So you’ve never heard of Agropoli? Don’t fret, neither had I until I started researching the region around Paestum. Because we had not rented a car for this trip, we needed to go some place on our second day which was easy to reach by bus. The lovely woman who runs the front desk at our hotel confirmed that Agropoli would fit the bill; it was close, easy to reach by bus and had a castle.
After our trip to see how mozzarella was made, we headed off to the bus stop in front of the bar/gelateria at the intersection close to the northwest end of the ruins. Most bars sell bus tickets and we bought our return tickets inside for about 3 euro each way. The bus arrived later than scheduled and while we waited in the bright mid day sun, we were the object of interest of the regulars who hang out in front of the bar (my guess is, daily). I also found that they sell the very same amaro which got my husband hooked so many years ago. We’d both forgotten it came from Campania and I vowed to buy a bottle to bring home to him. The bus finally arrived and it took about 40 minutes to get to Agropoli, some of the road along the beautiful coastline.
We really had no idea where to get off the bus, so we asked the driver and were dropped in center of town, where we set off to try and to find some sort of tourist information center. We followed the signs to the “Info Point” but the kiosk was closed with a note pinned to it saying to go to the local municipal building. After asking the school age daughter of a local cafe owner (she spoke a little English, mom did not) we figured out the municipal building was the large peach colored building just off the square. So we went inside, up 2 flights of stairs, down a corridor, into an empty office to find a map and brochures. Someone finally showed up and she actually seemed thrilled to see tourists in her office (probably a very infrequent occurrence). She gave us a map and a bunch of colorful brochures and we set off in search of the historical center of town, a short walk away.
We used the map to find our way uphill to the castle which turned out to be closed. Still, it was a nice walk and at lunch time there were lots of locals with their kids on lunch break out and about.
At the top of the steps in the above photo, we came to the cross below and then the outer walls of the castle. Because it is at the top of a hill, it was easily defended from invaders.
Through the castle walls is the beautiful old Chiesa Santa Maria di Constantinopoli. It was closed, so we could not go inside, but the outside was pretty and had lovely old bronze doors (see below).
According to the booklet we were given by the tourist office, this church was built in the mid 16th century when a statue of the Madonna was “discovered in the sea after the infidels had tried unsuccessfully to carry it off.”
We continued to walk uphill, following the signs to the castle. The streets are so narrow I don’t think any cars can go up from this side (though there is a road on the other side of the castle). Along the way, we came across this little passageway. We didn’t know exactly what it was, but there were a bunch of woven grass mats attached to the ceiling. Later, I noticed a similar photo in the glossy brochure the tourist office gave us, but all the caption said was U’ Suricin. There is a restaurant there with that name, so perhaps this is their entrance.
Finally we found the castle and it was closed. I suppose we could have checked this before we came all the way here, but we weren’t that disappointed because we just enjoyed the wander.
At the top of the hill was an ancient apartment building overlooking the back of the castle. There we met a friendly black and white tomcat. About 20 feet away, on the steps of another building were 3 curious kittens. They weren’t as friendly as old Tom, but certainly were adorable. Tom escorted us all the way back down the hill to the castle gate in front of the church, where he stopped and curled up on the street. Clearly he’s a local and this is his turf.
Down the hill, we found a place for a late lunch of pasta with clams and a disappointing bread salad, and then hurried to catch our bus at the stop where we’d been told to wait for the trip back.
Unfortunately the departure time for the bus came and went. Many buses passed by the stop, but none going to Paestum. After asking passersby, going back to the original stop where we had been dropped off, back to the municipal office, talking to other bus drivers and a very old man running a fruit stand who attempted to draw us a very complicated map, we got 6 different answers regarding where to go and what to do. The language barrier (ours) was definitely an issue here and it quickly became a comedy of errors.
In the end, after an hour of waiting and walking in circles we finally figured it out; our bus, for which we’d already bought the ticket, did not come to this stop for another hour. If we wanted to use the tickets we’d already bought, and not wait, we’d need to go about half a mile away to the road leading out of town to a different bus stop. So we walked, and walked, and walked, finally reaching the stop about 5 minutes before the bus arrived. It was an adventure, a little frustrating and tiring, but we enjoyed our time in Agropoli and would definitely return.