3rd May 2015
The Sea Side of Salerno
I will remember Salerno as the place with one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen and where I ate one of the best pizzas I have ever tasted. I only stayed there for one night on my way from Sorrento to Matera but as my bus did not leave until the afternoon I had to for a walk around the town and I set off from my lodgings on the beach early the next morning.
As I made my way towards the town centre I spotted a local market and diverted to the small piazza where it was being held to have a look around. The stalls were stacked with fresh fruit and vegetables and I was nearly knocked over by a scooter laden with supplies for a local hotel- but I was trying to take a photo at the time and had to skip out of the way.
It was easy to find the medieval heart of this modern city and I was soon strolling along its most famous street, Via de Mercanti, lined with interesting shops on either side and already bustling with locals.
Narrow alleyways lead off this street like tributaries from a river and as I wandered along one of these I looked up and could see above me the Romanesque bell tower of the Cathedral, Duomo di San Matteo
Next to the tower is one of the entrances into the beautiful courtyard of the cathedral. There were two large groups of school children inside being kept in good order by their teachers as they learnt its history – built by the Normans in the 11th century, remodelled during the 18th century then severely damaged in the 1980 earthquake but now restored to its former glory. I was happy to find a shady place where I could sit and enjoy my surroundings and soon I had the whole place to myself.
I was impressed by the interior of the cathedral with its three aisles and elegant decoration.
The cathedral is dedicated to San Matteo (St Matthew). His remains were reputedly brought to the city in 954 and now lie beneath the main altar in the vaulted crypt which is stunning – even the children who had preceded me through the narrow doorway that led down there were silenced.
I was not sure where to go next but then I saw a sign to the Gardens of Minerva which sounded interesting so I send off to find them but got completely lost in the rabbit warren of alleyways. I was not the only one as two harassed teachers raced around requesting directions. I got there first but they were hot on my heels. The five terraces of this twelfth century botanical garden (a forerunner in its field) were already occupied by another school party sketching the therapeutic plants that are still grown there. I left them to it and returned to ground level in the public lift. As I waited for it to arrive I could see several steeples of the forty churches that populate the old town including the beautiful cupola of the Saint Annunziata church. I thought I could see two churches next to each other but I later discovered that this church also has a beautiful bell tower.
I was glad of the shade in the beautiful Villa Comunale gardens and I spent some time there enjoying the exotic plants and watching the terrapins in the pretty pond.
This garden is used for various events during the year and I came across a beautiful statue in wood that had been part of an earlier exhibition.
Refreshed I was ready to walk back along the long promenade, Lungomare Trieste to the Ristorante La Conchiglia where I had dined the previous evening and had discovered their delicious pizzas made from organic flour – even without any topping they were very tasty.
Above me I could see the Castello di Arechi. Originally a Byzantine fort built by the Lombard duke of Benevento, Arechi II during the 8th century it was subsequently modified by the Normans and Aragonese – most recently in the 16th century. There was no time to get the bus there so I had to forego the views of the Gulf of Salerno from the castle which I knew would be spectacular. Next time – I was sure I would be back.
When it was time to leave this interesting town and I set off on foot for Piazza Montpelier to catch the bus. My host had told me it was very easy to find but he had obviously forgotten that the locals call in Piazza Malta. The first five people from whom I requested directions did not live in Salerno. Finally I found the place but there was no evidence my bus would stop there – it did and I was soon on my way to the next destination on my tour of Southern Italy.
I travelled to Salerno from Naples airport. I got the shuttle bus from the airport to the train station where I found several railway companies operate services to Salerno. I settled for Italo This company has a large air-conditioned office where I could sit in comfort until it was time to get my train. The train was very comfortable with electric sockets and free WiFi. An alternative would have been the coastal ferry from Amalfi
I stayed at 14 Leoni – a small bed and breakfast named for the 14 lions on top of 14 columns that fence its terrace. It is right on the beach and although it is still a work in progress it is a lovely location.
This article is now featured on GPSmyCity. To download this article for offline reading or travel directions to the attractions highlighted in this article, go to Walking Tours in Salerno on GPSmyCity