Salerno is often overshadowed by the more well-known and popular Naples to the west of the city, but it is a wonderful and beautiful tourist destination in its own right, and there is so much to choose from. Salerno is the capital of the province of the same name, located in the Gulf of Salerno in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and has a current population of approximately 133,000. The city’s patron saint is Matthew, who is revered in various religious buildings in Salerno.
During the Middle Ages, Salerno prospered under the Dukes of Lombardy and was known for its renowned medical school as a center for medical research and learning. In later years, the city was the site of an invasion by Operation Avalanche during World War II, before a surge in population and economic development.
As a tourist destination, Salerno benefits from its proximity to the charming and famous Amalfi Coast, as well as its own countless beautiful buildings, beautiful gardens and sun-drenched promenades. Sights such as Salerno Cathedral and Forte la Carnale are rich in history and artwork, while the historic old town center offers a great opportunity to explore the city and enjoy this coastal destination.
Recommended Itinerary: Amalfi Coast Day Trip
Let’s explore the best things to do in Salerno:
1. Salerno Cathedral
The Cathedral of Salerno, often referred to as the Duomo, is the most important and oldest church in the city and has been around since the 11th century.
Dedicated to St. Matthew, the church has a Romanesque style with a beautiful façade with elaborate arches and triangular pediments.
In addition, a 56m-high bell tower at the rear of the cathedral showcases an ornate top dome complete with Arabic/Norman-style decorative art.
The church contains a wealth of religious artifacts dedicated to St. Matthew and many fascinating decorations and artworks – it is said that the crypt actually holds the remains of St. Matthew.
2. Trieste Langoma
Salerno has a great coastal location and a long, well-maintained promenade called Trieste Lungomare.
Starting at Piazza della Liberta, the promenade goes all the way to Porto Turistico, about 1 km.
Along this pleasant public walkway, you’ll find plenty of shaded seating covered in palm trees.
In addition, at several intervals of the promenade, there is a series of squares with statues and fountains.
At night or in the sun, Lungomare is a great place for a gentle stroll after a busy day of sightseeing.
3. Villa Comunale di Salerno
Villa Comunale di Salerno is located in the heart of the historic old town, close to the harbour – this charming landscaped garden is a great place to relax, complete with some interesting sculptures and monuments.
Built in the 19th century, this garden used to house the town hall until it was transformed into this natural open space.
Plenty of exotic trees provide shade, and a small pond can accommodate a variety of fish.
In addition, several beautiful statues stand there, including Giovanni Nicotera, Carlo Piscane and Clemente Mauro – all important figures in Italian history.
Occasionally events are also held here, but overall, the park is one of the best places to relax in Salerno.
4. Giardino della Minerva
Located in the heart of Salerno’s historic district, Minerva’s Garden combines a beautiful botanical garden with a public park.
A central walkway runs through the centre of the garden, covered with a series of beautiful white arches.
Each garden terrace is segmented and contains different kinds of plants, animals and even some herbs.
The terraces are themed and contain different types of plants, with more than 200 different varieties to admire.
For those who love the natural world, this well-maintained garden is a great place to explore.
5. Port of Salerno
The Port of Salerno, located near the large Piazza della Liberty, is an event venue and a great place to walk through and watch this busy port come and go.
Walking along Via Porto, you can head to the port and admire the many fishing, sailing and merchant ships moored on the marina.
Also, if you go to the Maritime Station and Molo Manfredi Porto di Salerno, you can walk along the long pier and enjoy the cityscape of Salerno.
There is an equally beautiful tourist port on the eastern edge of Salerno, where numerous tourist boats take passengers to the Amalfi Coast.
6. Visit Amalfi
The Amalfi Coast is known as one of the most beautiful coastal landscapes in the whole of Italy.
Amalfi itself is a small commune, perched on the edge of a cliff, about 1 hour and 45 minutes west of Salerno.
If you’re looking for an active day trip, this is the place to visit – here you’ll find plenty of historical sites such as the Amalfi Cathedral, the Sanctuary of St. Andrew and the God of Heaven.
Also, the beautiful view of the sea opposite, and the colorful buildings hugging the cliffs are simply fantastic.
Recommended Itinerary: Amalfi Coast Day Trip
7. Villa Ruffalo
Ravello is another delightful town on the Amalfi Coast, perched on a cliff between Salerno and Amalfi.
This wonderful town has a similar collection of charming buildings that sit perfectly on the hillside, as well as a collection of historic buildings such as the Cathedral of Ravello and the Palace of Aveno.
However, Ravello’s main site is Villa Ruffalo – a building that dates back to the 1200s and features some fantastic architecture.
In addition, the villa has an open terrace with stunning views of the Amalfi Coast – from here you can see several other towns on the hillside and across the Tyrrhenian Sea.
8. Forte La Carnale
Salerno has a rich history, and Forte La Carnale has played an important role in the city’s defense over the years.
Built in the 16th century, the castle was the main defense against the Saracens.
The fortress stands on top of a natural hill with great views of the city and crosses the Amalfi Coast.
Today, the fortress contains a series of exhibitions and cultural displays explaining the structure and the history of the city of Salerno.
In addition, there is an on-site restaurant serving delicious cuisine.
9. Aletsch Castle
Towering above the city at 300m, Arechi Castle is located in the Gulf of Salerno and was built in the Middle Ages.
Traditionally associated with Longobardo Arechi II, this massive building was intended as an additional means of defense in the area around Salerno.
Much of the original castle remains today, while some parts have been restored; there is also a museum on the grounds containing various exhibits and discoveries excavated from the area and the castle.
In addition to the museum, the castle offers unparalleled views of Salerno and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
10. Parco del Mercatello
Parco del Mercatello, considered one of the largest urban parks in Italy, is located in the eastern region of Salerno, near the outskirts of the city.
Inaugurated in 1998, the park connects the three main areas of Salerno (Mariconda, Mercatello and the European Quarter) and is a place for locals and tourists to relax.
Within the park’s grounds, you can find several delightful ponds surrounded by colorful flowers, a Mediterranean garden area with lush vegetation, and an orchard filled with citrus and lime trees.
In addition, cultural performances are often held here.
11. Take a walking tour of the historic city center
Salerno has a historic city centre full of fantastic architecture, religious buildings and charming narrow streets.
There’s no better way to experience the city’s local life and culture than by walking through the Cathedral area of Rione.
Rione Duomo is located to the west of Salerno and contains some important buildings, including the Villa Comunale, the Duomo and the Provincial Archaeological Museum.
Starting in Piazza della Libertia, head to the area and wander the many narrow streets.
The architecture is sublime and the atmosphere is splendid.
This region of Italy is full of ancient ruins and fantastic Greek and Roman cities that have remained undisturbed for thousands of years.
A good example is the ruins of the city of Paestum.
About a 40-minute drive east of Salerno, the city was founded in 600 BC and was a major Greek settlement.
The main attractions of this wonderful site are the three ancient temples, which are in very good condition despite their age.
The first and second temples of Hera and Athena were similar in design to the Parthenon in Greece, with most of their original columns and pediments still standing.
In addition to the temple, there is a detailed museum showcasing a range of finds and artifacts from the site.
13. Provincial Archaeological Museum
Salerno has several great museums, but the Provincial Archaeological Museum is undoubtedly the most interesting and educational.
You can find this museum in the historic old town center near the Cathedral and Lungomare.
Built in 1928 in the old government palace, the museum houses a large collection of handicrafts and artifacts from the Salerno region.
Items in the museum include Roman tomb remains, a bronze bust of Apollo, gold coins, pottery, ceramics, weapons and household items dating back to Roman times.
Each display is enriched with multimedia elements and interactive features that explain what you’re seeing in great detail.
14. Enjoy traditional cuisine at Ristorante Cicirinella
Probably one of the best restaurants in Salerno, Cicirinella is known for its quality and great atmosphere.
This restaurant is located in the historic old town centre of Via Antonio Genovesi, just a few steps from the Cathedral and the Provincial Museum.
Recommended by locals, this restaurant serves a variety of traditional home-cooked Italian cuisine – forget haute cuisine, Cicirinella offers you quality meals that are authentic and full of flavour.
Plus, the prices are very reasonable, and you get a friendly and dedicated team of staff who clearly love what they do.
15. Have a drink at the Black Rose Bar
If you’re looking for nightlife, Salerno doesn’t have a huge variety of pubs, but the Black Roses Irish Pub is one of the most well-known, with a great atmosphere and a wide range of beers, wines and spirits to enjoy.
Located on the SR88 route, near Forte La Carnale, this bar has a warm decor, friendly staff and a variety of options if you want to dine.
The selection of drinks is excellent and the prices are very reasonable – the Black Roses bar is indeed the perfect place for an evening drink in Salerno.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Salerno, Italy
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