On Monday morning I hit the road for Paestum. I’d had enough of the twisting, narrow Amalfi Coast road, and paid the two Euro toll to take the A-3 autostrada. It was nice to do a little relaxed, carefree driving for a change. The previous days of risking my neck at every curve had been fun, but a change of pace was in order.
My overnight destination would be Paestum, a seaside area on the Tyrrhenian Sea, about 50 miles South of Naples. The town is famous for its Greek and Roman ruins. There are some magnificent temples still standing after more than 2,500 years.
I arrived in Agropolis, a town a little south of Paestum I wanted to visit before returning north for my overnight stay in Paestum.
I looked around and, seeing a distant hill town and wanting to add a little randomness to my trip, I decided to drive up to see what was there. It turned out to be the small medieval town of Castellabate. It was an interesting twist with a nice view down to the coastline and some very attractive beaches.
After breaking for lunch at a seaside restaurant in Agropolis, I drove to Paestum and found my hotel, Casa Rubini.
I was surprised by the look of the place in person. I knew it was an old building, but I was surprised at how old it seemed in person. Looking at the outside of the building, you see an old stone building that is probably centuries old, built against the ruins of the ancient Roman wall of the city of Paestum. The building is a two-story stone cube, with pigeons living in the … pigeon holes … between the stones. It looked like I was in for a low-budget, broken-down, worn-out old room. I remember thinking, ‘well, it’s only one night.’ The place was locked up, and I was wondering if I was going to be stuck sleeping in the car. That was seeming like a better idea by the look of the place.
I finally found an open door and a woman with her arms full of sheets and towels. The hotel only has three rooms. The woman spoke almost no English, but she called the owner on her cell phone and then handed it off to me. After speaking to the manager for a few minutes, I handed the phone back. She took me back outside, and opened the door to the stairs that lead to the hotel’s three rooms. I followed her up the stairs, and into my room. I was amazed by the interior of the inn, and by my room. It was clearly designed by an artist, and was very modern, tasteful, clean, and comfortable.
The contrast between what I expected by looking at the outside of the building, and what I found on the inside, was stark. It is my most memorable experience from my trip. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
After settling in, I went up to the museum, and then on a tour through the ancient ruins. It’s humbling to stand among and walk through the ruins, and consider the passage of time. The temples are simply amazing to behold.
After having dinner in Agropolis, I drove back to my hotel in Paestum, and then walked back down to the temples to photograph them at night.
The thick stone interior walls of the hotel blocked internet access in my room so, in order to use the internet, I had to go down the stairs to the hotel’s ‘Bar’. It’s a small room that is half kitchen, and half coffee house. I used the internet and chatted with the owner and another fellow while they prepared their dinner. He opened a bottle, and poured me a glass of Spuma, an old cola drink from the area. When they offered me dinner, I was sorry that I’d eaten in Agropolis, because what they were cooking smelled delicious. They were very nice people – interesting, engaging, and intelligent. I asked them about the election that was held that day, and what they thought of the outcome. Italian politics are unfathomable to me. While I was there some of their friends dropped by on social calls. It was an entertaining evening, and the highlight of my visit.
After awakening the next morning, I had a small breakfast at the hotel, and then left for Sorrento to return the rented car and catch a ferry to Capri.