Surroundings | Salerno City
Salerno has very ancient origins, very probably Greek. Archaeological excavations have uncovered a necropolis of the 6th century BC that proves the existence of an Etruscan-Campanian settlement, on whose site the Greek town of Poseidonia was founded, which in turn became a Roman colony in 197 BC.
So flourishing was the town in the Middle Ages that Robert Guiscard made it the capital of his Duchy in 1077. It was this social and cultural environment that saw the foundation of the oldest university in Europe, the Salerno School of Medicine. Founded in the 8th century by Benedictine monks skilled in medecine, the School was restructured in 1232 by the emperor Frederick II and became a model in Europe for the practice and teaching of medecine, home to many famous scholars.
Even today Salerno's beautiful historic centre bears signs of this glorious past with its medieval charm intact.
The medieval area runs from the Aqueduct to the Arechi Castle and includes the Cathedral, the Roteprandi Gate, the residences of the nobles and the typical streets, like the winding Via dei Mercanti, the main medieval commercial area, which crosses the entire historic centre, from the Catena Gate to the New Gate (mentioned byMasuccio Salernitano in his Novellino). The names of the narrow alleys of medieval Salerno, divided by tenth- and eleventh-century arches, are witness to the Lombard and Norman conquests, as well as to the tradesmen's guilds, such as the district of the 'Barbuti' or the 'Fornelle', ovens in which pottery was fired. These alleys wind their way to the Piazza del Campo with the Dolphin fountain, built by Vanvitelli, and between aristocratic residences with small courtyards and elegant sculptures.
Further up is the Minerva Garden, where herbalists of old prepared their remedies. It was to these winding streets that the inhabitants of Salerno fled to escape the Saracen incursions, or they took refuge in Arechi's castle, which still dominates the city. Another building also rises above the city and has become its symbol; this is the Cathedral, built by Robert Guiscard in 1079 and consecrated by Pope Gregory VII, with its lion doorway opening up onto a splendid portico. It is believed that the School of Medecine was set up in the atrium. The nave and aisles were transformed into the Baroque style in the eighteenth century. The visitor must see the large Byzantine mosaics, the crypt, and the treasury with the silver statue of Saint Matthew, which is carried in the procession in his honour on September 21st .
Today, new life is being breathed into the historic centre of Salerno. It is regaining its original colours and aspect, and is transformed by night by its 'movida', where many young people can be seen eating and drinking in the cafés, bars and restaurants that create a contrast between the old and the new. The buildings of the Renaissance, Baroque and modern ages developed harmoniously around this ancient centre, without interruption or conflict, producing monuments and outstanding examples of impressive architecture, like Santa Sofia, now housing international art exhibitions, the Ave Gratia Plena convent, Palazzo Pinto, the Teatro Verdi, the Palazzo di Città, the Prefecture, the Court House, the park, the seafront, and many others, and many places of cultural interest, too, such the Museum of Ceramics, the Provincial Museum, with its splendid archeological exhibits, and the Diocesan Museum with Roman and Medieval artefacts. These all make Salerno one of the most welcoming and liveable cities.
Salerno's central position, nestled in the curve of the bay of the same name, makes the city a focal point for leisure tourism and seaside holidays. The magnificent Lungomare Trieste seafront skirts the entire city and links the Amalfi Coast to the west, and to the south-east, with the long sandy coastline of the Piana del Sele, it reaches Velia, Paestum, Palinuro, whose names alone evoke their beauty.