After a refreshingly hassle-free boarding process last night, we made ourselves at home on the ferry to Salerno. By making a mat on the floor out of the removable seat cushions, we were able to easily fall asleep snuggled together, unimpeded by uncomfortable armrests and mostly upright positions.
What felt like just minutes later, I groggily regained consciousness to the sound of someone speaking emphatically in Italian. I sat up, tried to open my eyes, and still in the fog of sleep, vaguely made out the shape of a man talking to us. "Wake up! We are in Salerno!", he said. "Thank you!" I replied and roused Tyler. The room we were sleeping in was now empty of passengers except for us.
I was confused because it was still pitch black outside the ferry windows. There was no way we could be there already? The man we bought our tickets from had informed us that our ship arrived at 9:00 AM! He was obviously been mistaken; when we looked at the time, it was 5:30 AM!
With fumbling appendages, we packed up as fast as possible and went to the lobby to wait. After just twenty minutes instead of the three hours we had spent waiting to disembark yesterday, we were on our way.
Outside, we shivered in the bitter cold darkness, waiting for a police officer to manage the mass exodus and let us escape the ferry port. In the meantime, I looked around, feeling as if I were in some sort of dream, the skies illuminated only by the yellow sheen of streetlamps and headlights of semi-trucks and passenger vehicles exiting the ferry. Ahead of us, I could see the steep Amalfi coast highway snaking its way up to the top of a large jutting mountain.
I was a little daunted at first, but then I remembered that Salerno's quaint downtown was, mercifully, down at sea level. Not far off in the distance we could see the lights of the town center sparkling a reflection in the Mediterranean sea.
A police officer held us back for a few more minutes before showing us the way out of the port and allowing us to cycle off into early morning Salerno. Though it was very dark and I still felt mostly asleep, the cold air in my face was exhilarating.
Oh to be in Italy again. Everything so clean and orderly and pretty compared to what we'd become used to in Tunisia. We rode along the shore, past early-rising joggers, and saw once again the palm-lined lungomare. Christmas lights were draped across the road, and the clean glass storefronts of bars and cafes began to light up, one by one accepting their first customers of the day. As we pedaled through downtown, the scent of freshly baked pastries clung to our chilly nostrils.
With Tyler back on the job of navigating, we wound our way through the cobbled, pedestrian-only downtown until we found Cafe Love Story. Just two months earlier we had met some awesome new friends and then come here to warm up from the cold winds and decide where to head next. We had strong bouts of deja vue as we locked our bikes up outside and went indoors for hot drinks and free wifi.
In no time, the day was spent and we left at sunset to find a free-camp. Just six kilometers out of town, we were successful. We celebrated near the sea by making delicious garlic/Parmesan/speck pasta and finishing off the last two of our Tunisian mandarin oranges.