I didn’t know about any of the awesome things to do in Salerno, Italy when I first decided to come here in March 2022. But even though my first trip to Salerno was completely spontaneous, it ended up being the highlight of my whole Italy trip and is now one of my favorite Italian cities. I just got back from another visit (May 2023) and can confirm this city still takes the (lemon-flavored) cake.
If you’ve made the (hella wise) decision to base yourself here during your Amalfi Coast trip, don’t forget to give Salerno a good chunk of your attention too. Here are 25 of the best things to do in Salerno that’ll have you canceling all those played-out Positano plans.
Hours and admissions mentioned in this post are accurate as of June 2023.
The best things to do in Salerno
Even though it’s not as popular as its more colorful Amalfi Coast neighbors, don’t for a second think there isn’t a long list of awesome things to do in Salerno. Unlike the other cities, Salerno has more than just an afternoon’s worth of sights and activities.
Salerno is full of unique museums, historical sights, art and poetry-filled walking routes, delicious dining opportunities, stunning cathedrals, outdoor adventures, and much more. If you’re looking for the best ways to spend your days in the Amalfi Coast city that has both beauty and brains, start here with this list of the best things to do in Salerno.
The map of things to do in Salerno
How to use this map
You can view or hide different layers by clicking on the tab in the top left. Then, by checking or unchecking the boxes to the left of each section title. Click on any of the location markers on the map to get more information on each site.
Click on the star ⭑ next to the map’s title to save this map in your Google Maps. When you get to Salerno, open Google Maps on your phone, click “Saved” at the bottom, then click “Maps.”
1. Minerva’s Garden (Giardino della Minerva)
Minerva’s Garden (Giardino della Minerva in Italian) is probably the most beautiful spot in Salerno. This 5-level botanical garden is located on a beautiful mountainside high above Salerno.
It features countless colorful flowers, plants, and the most bountiful fruit trees you’ve ever seen! It has a cliffside terrace where you can chill out with a beverage in the sun, a multi-tiered lemon grove, and unforgettable views of Salerno from up above.
There’s also a small museum where you can learn about ancient medicinal practices using the different flowers and herbs, and a too-cute gift shop. (Fun fact: the Salerno School of Medicine was the world’s first ever medical school.) And you would never know any of this from the street. The Minerva Gardens are a real-life secret garden, a total hidden gem.
Visiting hours: here, closed on Mondays
Minerva’s Garden is currently undergoing renovation and expansion and will be closed until fall 2023. (They closed on 1/30/23 and expect the work to last “240 days.” So, I’ll just keep an eye out for you.)
2. The Crypt at Salerno Cathedral
If you’ve ever been to Italy, you already know visiting a cathedral (or 6) will be on your itinerary. Well, this list of things to see in Salerno is going to be no different. But lemme start you out with the mother of them all.
Salerno Cathedral itself is fairly understated, as far as grand Italian cathedrals are concerned. But, it’s actually what’s underneath it that will knock your socks off—the crypt.
Entering the cathedral and walk up the left side. Towards the end will be a small door that leads you down to the crypt. (It costs €1 to enter.) Down here is the most stunning cathedral crypt you’ve ever entered, I promise. It will be like you’ve entered Heaven itself… even though you went down… the afterlife is complicated, OK?
In the center of the crypt is the tomb of St. Matthew, and all over the rest of the crypt are paintings depicting stories from the life of St. Matthew and others. (The tomb of Pope Gregory VII is upstairs.) If you ask me, this place blows the Sistine Chapel out of the water. There, I said it.
Visiting hours: here
Admission: €1 for the crypt
Salerno Cathedral is formally known in Italian as Cattedrale de Santa Maria degli Angeli, San Matteo e San Gregorio VII, named for the two most important figures entombed here.
3. Castello di Arechi (Arechi Castle)
Up on a hilltop overlooking Salerno are the medieval ruins of Arechi Castle which dates back to the 8th century. And yes, you can visit them!
At Castello di Arechi you’ll find a small museum dedicated to the castle’s history, some beautiful tree-covered nature trails, and some happy cows and goats. OK, come to Castello di Arechi for the adorable livestock but stay for the jaw-dropping views!
This visit back to the middle ages won’t take you very long, but you can spend as long as you want wandering through the castle ruins and taking in some of the most beautiful views above the city.
You can see all of Salerno, the entire Cilento Coast, and even snow-capped mountains behind you. (Did you know the Amalfi Coast had snow-capped mountains?) Hanging out at Castello di Arechi is definitely one of my favorite things to do in Salerno.
The fastest and easiest way to get to Castello di Arechi is to drive. (If you have your own rental car, that is). Otherwise, you can actually hike here and/or take the city bus. More info here on how to get there.
Visiting hours: here, closed on Mondays
4. Street art of the Muri d’Autore
Within the labyrinth of Salerno’s streets you’ll find a vast collection of painted poetry and colorful murals that all pay homage to local artist Alfonso Gatto (1909-1976).
These paintings can actually be found all over Salerno, but the highest concentration of them is in the Fornelle District, Salerno’s oldest neighborhood. Take a walk through the streets here and see which murals you can find; I’ve marked the best starting point on the map at the top of this post.
5. Explore Salerno’s historic center (Centro Storico)
One of my favorite things about Salerno is that it’s just a real Italian city and it feels that way from top to bottom. It isn’t done up for Instagram and its old town doesn’t feel as Amalfi-Coast-Disney as Positano does. It’s just… real.
Ergo, one of my favorite things to do in Salerno is just explore, mostly within the historic center (Centro Storico). Salerno’s history goes back to the BC times and it’s been an active establishment ever since. This city has seen some stuff and you can definitely tell.
Salerno’s historic center feels rugged and raw the way other towns on the Amalfi Coast just don’t. There are countless historical buildings and homes, immaculate cathedrals, and locals just going about their day amongst fountains, palaces, and medieval archways.
6. Have dinner at Ristorante Cicirinella
On my first night in Salerno I had dinner at Ristorante Cicirinella—one of the most popular restaurants in town and definitely one of the best things to do in Salerno. Set inside a cozy spot in the historic center, you’ll eat some of the best local seafood surrounded by stone walls and a friendly waitstaff.
The menu changes often (the way they do at restaurants that prioritize local ingredients and fresh catches) and they don’t have a website (the sign of a fantastic dining experience to come). Reservations are necessary, so have the owner of your B&B or hotel staff call to make a reservation for you!
7. Take a walk on the Lungomare Trieste
Salerno’s main tree-lined promenade, the Lungomare Trieste, is a beautiful pedestrian walkway along the beach. It stretches just over a mile from the new Piazza della Libertà to the Piazza della Concordia. It’s typically filled with people out on a stroll with their dogs, or jogging, but just generally taking it easy.
It’s pretty wide and offers great views of both the hillside city of Salerno and the Tyrrhenian Sea. You can check out the boats and fishermen at the harbor, cool off in the shade of its palm trees, maybe get some exercise in if you’re into doing that on vacation. There are even some cafés and bars along the way in case you’re more into that.
8. Visit the Provincial Archaeological Museum
If you’re into ancient art and artifacts (which I hope you are because you’re in Italy!), head to Salerno’s Provincial Archaeological Museum. This museum contains just that—interesting archaeological finds from all over the province of Salerno.
It has artifacts dating as far back as the prehistoric area, but also from Roman times. Its most important piece is the bronze head of Apollo from the 1st century BCE. (That was actually found by a fisherman in the Gulf of Salerno in 1930!)
Visiting hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 9am-7pm, closed Mondays
9. Check out the medieval aqueduct
Salerno’s medieval aqueduct was built in the 9th century as a way to supply water to the nearby monastery of St. Benedict. Obviously it’s not still in use today but a surprisingly large amount of it still stands.
It’s just a few minutes’ walk from anywhere in the town center, and if you do any driving around Salerno, chances are you’ll drive right through it.
Fun fact: Salerno’s medieval aqueduct is also called the “Bridge of the Devil” since it was believed to have been built overnight by a local magician with the help of demons. That tracks.
10. Enjoy local seafood at Mamma Rosa’s
Another of Salerno’s best restaurants is Mamma Rosa’s. This totally down-to-earth eatery serves fresh local seafood dishes handmade by Mamma Rosa herself.
I made a reservation here after reading countless rave reviews, and now I have another to add to the pile. Mamma Rosa’s is fantastic! The portions are huge and the food is so, so good. The staff is so friendly and Mamma Rosa is an absolute delight to have a conversation with even if you don’t speak each other’s languages.
If you want a real down home Salernitana meal in a welcoming environment, don’t miss your chance to dine at Mamma Rosa’s. (You’ll want a reservation, which can only be made by phone. Try your shot at Italian or have your hotel/B&B make one for you.)
Opening hours: Daily from 12-3pm and 8-11:30pm
11. Catch up on some World War II history
Salerno isn’t just a hub for great seafood and ancient history, it was also an incredibly important location during World War II. Salerno is where Allied troops first came ashore on the Italian mainland. From there, they worked their way up the boot, won major battles in Montecassino, and eventually liberated Rome from Nazi occupation.
Given Salerno’s importance to Italy during the Second World War, there are a handful of places to learn about the area’s world-changing history. Find out more about Salerno’s Operation Avalanche here.
Fun fact: I’m not just a regular ol’ traveler; I’m also a WWII historian. And Salerno wasn’t just a landing site during WWII, it was actually the capital of Italy for five months in 1944.
12. Hike the Path of the Gods
While the Path of the Gods hike isn’t exactly in Salerno, it’s still one of the top things to do on the Amalfi Coast that you can easily do during your visit to Salerno.
I first hiked the Path of the Gods in 2019 and loved it so much that I did it again in 2023. This amazing hike starts high up on the mountains of the Amalfi Coast and ends in the village of Positano. I wrote an entire guide to hiking the Path of the Gods which you can read in that link.
That post talks about how to get there from Sorrento, but it’s actually even easier from Salerno. To start, you just take the ferry from Salerno to Amalfi, and then catch the bus to the starting point from there. To come back, take the ferry from Positano to Salerno.
Check out my post (linked above) to get all you need to know about hiking the Path of the Gods, see all the gorgeous views, and get lots of pro tips.
Path of the Gods is known locally as Sentiero degli Dei.
13. Take an all-day Amalfi Coast tour with Daniele
This is another that isn’t entirely within Salerno, but is definitely one of the best things to do during your Salerno visit. (And also on my list of the best day trips from Salerno.)
I always preach that Salerno makes the best base when you want to visit the Amalfi Coast, and while there are many great things to do in Salerno, it’s important to visit the other Amalfi Coast cities as well.
And for that, I recommend an all-day Amalfi Coast tour. And nobody does it better than Daniele, owner of Salerno Antica B&B. (A service he offers only to his guests!) Salerno Antica B&B is my southern Italian home away from home and the reason I keep coming back is because of Daniele’s hospitality.
Exclusive Salerno Antica tours
On my most recent visit I was able to take advantage of one of the services he offers only to his guests—an all-day Amalfi Coast tour. And it was incredible! If you are planning a trip to Salerno, definitely consider staying at Salerno Antica B&B so you can do this.
He took us to all the best lookout spots, eateries, shops, and local artisans in Ravello, Amalfi, Atrani, Minori, Cetara, and Vietri sul Mare (but his tours are totally customizable if there’s somewhere specific you want to go).
Honestly, even though it was raining the whole day of our tour, we had so much fun and saw so many hidden gems we never would have known about otherwise. (Daniele was born and raised here so he knows all the best places.) This is by far the best and easiest way to tour the Amalfi Coast. Trust me.
Beyond that, Daniele can also plan walking tours and itineraries for you in Salerno and all over the Amalfi Coast (which he did for me on my first visit). He also knows all the best drivers in case you need an airport transfer, and the best historical and cultural guides in the Campania region if your travels take you elsewhere. (He’s also working on an exclusive home-cooked dinner experience for 2024 which I got to help test. You’re welcome, future Salerno Antica guests.)
Find more info about Salerno Antica B&B and reach out to Daniele in that link. Tell him I sent you. 🙂
14. Pick something up at the Libreria Antiquaria Vecchi Libri
If you’re interested in doing some thrifting while you’re in town, then visiting the Libreria Antiquaria Vecchi Libri will be one of your favorite things to do in Salerno.
Salerno’s Vecchi Libri is a small shop that’s been selling old, used, and/or out-of-print books since 2002. In recent years it has evolved into a full-on second-hand shop where you can pick up all kinds of vintage items. (Including super friendly service from the shop’s owner.)
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday from 9am-1pm and 4pm-6/8/7:30pm, closed Sundays.
15. Visit the Museo Diocesano San Matteo di Salerno
The Museo Diocesano “San Matteo” is Salerno’s most treasured art and cultural museum. It includes many interesting collections like medieval ivory carvings, a coin collection from the Roman era and Mint of Salerno, paintings from as far back as the 14th century, a collection of codexes, and tons more.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday from 9am-1pm and 4-8pm, Saturday-Sunday from 9am-1pm, and closed on Sundays.
16. Hang out at the Villa Comunale di Salerno
Across the street from the massive Piazza della Libertà is the Villa Comunale, a beautiful public park. It’s got fountains from the 1700s, palm trees and all kinds of beautiful tropical flowers, statues, walking paths, and places to hang out. It also hosts fun events, fairs, and art exhibitions.
It’s just a great place to sit and hang out on a beautiful day in Salerno. Maybe read a really old book you picked up at Vecchi Libri.
17. Eat the best pizza at Gli Esposito
OK look. I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in Italy. And while almost all of it is delicious, the pizza at Gli Esposito is my favorite ever. I first ate here in 2022 and carried the belief that Gli Esposito has the best pizza with me for an entire year. Then I ate here again in 2023 and solidly confirmed that statement.
The best is the quattro formaggi (4 cheese), but even the plain ol’ margherita is phenomenal. (Their house beer is delicious too!)
Opening hours: Monday from 7:30pm-midnight, and Tuesday-Sunday from 12:30-3:30pm and 7pm-midnight.
18. Peruse the Provincial Art Gallery of Salerno at Pinto Palace
If you didn’t get your fill of art earlier, head over to Pinto Palace and the Provincial Art Gallery. This museum contains paintings and other artworks from the 15th-18th centuries. It has dedicated galleries to both foreign and Salerno artists.
The palace it inhabits (Palazzo Pinto) is itself a 17th century palace of one of Salerno’s most important families.
Visiting hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 9am-7:45pm, closed Mondays
19. Check out the Chiesa di San Giorgio
Because no Italy itinerary can have just one amazing church, we have the Church of St. George. Unlike the duomo of Salerno Cathedral which is more “plain” in terms of Italian church wow factor, Salerno’s St. George church is the opposite.
This original monastic settlement dates back to the 9th century and the place is covered with ornate frescoes, marble sculptures, and gilded architecture.
Visiting hours: Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-12pm and 6-8pm, closed Mondays
20. Pick up some ceramic souvenirs
Salerno’s colorful neighbor Vietri sul Mare may be the king of Amafi Coast ceramics, but you need not go all the way there if you want to pick up some cute souvenirs to take home.
While in Salerno, stop by the tiny Gad Shop. I get myself a little something from here each time I visit and the staff (and the prices!) couldn’t be nicer.
21. Relax at the beach
The Amalfi Coast isn’t really a beach destination per se, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend a day on the sand relaxing by the ocean.
Just off the Piazza della Libertà is Spiagga di Santa Teresa (which is the largest but also the most popular given its location). This is a great place to bring a towel and catch some sun just off the Lungomare.
22. Don’t miss Salerno’s giant oyster
Don’t leave Salerno without getting a look at its newest architectural wonder—Salerno Maritime Terminal, the giant oyster in Salerno harbor.
Salerno is a major port city and big stop for cruise ships visiting the Amalfi Coast and this is their main port. It was designed by famous Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid and opened in 2016. Salerno Maritime Terminal is meant to resemble a giant oyster both inside and outside, which is absolutely does.
If you’re visiting Salerno as part of a cruise stop, you’ll certainly get a good look at it. Otherwise, you can easily spot it from the Piazza della Libertà or from up above at Arechi Castle.
23. Take a private cooking class
Even though eating is one of my favorite things to do in Salerno, I know some travelers actually like to cook. To each his own, just make extra for me. So for you, how about taking a private cooking class while you’re here?
During this private group experience you’ll learn how to make three dishes at the local home of an expert chef while learning about local food culture and drinking local wine. I mean you can’t beat this: “Every host serves local specialties from their family cookbooks to tell the story of their traditional regional cuisine.”
Book this private cooking class here.
24. Or book a dining experience in a local’s home
Or if you’re like me and you’d rather just eat and drink instead of actually make the food yourself, check out this awesome dining experience.
You’ll enjoy 4 courses (water and wine included), get to watch the dishes being made, and learn all about these authentic family recipes from amazing hosts. “They are passionate and welcoming hosts that open the doors of their own homes to curious travellers for immersive culinary experiences.” Beautiful.
Book this exclusive dining experience here.
25. Take an epic day trip somewhere close
If you’ve exhausted all the cool attractions in Salerno and still have more time to fill, consider taking one of the awesome day trips from Salerno to somewhere else nearby. (There are lots of good ones!)
Besides an all-day Amalfi Coast tour, you can also easily get to the:
- Greek ruins of Paestum
- Best buffalo mozzarella of your life in Capaccio
- Herculaneum ruins
- Archaeological site of Pompeii
- Island of Capri
- City of Naples
- City of Sorrento
- And tons more.
For all the details, check out my full post on the easiest day trips from Salerno here!
Enjoy your time experiencing all the best things to do in Salerno! You’ll have to come back and let me know which was your favorite. Ciao!
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