Salerno may seem like a bland big city after the Amalfi Coast’s glut of postcard-pretty towns, but the place has a charming, if gritty, individuality, especially around its vibrant centro storico where medieval churches share space with neighbourhood trattorias, neon-lit wine bars and trendy tattoo parlours. The city recently invested €12.5 million in various urban regeneration programs centred on this historic neighbourhood, under the watchful eye of Oriol Bohigas, who was similarly involved in Barcelona’s earlier makeover. A dramatic new ferry terminal designed by the Pritzker Prize–winning architect Zaha Hadid also opened here in 2012, accentuated by a tree-lined seafront promenade widely considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe.
Originally an Etruscan and later a Roman colony, Salerno flourished with the arrival of the Normans in the 11th century. Robert Guiscard made it the capital of his dukedom in 1076 and, under his patronage, the Scuola Medica Salernitana was renowned as one of medieval Europe’s greatest medical institutes. Far later, the city was tragically left in tatters by the heavy fighting that followed the 1943 landings of the American Fifth Army.