It is easy to write off the Amalfi Coast as too touristy. While there are several towns that are brimming with visitors, Salerno Italy just to the south is truly overlooked.
When we finally visited the Amalfi Coast, it was love at first sight. And one of the most unexpected favorite parts of our trips down to the coast has always been staying in Salerno when we visit.
Salerno, Italy is such an interesting city and I knew absolutely nothing about it! We decided to use it as a base, and then took the ferry to visit Amalfi and Positano. We love the more relaxed and lived in feel of Salerno. It has its own share of historic landmarks, and great nightlife as well as amazing food.
Plus, Salerno is a much more ‘budget’ destination, perfect for those who want to live la dolce vita without breaking the bank.
My love for Salerno is real – but one of the reasons that I had such a great first and second time there is because Francesca reached out to me and offered me tips on how to enjoy Salerno like a local.
Without further ado, I want to leave you with her tips for visiting Salerno in her own words.
Enjoy! (I know that we did).
Salerno, Italy Travel Guide
If you want to visit the Amalfi coast but don’t want to spend too much on hotels, then Salerno is the best choice for you.
Salerno is located between the Amalfi coast and the ‘costa cilentana’ and for this reason it’s the perfect spot to reach both. Indeed, in Salerno, you can find hotels that are way cheaper in comparison to the ones on the coasts, but also plenty of b&bs, especially in the old town.
Reaching the Amalfi coast from Salerno is very simple: there are ferries to and from the coast almost every hour. So, instead of waiting for a bus in a hot summer day (which will be full of tourists for sure), you can take one of the many ferries that depart from Salerno and reach the Divina, enjoying the coast from a different point of view.
Moreover, staying in Salerno can be quite of a big deal also considering the tourist attractions it has to offer. (Our favorite places to stay in Salerno are at the end of the post).
First off, you can admire a beautiful panorama above the Longbard Castle of Arechi that overlooks the city. You can reach it by taking bus number 19. The bus tickets can be bought at any ‘Tabacchi’.
Secondly, in the old town there is the Duomo, which is the city’s cathedral. It has a wonderful bell tower and crypt, which contains the relics of San Matteo, the Saint protector of the city. The entrance is free, from 8:30 to 20:00 with a break from 13:00 to 16:00 on weekends and holidays. You can also ask for a guided tour.
Not far from the Duomo, in the heart of the high part of the old town, you can find the ‘Giardino della Minerva’ (Minerva’s Garden), which is a botanical garden. It was the location of the Medical School of Salerno, the first medical school in Europe (11th century). You can reach it both leaving from the Duomo and from the low part of the old town, taking the public lift in piazza Matteo D’Ajello. The lift will take you directly on the high part of the old town in via Torquato Tasso, a few steps away from the garden. You can find the timetable for the garden here.
Via Torquato Tasso together with via Trotula de Ruggiero are beautiful streets that connect the garden with the Duomo. Along these streets you can find a lot of aristocratic buildings from the 700’s. You can admire most of them through their gates, like Palazzo Conforti or Palazzo Ruggi d’Aragona, while some others have big wooden front doors. If you’re lucky you’ll find some of these front doors open, and you’ll have the opportunity to get inside.
Furthermore, along Via Torquato Tasso there’s a Medieval Church called Chiesa di Santa Maria de Lama, where you can find original medieval frescos.
Other two beautiful churches in the old town are Chiesa di San Giorgio and Chiesa di San Benedetto. The first one is a baroque church. It is located along via Duomo, the street that leads to the Cathedral. The second one is a Longbard church founded by Arechi II.
Generally speaking, the old town of Salerno is quite big and well preserved. You can find old columns in different styles at corners, fountains and the typical basalt pavement, all surrounded by historical buildings.
In the end, you can enjoy a pleasant walk in the public garden of the city, the Villa Comunale, on the promenade (Lungomare) and along Via dei Mercanti. Going straight walking on Via dei Mercanti you’ll reach the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, where you can find shops.
For more of her photography (all of the black and white images above are by Francesa), please visit her Flickr!
Where to stay in Salerno
Are you convinced about visiting Salerno, Italy now? It is a perfect base for exploring the coast but there is obviously a lot to do in this small city itself.
If you are going to stay in Salerno, the first thing to do is decide if you want to stay in the old town (which is more picturesque but is a longer walk from the train station or ferry), or in the newer part of town which is very close to transportation. Most of the larger hotels will be near the station and port, whereas apartments and B&B can be found in the characteristic historic center.
Here are my favorite places to stay in Salerno:
- Hotel Plaza: Convenient if you are arriving in Salerno by train, or if you want to be close to the port to take the ferry, Hotel Plaza is set on the edge of the city near these transport hubs. The three-star hotel is comfortable if sometimes a little basic, but it has friendly staff, fast Wi-Fi and that oh-so-convenient location.
- Hotel Montestella: For a more modernly updated room, Hotel Montestella is a four-star hotel on Salerno’s main street. The hotel has been completely redone in cool gray tone with pops of color and has larger than average rooms. It is set in between the train station and ferry port and the old town, meaning you can easily get to all parts of the city.
- Suite 39 Guest House: This guest house is only about a 10-minute walk from the train station and Amalfi Coast ferry, and is also close to a reasonably priced parking lot in case you will have your own car. The rooms are spotless and the entire place has been recently updated. You have the choice to book multiple room suites if you are traveling with family or as a group. You can also find rooms with balconies, to treat yourself to a bit of outdoor space.
- Casa Castagna: For a more personal touch, Casa Castagna is a B&B with sweet hostesses and a lovely breakfast. Every room has its own bathroom, but there is a communal kitchen and dining area where guests gather for homecooked goodies served on colorful Amalfi-inspired plates.
- Salerno Mare e Luci: Even though it is further from the train station, I love to stay in Salerno’s Old Town because I like the atmosphere. This small apartment is in a building that dates back to the 1800s and you can get a sense of local living. It is a 2-minute walk to the lungomare (walkway along the water), and is also a great choice in case you are visiting during Christmas and want to see the famous light display.
- Suite Prestige Salerno: But if it is a view you are after, then it has to be this private apartment with an insane terrace overlooking the Gulf of Salerno. There are water views and a hot tub outside for you to enjoy. The one-bedroom apartment in the Old Town area also has a pullout couch so it can sleep 4 very happy campers.
Enjoy your trip! And please note – the above post may include affiliate links to companies that I personally use and recommend. If you choose to book via the link, I may earn a small commission.