Salerno Introduction Walking Tour, Salerno

Salerno Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Salerno

A vibrant seaport on the southeastern fringe of Italy's famed Amalfi Coast – the one often viewed as an attraction for jet-setters, – Salerno stands apart from its glitzy counterparts in that it is favored by those who seek a serene yet captivating retreat.

Human settlement at Salerno dates back to pre-historic times. The city's name, believed to have originated from the Latin "Salernum," hints at its roots as a Roman colony.

In the early Middle Ages Salerno was an independent Lombard principality, which around the 11th century comprised most of Southern Italy. It was then that Salerno's Medical School, the first of its kind in the world, was founded.

In 1077, the Normans made Salerno the capital of their rule in all continental southern Italy, and in the 16th century the city became a great center of learning, culture, and arts. During Spanish rule, Salerno suffered a crisis that would last until the 18th century. Under Napoleon, it became part of the Parthenopean Republic, and later supported the ideas of Italian unification, welcoming Garibaldi in 1861.

Throughout the same period, foreign industries settled in the city. In 1877, Salerno was the site of as many as 21 textile mills employing nearly ten thousand workers, ultimately earning it the nickname "Manchester of the two Sicilies".

In recent history, the city saw Allied landings during the invasion of Italy in World War II, which occurred in 1943.

Today's Salerno is a lively location with plenty to keep visitors engaged for a few days. One of its prominent landmarks is the bustling maritime station connecting Salerno to nearby islands and coastal destinations.

Religious heritage is abundant in the city. Its patron saint is Saint Matthew, the Apostle, whose relics are kept here at the crypt of Salerno Cathedral. The nearby Museum of Saint Matthew houses a treasure trove of religious art and artifacts.

Venturing further into Salerno, you may want to visit the Medieval Aqueduct, a marvel of ancient engineering, or stroll along Merchants' Street, where echoes of the city's mercantile history still resonate. In the end, unwinding at the local seafront, where the azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea meet the vibrant cityscape, may be a good idea.

Replete with historical wonders, sun-kissed beaches, verdant nature parks, and the authentic flavors of southern Italian cuisine, Salerno is ready to indulge you in all its delights. Our self-guided tour hereby offers you a chance to discover the allure of this enchanting city. Go for it!
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Salerno Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Salerno Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Salerno (See other walking tours in Salerno)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Stazione Marittima di Salerno (Maritime Station of Salerno)
  • Piazza della Liberta (Freedom Square)
  • Villa Comunale (Municipal Villa)
  • Giardino della Minerva (Garden of Minerva)
  • Palazzo Fruscione (Fruscione Palace)
  • Duomo di Salerno (Cathedral of Salerno)
  • Museo Diocesano San Matteo di Salerno (Diocesan Museum of Saint Matthew of Salerno)
  • Acquedotto Medievale di Salerno (Medieval Aqueduct of Salerno)
  • Via dei Mercanti (Merchants' Street)
  • Museo Virtuale della Scuola Medica Salernitana (Virtual Museum of Salerno's Medical School)
  • Chiesa di San Giorgio (Church of Saint George)
  • Lungomare di Salerno (Salerno Seafront)
Stazione Marittima di Salerno (Maritime Station of Salerno)

1) Stazione Marittima di Salerno (Maritime Station of Salerno)

The Maritime Station of Salerno, situated on the Manfredi pier within the commercial port, stands as the primary cruise hub in the city of Salerno and ranks among the prominent ones in Campania and southern Italy. This terminal not only serves a functional purpose but also acts as a visually striking transition between the city and the sea.

The station boasts direct pedestrian access to Freedom Square, the Crescent, and the city's seafront, allowing visitors to explore Salerno without relying on public transport. The terminal building itself is a masterpiece with a form reminiscent of an oyster projecting toward the sea. Zaha Hadid's architectural vision is evident in its curved shapes, elongated structures, multiple perspective points, and fragmented geometry.

Resonating with the theme of an oyster, both in its external appearance and internal finishes, the Maritime Station reflects Zaha Hadid's architectural ideals. The roof, resembling a protective shell, shields the structure from the intense Mediterranean sun during the day. As evening falls, the roof transforms into a beacon with hundreds of LED lights and ceramic tiles, providing a warm welcome to approaching tourists and serving as a symbolic lighthouse for the port of Salerno.
Piazza della Liberta (Freedom Square)

2) Piazza della Liberta (Freedom Square)

The Freedom Square stands as a testament to the transformative vision of the Spanish architect, Ricardo Bofill. This square, part of the larger urban project that includes the Salerno Crescent, is a vital element in redefining the city's relationship with the sea.

Stretching across approximately 28,000 square meters and positioned about 5 meters above sea level, Freedom Square serves as a pivotal space in the heart of Salerno. The square's design is characterized by a semicircular section, defined by the imposing presence of the Crescent, and a triangular area facing south and southeast.

The square's design is not only functional but also pays homage to the city's history, drawing inspiration from Norman geometries found in Salerno's historic center. The central flower-shaped area, as well as the triangular space, boasts slabs of imperial green "Guatemala" marble, evoking a sense of timeless elegance. The remaining paths are adorned with slabs of Etna lava stone, complemented by details in absolute black "Zimbabwe" granite and travertine.

At the pinnacle of the triangular section lies the diamond, featuring a body of water that establishes an ideal visual connection with the sea. Three pairs of stairs along the sides of the triangle lead to the lower level, where two promenades unfold – one adjacent to the port of Santa Teresa and the other bordering the beach. These promenades are destined to host various commercial activities, enhancing the square's vibrancy and inviting the community to engage with the sea.
Villa Comunale (Municipal Villa)

3) Villa Comunale (Municipal Villa)

The Municipal Villa, often referred to as the city's "garden," is a captivating botanical haven that originated in 1870. Nestled within its embrace is the renowned Tullio Fountain, a symbol of both history and elegance.

This enchanting Municipal Villa serves as a genuine botanical garden, adorned with rare plant specimens and preserving the serene ambiance of the post-Risorgimento era when it was conceived. It aimed to craft a public space for recreation, leisure, and representation, catering to the emerging class of the newly unified Italy.

The historical core of the Villa features a tree-lined avenue commencing from the famous Aesculapius Fountain, affectionately known as "Don Tullio" after the generous Salerno resident who donated it in 1790. The current iteration of the Villa, although significantly altered, took shape in 1874 based on a design by the architect Casalbore. The transformation included the addition of flowerbeds, meandering paths, plantings, statues, and fountains within a triangular layout intersected by two avenues. A raised base for musical performances took center stage, while the existing fountain served as a captivating focal point, drawing the eye towards the sea.

Over the years, the Villa has been adorned with monuments. In 1890, a statue by Alfonso Balzico was unveiled, paying homage to Giovanni Nicotera, the Minister of the Interior in the De Pretis government of 1876 and a participant in the "three hundred young and strong" expedition. Although the original sculpture was sacrificed during World War I, a new rendition by Corrado Patroni was installed in the 1960s, depicting Nicotera defiantly tearing up his own death sentence.

Each April, the Villa comes alive with a market-exhibition showcasing rare plants and garden objects. In winter, the garden transforms into the Enchanted Garden, adorned with the luminous installations of the Artist's Lights, providing a magical spectacle for visitors to enjoy.
Giardino della Minerva (Garden of Minerva)

4) Giardino della Minerva (Garden of Minerva) (must see)

The Garden of Minerva unveils the secrets of the renowned Salerno Medical School and the foundational principles of ancient and medieval medicine.

Situated on the slopes of the Bonadies hill, between the Fusandola stream and the ancient city walls, the Minerva Garden is a living legacy of Matteo Silvatico's medical garden. Matteo Silvatico, a distinguished master of the Salerno Medical School. The garden, dating back to this period, witnessed the birth of the first botanical garden in the Western world. Its unique design and use of vegetation influenced subsequent botanical gardens in Padua, Pisa, Florence, Pavia, and Bologna.

Within the Minerva Garden, Matteo Silvatico cultivated and classified an extensive array of plants and herbs. Beyond its botanical significance, the garden became a hub of educational activity, with Silvatico engaging in teaching sessions with the students of the Salerno Medical School. This elevated Salerno to a prominent position in the realm of ancient Western science.

Within the Minerva Garden, one can encounter medieval painted tiles unearthed during the restoration of Palazzo Capasso. Throughout the year, the garden plays host to captivating exhibitions and events of noteworthy significance. The culinary aspect is overseen by the Nemus Association, renowned for its expertise in crafting herbal teas using locally sourced and certified ingredients.
Palazzo Fruscione (Fruscione Palace)

5) Palazzo Fruscione (Fruscione Palace)

The construction of Fruscione Palace, initiated in the 13th century, holds a historical tapestry intertwined with the city's rich past. Partially resting on the remains of an imperial-era thermal complex, the palace shares its vicinity with the ancient Arechian court.

The palace encapsulates remnants of a Norman structure spanning at least two floors, with varying building levels. The 13th century witnessed renovation works and street reorganization, evidenced by the three portals on Vicolo dei Barbuti. The rooms on Vicolo Adelberga took shape towards the late 13th century, while the second floor emerged from a comprehensive intervention completed in the early 14th century.

In the 17th century, the ground floor underwent transformation into stables, resulting in the loss of the ancient peacock-tail staircase leading to the upper levels. In the 19th century, efforts were made to restore the grandeur of these spaces, adorned with embellishments such as two marble jambs featuring intricate vegetal themes.

Palazzo Fruscione proudly exhibits three orders adorned with noteworthy architectural elements. The eastern façade showcases three portals on the ground floor crowned by round arches with gray and yellow tuff inlays. The first floor boasts five sculpted mullioned windows, one adorned with a red-painted decoration depicting intertwined rings. The second floor features a series of intertwined multi-lancet windows characterized by pointed arches and supported by small columns.
Duomo di Salerno (Cathedral of Salerno)

6) Duomo di Salerno (Cathedral of Salerno) (must see)

The Cathedral of San Matteo, commonly known as Salerno Cathedral, stands as a venerable testament to history, with its roots tracing back to the auspicious founding by Robert Guiscard and consecration by Pope Gregory VII. Officially inaugurated in March 1084, the cathedral underwent a transformative chapter following the earthquake of June 5, 1688, which led to its complete reconstruction.

As one approaches the cathedral, the main entrance reveals modifications, and its courtyard is gracefully encircled by a covered passage supported by twenty-eight simple columns adorned with arches. Along the walls, a series of Roman tombs add an evocative touch to the surroundings. The southern side boasts the 12th-century bell tower, an architectural relic that stands in silent homage to the passage of time.

Salerno Cathedral unfolds its architectural narrative through a plan characterized by a longitudinal body comprising three naves, complemented by a horizontal transept with three apses and a quadriportico. The crypt, a distinctive element, assumes the form of a hall divided by columns, with apses mirroring those of the upper transept. Notably, the crypt serves as the resting place for the mortal remains of Saint Matthew. Legend holds that Gisulfo I transported the relics to Salerno in the 10th century. In 1081, upon the completion of the new cathedral dedicated to the evangelist, the remains found their eternal abode in the crypt, meticulously safeguarded.

The sculptural tapestry of Salerno Cathedral resonates with a captivating presence of animals. Beginning with the entrance, symbols of ecclesiastical power and charity manifest in the depiction of a lion and a lioness breastfeeding her calf. The architrave, adorned with a vine trellis, intertwines with dates pecked by birds, metaphorically alluding to the spiritual nourishment of the soul. At the extremes, a monkey and a lion symbolize heresy and the truth of the church, respectively. The cathedral's interiors are further embellished with decorative elements, featuring medieval heritage animals such as lions, horses, and centaurs.
Museo Diocesano San Matteo di Salerno (Diocesan Museum of Saint Matthew of Salerno)

7) Museo Diocesano San Matteo di Salerno (Diocesan Museum of Saint Matthew of Salerno)

The Diocesan Museum of Saint Matthew in Salerno encapsulats the rich tapestry of regional culture from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. Within its walls, visitors encounter a remarkable collection of artworks, and among them, the ivory cycle takes center stage as the most extensive and comprehensive assembly of Christian medieval ivory tablets globally.

This exceptional cycle comprises 69 pieces, with 37 intricately illustrated, depicting scenes from both the Old and New Testaments. Scholars posit a dating between the late 11th century and the early decades of the 12th century, adding a layer of historical depth to these exquisite creations.

Another luminous gem within the museum's collection is the Exultet, a parchment scroll from the 13th century. This scroll, composed of 11 sheets adorned with miniatures, served a sacred purpose during the Holy Saturday liturgy, adding a sacred aura to its historical significance.

Accompanying these treasures are ten medieval codices, with the Pontifical emerging as a masterpiece of artistic merit. Created in at least two stages between the late 13th and early 14th centuries, the Pontifical exhibits diversity in coats of arms and distinct styles and techniques, providing a captivating glimpse into the evolving artistic expressions of the era.

A work of profound importance housed in the Diocesan Museum is the Barliario Cross, dating back to the 12th century. This cross, showcased in the Church of the SS on specific occasions, stands as a testament to the enduring religious and artistic legacy that reverberates through time.
Acquedotto Medievale di Salerno (Medieval Aqueduct of Salerno)

8) Acquedotto Medievale di Salerno (Medieval Aqueduct of Salerno)

The Medieval Aqueduct of Salerno, often referred to as the Devil's Bridges, stands as an iconic symbol and a marvel of medieval engineering. Constructed in the 10th century by Benedictine monks, the Medieval Aqueduct traverses Via Arce, representing a conduit that transported water from the northern hills to the Monastery of San Benedetto. Folklore intertwines with the aqueduct's history, as it is fondly known as "the Devil's Bridges."

The aqueduct, colloquially known as the "Devil's Bridge", earned its mysterious reputation from a captivating legend that unfolded in the 12th century. According to local lore, the renowned Salerno magician Pietro Barliario, aided by supernatural forces, constructed this marvel overnight. Fueled by popular superstition, tales circulated that venturing beneath the arches between dusk and dawn could lead to encounters with devils or malevolent spirits.

The legend finds its roots in the unique topography of the aqueduct's location. Until the early 20th century, the area remained inaccessible, with the Rafastia stream flowing beneath the road surface and devoid of houses, nestled close to the towering city walls. The pointed arch, an architectural innovation of the time, likely added an element of awe and fear, contributing to the mystical aura surrounding the aqueduct.

Another captivating tale weaves through the arches, claiming that the four founders of the Salerno Medical School serendipitously met beneath the aqueduct on a stormy night. Adela, representing the Arab influence, Ponto from Greece, Elino, a Jewish figure, and the Latin Salerno, symbolizing the local essence, allegedly converged in a moment that echoed Salerno's role as a bustling crossroads of diverse peoples, religions, and cultures during that era.
Via dei Mercanti (Merchants' Street)

9) Via dei Mercanti (Merchants' Street)

The Merchants' Street in Salerno has traversed the historic heart of the city, serving as its principal nexus for communication and commerce since the medieval era. Dating back to the year one thousand, the street was originally named Drapparia, owing to the proliferation of "drappi" or fabric shops associated with the Lombard principality of Salerno.

This medieval thoroughfare boasts an average width of approximately 5 meters, occasionally tapering to a mere three meters. Spanning a length of about one kilometer, it extends from the renowned Arch of Arechi, once part of the Lombard palace of the same name, to the bustling Portanova Square, marking the onset of modern Salerno. Throughout Lombard times and beyond, the Merchants' Street has remained the epicenter of the city's mercantile and commercial activities.

Graced by the presence of notable churches, including the Santissimo Crocifisso, San Gregorio, and San Giorgio, the street is adorned with significant landmarks such as Pinto Palace, housing the provincial art gallery, and Carrara Palace. Midway along the thoroughfare, the ancient Duomo Street branches off, leading to the revered Salerno Cathedral just a short distance away.
Museo Virtuale della Scuola Medica Salernitana (Virtual Museum of Salerno's Medical School)

10) Museo Virtuale della Scuola Medica Salernitana (Virtual Museum of Salerno's Medical School)

Inaugurated in 2009, the Virtual Museum represents a comprehensive restoration, both in terms of its structure and overall organization, replacing the former Educational Museum of the Salerno Medical School.

Housed within the ancient Church of San Gregorio, dating back to the Lombard period around the year one thousand, the Virtual Museum employs a modern and engaging approach to its reception and event calendar. Leveraging films and 3D reproductions featuring professional actors, the museum retraces the techniques and knowledge of the Salerno Medical School, particularly during its centuries of eminence from the 10th to the 13th century.

Visitors are treated to illuminated panels showcasing reproductions of precious manuscripts and illuminated texts crafted by the Salerno Medical School during the Middle Ages. A highlight of the museum is the section devoted to the renowned Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum, the work synonymous with the global renown of the Medical School.

The main room's glass floor reveals the ancient underlying structure, and keen observers can spot an array of surgical instruments—both original and reconstructed—used by the pioneering physicians of history. Additionally, panels dedicated to Trotula de Ruggiero, the first female doctor in history, offer a fascinating exploration of the role of women in the Middle Ages, capturing the attention and curiosity of visitors.
Chiesa di San Giorgio (Church of Saint George)

11) Chiesa di San Giorgio (Church of Saint George)

The Church of San Giorgio in Salerno is widely acclaimed as the epitome of baroque splendor within the city. Although its unassuming facade on Cathedral Street may not betray the grandeur within, once entered, it unfolds as the most exquisite baroque sanctuary in Salerno, adorned with captivating frescoes by the renowned artist Solimena.

The origins of the Church of San Giorgio trace back to the 8th century, constructed upon the foundations of an even older church dedicated to the eastern saint. The present-day church is a result of extensive renovations undertaken in the latter part of the 17th century, breathing new life into the ancient Monastery of San Giorgio. Remarkably, this monastery, now housing the barracks of the Carabinieri and the financial police, underwent restoration in the aftermath of the earthquake in 1980.

During this restoration, beneath the contemporary floor, the remains of a frescoed apse structure dating back to pre-10th century times emerged. To showcase this historical treasure, an ingenious electric device was installed to elevate the floor, allowing visitors to witness the captivating frescoes. The church's interior unfolds as a single nave, featuring a groined barrel vault, flanked by side chapels. A rectangular transept, crowned with a dome, adds to the architectural elegance, concluding with a square space situated behind the altar.
Lungomare di Salerno (Salerno Seafront)

12) Lungomare di Salerno (Salerno Seafront) (must see)

Salerno's seafront stands as a testament to Italy's breathtaking coastal beauty, offering an unparalleled view of the stunning Amalfi Coast. Renowned as one of the country's most enchanting promenades, it provides a captivating backdrop for leisurely strolls amid lush green gardens and palm trees, all just a stone's throw away from the bustling city center.

This picturesque seafront plays a pivotal role as one of the three parallel axes that have defined the city's expansion. It seamlessly connects the two boundaries of the old city, extending from the commercial port to the railway station. Its construction, initiated in 1920, involved extensive beach transformation and development, primarily aimed at creating a protective barrier against the relentless erosive forces exerted by the waves.

As one meanders along the seafront, heading from the sandy shores of Saint Teresa towards Concordia Square, an impressive array of buildings comes into view. These architectural wonders include the Palace of the Province, the Chamber of Commerce, the Palace of Posts and Telecommunications, the Palace of Justice, and a collection of structures serving as offices and residences. The seafront extends for several kilometers, featuring both bathing establishments and free beaches for visitors to enjoy.

This vibrant esplanade is a hive of activity, with a plethora of bars and gathering spots, making it an ideal destination for relaxation and a gateway to exploring the historic and commercial heart of the city.

Walking Tours in Salerno, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Salerno

Create Your Own Walk in Salerno

Creating your own self-guided walk in Salerno is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Salerno Medieval Architecture Walking Tour

Salerno Medieval Architecture Walking Tour

Salerno's medieval architecture is a captivating tapestry woven with the threads of history, culture, and craftsmanship. Our journey through its facets starts by the sea, at the ancient New Gate (Porta Nova) that once served as a crucial entry point to the city, welcoming travelers and protecting residents within its sturdy walls.

Our next stop is the picturesque Medieval Aqueduct...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles