Day 46: San Marzano sul Sarno – Paestum

Distance: 66.75 km

Time: 3 hours 9 minutes

Average speed: 21.1 kph

Cumulative distance: 2384.07 km

Cumulative time: 119 hours 2 minutes

Word of the day: ‘lungomare’ (loong-oh-mar-ay) – a road running alongside the sea. See also lungolago (lake) and lungofiume (river).

We left San Marzano on narrow streets, on another baking hot morning. To start with we continued on busy urban roads, and the surroundings were once again full of litter and graffiti. All of the area surrounding Vesuvius has turned out to be run-down and in need of renewal, it’s quite shocking after the other glorious places we’ve seen.

As we cycled past Nocera Inferiore, though, things began steadily to improve; there was a marked decrease in the amount of litter and the villages seemed more cared-for. At the same time the gradient kicked upwards as we began the climb over to Salerno. It wasn’t steep, though, and the roads were much quieter. A few clouds blocked the sun to give us some welcome short-term relief as we ascended steadily.

The summit was soon reached, and the long shallow descent to Salerno began. We had hoped to spot the sea on the way down but the valley twisted around, denying us the vista we sought. Nearer to Salerno the views were hidden by tall apartment blocks.

The clouds had disappeared by now, and after negotiating a few busy roads on the outskirts of Salerno we emerged on the lungomare. At last, the Tyrrhenian Sea! We last encountered the (Adriatic) sea at Chioggia, more than a month ago. To our right we could see the Amalfi coast stretching into the distance, reminding us of holidays past, delicious tomatoes, water taxis, terrifying twisty roads and the only truly delicious limoncello we’ve ever tasted (it was home made, from Amalfi lemons)!

We set off south – initially the roads were very busy, and we had to stop frequently at traffic lights, or when a driver in front of us decided suddenly to turn around, having spotted a parking space. This seems to happen quite a lot, and we’ve learned to anticipate such behaviour. To our right were packed beaches stretching as far as the eye could see. These thinned out incrementally as we left Salerno. The more southerly beaches looked far more attractive, often partially hidden from the road by wooded areas.

To the left we spotted a field of buffalos. They do exist, after all! We also passed fields of watermelons, and patches of prickly pears by the roadside. Finding somewhere to lunch wasn’t difficult – every beach seemed to have its own bar or restaurant. We didn’t linger for long, though, being impatient to reach our hotel and rest our legs.

So here we are in Paestum, famous for its three Greek temples, which we intend to visit tomorrow. I’m writing this by the pool, with the Stoker to my right and a cold beer to my left! We’re taking two rest days here, so the next post will be on Tuesday, when we set off to cycle around the Palinuro peninsula, which promises to be spectacular and also rather hilly. The sea will be our constant companion for the foreseeable future, as we’re hemmed in by the high Apennines to the east.

Here’s today’s track.