5 things to see in Salerno

Located a little more than 35 kilometres from our boutique hotel, Salerno is a lively city where ancient and modern blend together. The ancient part of the town, clinging to the hills behind it, is home to the most interesting sights. The modern town, which has expanded considerably as a result of intense immigration from all over Campania, stretches out in an arc along its splendid waterfront. Although it is quite a large city, it can be visited comfortably on foot in a single day.

What to see in Salerno? Here are 5 things not to be missed!

The Cathedral

The most important monument in Salerno is the Duomo, also known as the Basilica Cattedrale Primaziale Metropolitana di Santa Maria degli Angeli, San Matteo and San Gregorio VII. It is located in Piazza Alfano I and is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful medieval churches in Italy. It was built at the behest of the Norman duke Robert Guiscard in the second half of the 11th century, but its current appearance is due to the Baroque renovation undertaken after the 1688 earthquake. Particularly noteworthy is the wonderful 12th-century entrance portal, called the Lion’s Gate. Inside, you can admire splendid mosaics and valuable sculptures (such as the Funeral Monument of Queen Margaret of Durazzo). The crypt houses the relics of St Matthew, the patron saint of Salerno and one of the four evangelists.

The Minerva Garden

From the Cathedral, a characteristic street, tracing the ancient decumanus of the Roman city, named after Trotula De Ruggiero, leads to the Minerva Garden, perhaps Salerno’s most original attraction. This is the first example of a botanical garden in the western world, created thanks to the intuition of Matteo Silvatico (1285-1342), a distinguished representative of the Scuola Medica Salernitana (the oldest medical university in the world). The garden is laid out in a series of terraces, laid out according to medieval medical principles and crossed by water channels. The most remarkable element is the long 17th-century staircase, built on the ancient walls, leading to a pergola-covered belvedere, from which one can enjoy a splendid view of the sea, the old town and the hills. Guided tours are held here and scientific and educational activities are organised.

The Provincial Art Gallery

Photo © Live Salerno

A short distance from the cathedral is also the Pinacoteca Provinciale (Provincial Art Gallery), which we absolutely recommend you visit. It has been housed since 2001 on the first floor of the historic Palazzo Pinto, the aristocratic residence of one of Salerno’s most important families (from which it takes its name). The history of the picture gallery began in the first half of the 20th century, when Baron Gennaro Pinto donated the palace and its collection of works to the Provincial Administration of Salerno. These were then joined by those purchased between 1927 and 1938, to which other paintings were added over time through purchases or bequests. The works range from the Renaissance to the first half of the 20th century. Among the artists on display are Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, Francesco Solimena, Monica Hannasch, Irene Kowaliska, Pasquale Avallone and the Coastal artists Luca Albino and Antonio Ferrigno.

The Provincial Archaeological Museum

Photo © Italia.it

The Provincial Archaeological Museum is also worth a visit. Established in 1927, since 1964 it has been housed in the Complesso di San Benedetto, the former seat of the most important monastic order in the city, linked to the Scuola Medica. It houses extraordinary historical artefacts found in the surrounding area, spanning a period of time from Prehistory to the Roman Age. Among the priceless pieces preserved inside are: the beautiful bronze head of Apollo from the 1st century B.C., attributed to the Campania artist Pasiteles and found in 1930 in the waters of the Gulf of Salerno; and a 5th-century tomb including skeleton and grave goods, from Oliveto Citra.

The Castle of Arechi

And last but not least, the Castle of Arechi, one of the main symbols of Salerno (it has been present in all representations of the city since the Middle Ages). It stands atop Mount Bonadies, offering a breathtaking panorama that sweeps from the tip of the Amalfi Coast to Agropoli. Built in the 8th century by the Lombard Duke of Benevento Arechi II, it was later modified by the Normans, the Aragonese and one last time in the 16th century. Since 2009, the monumental complex has housed the Medieval Museum, containing artefacts from excavations carried out on the site (ceramics, fragments of glassware, coins, knights’ weapons, etc.). A small curiosity: Ugo Foscolo’s tragedy entitled “La Ricciarda” is set inside the Castle of Arechi.