Surely these aren’t streets one drives a car down? I mean, it looks like this whole part of Salerno, the Storico Centro, has been pedestrianized.

It was late, after 4:00. I texted Alessandro that we could be at the apartment Casa Futura Retrò around 3:30. Then got a message back that he was sick in bed and I should call Francesca. After much ado Francesca and I connected and got the luggage and My Dear One into the apartment. Google Maps was wrong about the location of the apartment, by the way. Then Francesca led me down the main drag toward a parking garage.

Good thing she stayed at the garage and advocated for me. The short woman with a fur coat and hennaed hair wanted to charge me for 8 days instead of 7. Francesca got that straightened out. Then Red wanted payment up front, no credit cards, and I had no cash. Hadn’t been to an ATM yet. We agreed that I would bring 105 euros by in the morning. Get pagato on the receipt Francesca warned me. Good thing.

rain, Lungomare and view toward Amalfi Coast

When I made it back the next day, cash in hand, Red wasn’t there and the young man in charge claimed that the fee was 20 euros a day, not 15, and looked at the receipt Red had written with disbelief. I stood firm. Short woman, red hair. She said 15. She wrote the receipt. Finally Young Jerk made a call. Didn’t grasp most of the content but hear the word “Mamma.” Yeah. “Yo mama” was the one who agreed to that amount. He accepted the payment and wrote pagato on my receipt. And off I went. Not quite singing in the rain, but almost.

It had been a long day.

The rental paperwork at Fiumicino’s Europcar desk took forever. Then we couldn’t locate bay 95 in garage B. Our assigned vehicle was a Silver Fiat 500X and once we were loaded and ready to go, the gear shift threw me. I had asked for an automatic and indeed the Silver Fiasco lacked a clutch. But my choices on the knob were A/M, +, -, N and R. Assumed N and R were neutral and reverse. The others? Fetched an employee who was cute and charming and clueless as to what any of that meant. Got out on the highway and finally figured out that there was both Automatic (A) and sorta Automatic (M). In sorta Automatic you tap the shift to make it move down a gear. Five in all. Got the beast into automatic A and things settled down.

view from Gusto

Silver Fiasco is something of a tin can. Light. Noisy. And it has a weird trick, possibly because it’s a diesel, something Europcar forgot to mention. If one sits at a light (for instance) and idles, the engine actually stops. Then it starts itself when the accelerator is goosed. A strange and disturbing experience.

vineyard at Montecassino

As a result we were late getting off. The drive up to the Abbey at Montecassino took longer than expected; we used the facilities, took a few pictures and rolled back down the mountain. As it was already 2:00 pm, we grabbed a beer and a bite at cafeteria Gusto in Cassino, texted Alessandro that we were on our way, and set GPS Fiona for Salerno. Took 15 minutes to get through the cash line at the toll booth at the exit then Fiona got discombobulated trying to navigate Salerno streets.

Christmas and Crowds

But now here we are.

Salerno is a miracle of lights during the Christmas season—which apparently lasts the full twelve days (or more) until Epiphany. A miracle of lights and a madhouse of children, dog-walkers, lovers and various sorts all on passeggiata. I retrieved My Dear One and suggested we shop the booths for cheese and sausage. Also bought three jars of preserves. One is broccoli in garlic and olive oil and it is fantastic on a sandwich made from the spicy cured sausage and mysterious cheese we bought. A bottle of wine—cheap red from Piemonte, was great. Gonna get an other few bottles as soon as the oenoteca reopens.

It poured rain all Day One long. But I have the makings for a fine pasta supper.

Benvenuto a Salerno!