From above, in the bright frame of sea and sky, Salerno seems as though it is hanging to the sides of the mountain, in a spectacular position on the gulf. The city became the most flourishing of southern Italy with its conquest by the Longobards in the 8th century, especially under Duke Arechi II.
Seat of the principality, Salerno entered a period of splendour, also becoming an important scientific centre with its much celebrated School of Medicine of Salerno, the oldest such institution in the west. After the Longobards followed the Normans, and then the Hohenstaufen emperors, all of whom favoured the growth of the city, a growth that only ended in the 16th century when the Spaniards took over control. It was in Salerno that the Allied forces disembarked in 1943. Today the city is in full rebirth, theatre of a transformation into ‘city-laboratory’, a model of urban revival of international importance. The heart of the city is the medieval quarter, whose main artery is via dei Mercanti (Merchants’ street).
The narrow city streets, today rich with shops, follow the form of the medieval urban plan and conserve beautiful historical buildings and much of its religious architecture. The Duomo (11th century) is dedicated to San Matteo and is the most important monument of the city, a masterpiece of Norman architecture. The vast porticoed atrium has, above its ancient columns, an elegant loggia decorated with inlaid wood. The atrium is dominated by an imposing romanesque belltower. On the inside two magnificent ambos are richly decorated with mosaics from the 7th and 8th centuries, and there are numerous 1500’s and 1600’s paintings. The Baroque crypt from the 1600’s is covered in polychromatic marble. There are numerous funeral monuments, the most important of which is that of Queen Margherita of Durazzo. The Duomo Museum is next to the cathedral, and offers a panorama of Salernitan art over the centuries. The nearby Provincial Archaeological Museum is not to be missed, housed in the complex of Saint Benedict, it is one of the most interesting topographical museums of Campania.
The hub of economic life of the city is to be found in the 1800’s quarter of the city near to the Lungomare Trieste, one of the longest waterfront in Italy, lined by palm trees, and from which you can enjoy a lovely view of the gulf. The Verdi Theatre was inaugurated in 1872. Its halls overflow with Renaissance-inspired décor and follow models of ancient classic inspiration. It is the cultural centre of the city. The Villa Comunale (City Park) is an oasis of green, a lovely public garden. Looking up towards the hills you can see the imposing Arechi’s Castle, from which there is an enchanting panorama.