South of the Amalfi Coast, the port city of Salerno is an important transport hub, with a major highway, rail line, and cruise ship harbor. Though most travelers simply pass through on their way to the coast, the city’s historic center merits a visit. Here’s how to see Salerno and fit in a quick excursion in one day.
Morning: City Highlights
Push past the busy port and its bland modern architecture to the charmingly timeworn historic center of Salerno, set under the forbidding Arechi Castle (Castello di Arechi). Crowded with lovely medieval churches, old-school trattorias, and bustling shops, Salerno’s centro storico has an authentic, lived-in feel missing from many of Italy’s more popular tourist towns. Be sure to visit the lavish 11th-century cathedral, take in the view from the fortress above the city, and pop in to the local Pinacoteca painting gallery as well as the Archaeological Museum, recently updated and home to a number of ancient treasures, including a bronze head of Apollo from the first century BC.
Afternoon: Ancient Temples
Chances are you are either coming from or headed to the Amalfi Coast to the north, so take advantage of Salerno’s southern location to turn your sights even farther down the coast to the magnificent archaeological site of Paestum. This stretch of the Italian peninsula was once part of the ancient Greek empire of Magna Grecia, and Paestum is home to three of the world’s best-preserved Greek temples, dating as far back as the sixth century BC. Tour the glorious ruins—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—with a guide for a better understanding of their historical and architectural context. Modern-history buffs can instead opt for a tour that traces the route of the Allied landing in this area during World War II.
Night: Dinner and a Stroll
Like many southern cities, Salerno comes to life at night, when the temperatures drop and residents come out in droves to dine al fresco, window shop in the cool evening hours, or enjoy the timeless passeggiata, or after-dinner stroll. The city has undergone a number of important urban-renewal projects to dust off the historic center, and one of the most impressive is the seafront reclamation. Join throngs of locals along this lovely, tree-lined promenade to savor the Mediterranean breeze, enjoy a gelato, and bid a cheerful goodbye to Salerno.