Salerno is often overshadowed by the more well-known and popular Naples that lies to the west of the city however it is a fantastic and beautiful tourist destination in its own right and has a great deal to offer. Salerno is the capital of the province of the same name, and lies in the Gulf of Salerno on the Tyrrhenian Sea with a current population of approximately 133,000. The patron saint of this city is Matthew and he is revered throughout Salerno in its various religious buildings.
During the Middle Ages, Salerno prospered greatly under the rule of the Lombard Dukes and was renowned as a centre of medical studies and learning through its prestigious Medical School. In later years the city was the site of invasions during WW2 in operation Avalanche and afterwards saw a surge in population and economic development.
As a tourist destination, Salerno benefits from its close proximity to the stunning and renowned Amalfi coast, but also its own myriad of beautiful architecture, gorgeous gardens and sun-kissed promenade. Attractions such as Salerno Cathedral and the Forte la Carnale have a huge amount of history and artwork, whilst the historic old town centre provides a wonderful opportunity to explore the city and enjoy this coastal destination.
Suggested tour: Day trip along the Amalfi coast
Lets explore the best things to do in Salerno:
1. Salerno Cathedral
More commonly known as the Duomo, Salerno Cathedral is the most important and historic church in the city and has stood since the 11th century.
Dedicated to Saint Matthew, the church has a Romanesque style and features a beautiful front façade complete with delicate arches and a triangular pediment.
Furthermore, a 56m high bell tower sits at the rear of the cathedral that displays an ornate top dome complete with decorative artwork in an Arabic/Norman style.
Inside the church is a plethora of religious artefacts dedicated to Saint Matthew and a host of fascinating decoration and artwork – the crypt in fact is said to hold the remains of the Saint.
2. Trieste Lungomare
Salerno has a wonderful coastal location and it also has a long stretch of beautifully maintained promenade known as the Trieste Lungomare.
Starting at the Piazza della Liberta, the promenade stretches for approximately 1km right through to the Porto Turistico.
Along this pleasant stretch of public walkway you can find a host of shaded seating that is covered by palm trees.
Furthermore at several intervals on the promenade there is a series of Piazzas complete with statues and fountains.
In the evening, or in the sunshine, the Lungomare is a great place to take a gentle stroll after a busy day of sight-seeing.
3. Villa Comunale di Salerno
Located in the heart of the historic old town in close proximity to the harbour is the Villa Comunale di Salerno – This stunning landscaped garden is a fantastic place to relax and also has some interesting sculptures and monuments.
Created in the 19th century, this garden used to be the site of the town hall until it was transformed into this natural open space.
A plethora of exotic trees provide shade, and a small pond plays host to a variety of fish.
Furthermore, several beautiful statues stand guard including Giovanni Nicotera, Carlo Piscane and Clemente Mauro – all of which were important Italian figures through history.
Events are sometimes held here too, but in general, the park is one of the best places in Salerno to sit back and find some rejuvenation.
4. Giardino della Minerva
Minerva’s Garden is located within the centre of the historic part of Salerno and provides a combination of beautiful botanical gardens and a public park.
A central walkway climbs through the middle of the garden and is covered with a beautiful white series of arches.
Each of the garden terraces is segmented and contains a different variety of plants, fauna and even some herbs.
The terraces are themed and contain different species of plants and there is over 200 different varieties to behold.
For those who love the natural world, this finely maintained garden is a wonderful place to explore.
5. Salerno Harbour
Located near the large Piazza della Liberta, Salerno Harbour is a hive of activity and is a fantastic place to walk through and watch the comings and goings of this busy port.
Walking along the Via Porto you can head into the harbour and look at the many fishing, sailing and commercial boats that are moored on the piers.
Furthermore, if you head towards the Maritime Station and the Molo Manfredi Porto di Salerno, you can walk along a long stretch of pier and view the cityscape of Salerno in all its glory.
At the eastern edge of Salerno there is also the Tourist Harbour that is just as beautiful and features a myriad of tour boats taking passengers out to the Amalfi coast.
6. Visit Amalfi
The Amalfi coast is known as one of the most beautiful stretches of coastal landscape in the whole of Italy.
Amalfi itself is a small commune that is nestled on the side of the cliffs approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes to the west of Salerno.
If you are looking for a action packed day trip then this is the place to visit – here you can find a plethora of historical sites such as the Duomo di Amalfi, the Shrine of Saint Andrew and the Chiostro del Paradiso.
Furthermore, the beautiful views across to the sea, and of the colourful buildings hugging the cliffs are simply wonderful.
Suggested tour: Day trip along the Amalfi coast
7. Villa Rufolo
Ravello is another delightful town located on the Amalafi coast and sits higher up on the cliffs in-between Salerno and Amalfi.
This wonderful town has a similar array of charming buildings that sit perfectly on the hillside and has a series of historical buildings such as the Ravello Duomo and the Palazzo Avino.
The main site in Ravello however is the Villa Rufolo – this structure dates back to the 1200’s and features some fantastic architecture.
Furthermore the villa features an open terrace that offers a simply stunning view of the Amalfi coast – from here you can see several other small towns on the hillside and across to the Tyrrhenian Sea.
8. Forte La Carnale
Salerno has an extensive history and the Forte La Carnale played a major part in the defence of the city for many years.
Constructed in the 16th century, the castle was a primary means of defence against raids from the Saracens.
Standing on top of a natural hill, the fort provides fantastic views of the city, and across to the Amalfi coast.
Today, the fort contains a series of exhibitions and cultural displays that explain the history of the structure and of the city of Salerno.
Furthermore, there is also an on-site restaurant that serves fantastic meals.
9. Castello di Arechi
Towering above the city at a height of 300m on a large hill, the Arechi Castle dominates the Gulf of Salerno and was constructed in Medieval times.
This monumental structure is traditionally associated with Longobardo Arechi II and was created to serve as an additional means of defence for the region surrounding Salerno.
Much of the original castle still stands today whilst some sections have been restored; there is also a museum within the grounds that contains various exhibitions and finds that have been excavated from the area and castle.
Aside from the museum, the castle also offers unparalleled views down into Salerno and across the Tyrrhenian Sea.
10. Parco del Mercatello
Considered to be one of the largest urban parks in Italy, the Parco del Mercatello can be found in the eastern region of Salerno towards the outskirts of the city.
Inaugurated in 1998, the park connects three of the main districts of Salerno together (Mariconda, Mercatello & the European Quarter) and serves as a place for both the locals and tourists to relax.
Within the grounds of the park you can find several delightful ponds surrounded by colourful species of flowers, a Mediterranean garden area that features some lush vegetation, and an Orchard that is full of citrus and lime trees.
Furthermore, cultural shows are often held here.
11. Take a walking tour of the historic town centre
Salerno has a historic town centre that is bursting with fantastic buildings, religious structures and narrow charming streets.
There is no better way to experience the local life and the culture of this city than to walk through the Rione Duomo district.
Located in the western part of Salerno, Rione Duomo contains some important buildings including the Villa Comunale, the Duomo, and the Provinciale Archaeological museum.
Starting at the Piazza della Libertia, head on into the district and wander through the many narrow streets.
The architecture is sublime and the atmosphere is brilliant.
This region of Italy is packed full of ancient ruins and fantastic Greek and Roman cities that have sat undisturbed for thousands of years.
One fine example is the ruins of the city of Paestum.
Located approximately 40 minutes to the east of Salerno along the coast, this city was originally founded in 600 BC and was a major Greek settlement.
The main attractions of this fantastic site are the three ancient temples that stand in remarkably good condition despite their immense old age.
The first and second temples of Hera and the Temple of Athena feature similar designs to the Parthenon in Greece and most of their original columns and pediments still stand.
Aside from the temples, there is also a detailed museum that showcases a series of finds and artefacts from the site.
13. Provincial Archaeological Museum
Salerno has several fantastic museums but the Provincial Archaeological Museum is undoubtedly the most interesting and educational.
You can find this museum in the historic old town centre in close proximity to the Duomo and Lungomare.
Created in 1928, the museum is housed within the old government palace and has a large collection of artefacts and relics from the Salerno region.
Items within the museum include Roman burial remains, a bronze bust of Apollo, gold coins, pottery, ceramics, weaponry and household items dating as far back as the Roman era.
Each display is enriched with multimedia elements and interactive features that explain what you are seeing in great detail.
14. Enjoy a traditional meal at the Ristorante Cicirinella
Possibly one of the best restaurants in Salerno, the Cicirinella has a reputation for quality and for its great atmosphere.
This eatery is located in the historic old town centre on the Via Antonio Genovesi and is only a short walk from the Cathedral and Provincial Museum.
Recommended by the locals, this restaurant serves a great range of traditional Italian meals that are home-cooked – forget about high-class fine dining, Cicirinella provides you with quality meals that are authentic and full of flavor.
Furthermore, the prices are more than reasonable, and you will be served by a team of friendly and dedicated staff that clearly love their work.
15. Enjoy a drink at the Black Roses Bar
Salerno does not have a huge variety of bars if you are looking for a night out, but the Black Roses Irish Pub is one of the most well-known and has a great atmosphere and selection of ales, wines and spirits for your enjoyment.
Located on the SR88 route in close proximity to the Forte La Carnale, this pub has an inviting décor, friendly staff and also a selection of meals if you want a place to dine.
The selection of drinks is first class and the prices are reasonable too – The Black Roses Bar really is the perfect location for a round of evening drinks in Salerno.