Salerno is where we will be staying for a couple of weeks, allowing us to return to the UK briefly and will be our base to explore the Amalfi Coast before we move on south towards Messina.
There has been human settlement around Salerno since the Bronze Age. The Romans founded Salerno in 197BC and it became an important trading centre on the road between Rome and the south. After the Roman Empire fell to the Goths, Salerno was occupied by the Byzantines and then fell to the Lombards who held the town until the 11th century. During this period Salerno became a prosperous and important city and boasted the world’s first medical school. The Lombards Duke Arechi II began building the first castle on the hills over looking the city in the 6th century. There was a mint in the castle.
In 1076 the Normans, under Robert Guiscard who had married into the Lombard family, took the city and held on to it until the 12th century when the Germans took Italy and it became part of the Holy Roman Empire. From then the importance of the city declined in favour of Naples.
The top attraction on Trip Advisor is the Castle, but I think this ranking is based on altitude rather than quality. We took the bus up from town, which involved a lot of waiting around but only cost €2, which was just as well; we would have been seriously miffed if we’d shelled out for a taxi! The castle is quite massive and has been restored to an extent but there is nothing there to explain it’s history, other than a small museum displaying pottery and coin hordes found during excavations. On the plus side the views of Salerno were impressive!
The Cathedral was a differant story all together! This was built by the Norman Duke Robert and was consecrated by the Pope in 1084.
In the crypt are the remails of St Mathew, one of the 12 Disciples, brought to the original church of Santa Maria degli Angeli on 6 May 954, almost 1063 years ago to the day.
There is a large entrance court-yard which is over shadowed by an enormous tower. The court-yard is decorated in a rather Arabic style and that apparent influence appears to extend into the Cathedral. The Cathedral itself is huge with three Apse, the wall above them shows sections of mosaic decoration which would have looked absolutely magnificent if it could be seen complete!
The older parts of Salerno are typical narrow streets between tall buildings and have a ‘shabby chic’ sort of feel to them, the emphasis being on the shabby. The main roads beside and parallel to the water front by the port are bounded by huge impressive buildings from perhaps the 17th or 18th centuries but it is impossible to get a clear view of them!
We only spent an afternoon and early evening in town but think we’ve probably seen enough. Next time we’ll be passing through on our way to the Amalfi Coast and Capri by the ferry.