Salerno is often overlooked but it's a lively city and a crucial crossroads. The busy port town is situated between two of the best-known seaside areas of Campania - the Amalfi Coast and the Cilento National Park. Salerno was the scene of the Allied landings during World War II and suffered much damage, but today the city has become an important commercial center which boasts one of the largest seaports on the Tyrrhenian coast. White it has a prevalently modern appearance, it still retains an interesting and characteristic historic center with a maze of charming alleyways and a wealth of beautiful buildings and monuments.
Salerno has a long history. Probably of Etruscan origin, it became a Roman colony in 197 BC. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was conquered by the Goths, the Byzantines and the Lombards. In 839 AD it became the capital of an independent Lombard principality. Robert Guiscard, the Norman ruler, conquered Salerno in 1077, making it the capital of his domain. Under the Swabian rulers, it declined while Naples rose in prominence, and in the 15th century the Angevins granted it to the powerful Colonna family. It was later passed around other noble families whose names are well-known - Orsini, the Sanseverino and the Grimaldi. It shared in the fortunes of the Kingdom of Naples from about 1590 until the unification of Italy.
For travelers Salerno is an interesting point for touring around as it is in a central location and enjoys a hip nightlife, and offers shops, restaurants, museums and monuments. Its main draw is its transportation network: Salerno has a major railway station with excellent train connections to Naples, Rome, Paestum and the south of Italy. During the summer season ferries, depart from Salerno's port to reach Amalfi, Positano and Capri. The SITA regional bus lines conveniently connect Salerno to the Capodichino airport in Naples, the central train station in Naples, and the the Amalfi Coast towns of Vietri sul Mare, Cetara, Minori, Maiori and Amalfi itself. The CSTP bus lines connect Salerno to the Cilento National Park area. In short, it's in the center of everything you want to see in Campania!
Salerno is well known for it's hot nightlife and entertainment scene, called the "movida". Show up in the area around the town hall in the evenings after 9:00 pm and join in. People gather in the street to chat, dine, stroll, drink, and hang out with friends as well as meet new ones. Venture into the alleys of the historic center to reach the piazza Largo Campo, another popular gathering spot. Nearly every night in the summer and every weekend night in the winter is busy with the "movida". Go out and people watch. In Salerno, don't be surprised if you visit late and find yourself stuck in traffic at 2:00 in the morning!
If "movida" isn't your style, take a tranquil stroll along the Lungomare, the seaside promenade, which is one of the longest in Italy. Stop in at Bar Nettuno, across the road from the Lungomare, for the best gelato (ice cream) in town. Visit to the sights of Salerno. The main monument is the Cathedral (Duomo), a 12th century Romanesque building dedicated to the apostle, St. Matthew, who is the city's patron saint. His body and that of Pope Gregorio VII (who was banished in Salerno) are kept inside the church.
The Diocesan Museum is located in the seminary in Piazza Plebiscito, and contains several lovely paintings, along with a famous ivory baldachin (altar canopy) from the 12th century, with biblical scenes and an illuminated Papal Proclamation, also from the 12th century. (Free entrance every day from 9 am to 6 pm.)
The Provincial Museum, housed in a restored wing of the former medieval abbey of Saint Benedetto, holds important archeological items found in the town and in various sites in the province, including a remarkable bronze cast head of Apollo dating to the first century BC. Facing the Museo Provinciale, is the interesting Romanesque church of Saint Benedict, consecrated by Gregorio VII, who lived in the attached monastery.
The Longobard castle known as Castello di Arechi enjoys a great view over the town and the Mediterranean Sea. The Byzantine structure is one of the important sights of Salerno with a permanent exhibit to enhance the spectacular views.
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