Do you remember the three months we spent in the Cilento? Before we returned to the US? The sunsets, the seafood, the stunning villa? We enjoyed exploring that part of Campania, but it was in the winter, when the sea was spunky and Cilentani were sleepy.
I returned yesterday for a day. I went for work-related research. Sometimes great sacrifices must be made in the name of duty and so I suffered the hardship and went to the sea. It was still summery with a hazy diffused light from the humidity and a glittery gloss to the water from the sun and heat.
Santa Maria is a different town than the one we saw two years ago, partly owing to the warm weather, with tourists still laying on the beach and filling the waterfront restaurants. But it is also more discovered than before, thanks to the movie Benvenuti al Sud that was filmed there and shed Santa Maria, along her uphill sister, Castellabate, in a very positive light. We loved watching the DVD and recognizing all the film locations.
Even though the high season of August is gone there was still an atmsophere of festa in the air and lots of northern European (read, very white) tourists sunning themselves and wandering the Corso. I asked the beachside barista about the increase in tourism and she said they've seen a lot more stranieri this summer. When I asked where they came from she responded that the "foreigners" had come from mainly Milan and Torino.
I did my research then had a nice seafood lunch, a real treat because up here in the mountains we don't get a lot of fish, apart from the dreaded baccala. After, I whipped into my swimsuit and spent about an hour on the golden sand beach that fronts the castello, dipping regularly into the placid water to cool off. The sea here gets deep quickly, which I like, unlike the Ionian, where you have to walk about a kilometer to reach water above your kneecaps. I bronzed up nicely in short-order under the Cilento sun.
I drove the road towards Battipaglia that used to terrorize me because of the crazy drivers who make a two-lane road into a three-lane highway as they brazenly streak down the middle while cars on either side have to careen over to avoid them - and it seemed *almost* normal, so familiar was it.
My looks, I vainly admit, were pretty bad, being sticky from the salt water and my hair having gone all frizz-and-boing from the humidity, but I stopped off at Vannulo for *the* best gelato. I know, it's a bold statement to make, but if you haven't tried gelato di bufala you don't know what you're missing. It was bold-flavored and so-amazingly-creamy, just like I remembered, a nice way to top off the day. Because work deserves its rewards afterwards, right?