of peperonata (roasted peppers), and I asked for the bread.  She held up a half a loaf – about the size of a dinner platter.  “Perfetto.”  I assured her.  We’d work through that in a day.

She carefully wrapped up our food, putting the tins in plastic to-go containers, and wrapping the bread in paper.  We paid something like 13 Euro and took possession of our feast.

“Forchette?”  We didn’t have silverware on us.


“Okay, va bene.”  This would be an earthy meal.

The waterfront was a block away, with its bench-lined, grassy walkway.  We found a good place in the shade, and considered our meal.  We’d watched boys washing their hands in the drinking fountains that dotted the sidewalks.  There was one standing nearby, its big metal basin a friendly sight.

After washing up a bit, we set out the food, tearing off large hunks of the beautiful, eggy bread.

The bread was perfect.   Pulling it apart, we took the strips of eggplant, tomato and cheese and folded it inside.

Eggplant parmesan sandwiches on the waterfront.  Bello.  We sat for a while, stuffing our faces, and looking out over the water.  When we couldn’t eat anymore, we packed up what was left and headed back toward the station.

Vendors had sent up along the waterfront, and we cruised through, checking out their wares.  Children’s books, metal signs in English, pendants used to ward off the “evil eye.”  The vendors always amaze me.  Most of them speak 2 or 3 languages.  Pretty darn well.  Way better than I do.  I have a graduate degree.  And these guys always humble me.

A few souvenirs under our arms, we continued on, watching the sky turn to black.

We needed to catch a bus back to the apartment, but there was something more important we needed to take care of first.  We hadn’t had gelato in Salerno yet.  Just down from the station and the TI, we found a colorful place with smiling trashcans, and a zillion flavors.

Despite the plastic gelato bins, we decided to give it a go.  Even bad gelato was good.  But this stuff was good.  Winter cherry,  walnut, and stracchiatella filled our cones and our already over-full bellies.  We watched as locals ordered gelato and brioche – actual sandwiches of ice cream.  I promised myself I’d have one before I go home.

All sugared up, we walked to the bus stop, read the sign, and found the right bus back.  Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to get something right.  And we’d gotten this day right.

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June 14, 2010   Comments Off on Salerno, take two

Nel Forno a Legna

My first adventure in Fornacci di Barga was to find a wireless internet drive.  It’s just a crazy little jump drive that has a place for a micro card and a sim card.  Plug it in, and you get internet.  Lovely.

I asked if there was anything I could pick up while I was out.  Yes, some bread.  Seems easy enough, right?  Not so much.  On the way from the airport, the first day, we stopped at the grocery store.  My one task was to grab some bread.  “Brown bread” said Sandra, “cooked in the oven.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but when my family picks up freshly baked bread, we give it a squeeze to make sure it has a good crunch with a nice soft center.  I searched the bread bins (you can’t believe how many different kinds of bread there are) and, after rejecting a flat, tough loaf, I found a nice soft one.

Wrong.  I went back to the bread area with Deb to see what, exactly, I should be looking for.  Well, first, you go to the bread counter, not the bread bins.  Second, you have to know what you’re ordering.  Then they just cut off how ever much you want from these foot-and-a-half long loaves of flat, brown bread.

When I squeezed it, it was clear I had no idea what I was looking for.  Never would I have selected this bread.  However, it makes some of the best toast in the world!  And is great with cheese!  And is just yummy!

So, today when I asked what I could pick up, I wasn’t so excited to hear, “pane cotto nel forno a legna.”  I tried to memorize as much of the phrase as I could, and headed out.  I scoped out the bread shops on the way to the internet place.  There were two.  On the way back, I would pick one and stop.  After success with the computer guys, I was excited to see if I could work out the bread.  I got a good feeling from the first shop, so I stepped in.  Oddly enough, there was almost no bread in the bins.  Perhaps it’s a little late in the day.  I have no idea.  However, these lovely ladies responded brilliantly when I apologized for not being able to speak well in Italian and asked them for “pane cotto nel forno…” – “a Legna,” they supplied.  Si, si!  I was so excited.

“No, non aqui.”  Not here.  Really, in a bread shop.  Maybe it’s because there’s no bread in the shop.  “Dove?”  Where could I find this elusive bread.  One of the women came out from behind the counter and spirited me outside the shop, pointing across the street and telling me to go to the meat shop.  Mind you, this was all in Italian, so I’m fairly sure that’s what she was saying.

I headed across the street, but couldn’t see the meat shop.  I looked back at the bread store, and both women were now standing outside their door, waving me on to the meat shop.  As I entered the shop they celebrated with me.  I had found the Pane, cotto nel forno a legna!

Now, let me just say that, as a vegeterian – even one who isn’t that principled about the thing – the smell that comes out of these meat shops is horrifying to me.  It’s seriously like death.  The case is filled with beautifully presented slices of meatiness, but the smell is tough for me.  Regardless, after another apology, and another request for pane cotto nel forno… “a legna,” came the response, I had my half-loaf of lovely, hard bread.

When I came out of the shop, the bread ladies were still there, waiting to celebrate my success again.  We waived and shouted “CIAO!” across the street at each other.

When I got back home, I relayed this story to Deb who laughed at me when I asked why the bread shop wouldn’t have this type of bread.  Apparently, this is bread cooked elsewhere and brought in.  It’s cooked in a wood oven.  The other bread at the bread shop is not.  That’s a good tip.  So, if you’re looking for hard, flat, brown bread, try the meat shop.

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October 28, 2009   2 Comments