Salerno is the main town of the “Costiera Amalfitana”, situated in the middle of two enchanting coasts, the Amalfi and Cilento coasts. It was the seat of the oldest medical university in Europe, the Schola Medica Salernitana, the most important source of medical knowledge in Europe in the early Middle Ages. Salerno is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 194 b.C. it was a Roman colony and was named Salernum. The city was later occupied by Goths, Byzantines, Langobards and Normans. In 786 Arechi II, a Langobard prince, transferred the seat of the Dukedom of Benevento to Salerno, and under his rule Salerno grew to great splendour becoming a centre of studies with its famous Medical School. The Langobard prince ordered the city to be fortified; the Castle on the Bonadies mountain had alredy been built with walls and towers so from 839 the new capital was seat of a principality and powerful political centre.
In 1076 the Norman conqueror Robert Guiscard captured Salerno. In this period the royal palace (Castel Terracena) and the magnificent cathedral were built and science boosted as the Salerno Medical School, considered the most ancient medical institution of Western Europe, reached its maximum splendour.
With the Hohenstaufen dynasty (Swabians), at the end of the 12th century, there was a period of economic revival in the city. Following the advice of Giovanni da Procida (a famous citizen of that time), King Manfred of Sicily, Emperor Frederick II’s son, ordered the construction of a dock that still today bears his name. Moreover he founded Saint Matthew’s Fair, which was the most important market fair in Southern Italy.
After the Angevin conquest and from the 14th century onwards, most of the Salerno province became the territory of the Princes of Sanseverino, powerful feudal lords, who acted as real owners of the Region, and accumulated an enormous political and administrative power, attracting artists and men of letters.
In the first decades of the 16th century the last descendant of the Sanseverino princes was in conflict with the Spanish Government, causing the ruin of the whole family and the beginning of a long period of decadence for the city.
The years 1656, 1688 and 1694 represent sorrowful dates for Salerno: the plague and the earthquake which caused many victims. A slow renewal of the city occurred in the 18th century with the end of the Spanish empire and the construction of many refined houses and churches characterising the main streets of the historical centre.
In 1799 Salerno was incorporated into the Parthenopean Republic; during the Napoleonic period, Joachim Murat decreed the closing of the Salerno Medical School, that had been declining for decades to the level of a theoretical school. After the Unification of Italy in 1861 a slow urban development continued, many suburban areas were enlarged and large public and private buildings were created.
The city went on developing till the Second World War. In September 1943, Salerno was the scene of the landing of the allies and from February 12th to July 17th 1944 was the seat of Marshal Badoglio’s Government.
The post-war period was difficult for all the Italian cities of the south, but Salerno managed to improve little by little. In recent years the town administration has taken great strides giving a great impulse to the revaluation of the historical centre, the rediscovery of the artistic and cultural treasures. Salerno can now offer tourists a charming synthesis of Mediterranean culture and the fascinating landscapes of the Amalfi Coast.