Originally a 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.
Salerno's fortunes declined with the fall of the Normans. Holy Roman Emperor Henry V sacked and occupied the city in 1194, while his son, Fredrick II, passed edicts ceding greater power to Salerno's neighbour and rival, Naples.
From the 13th to the 18th centuries, as part of the Kingdom of Naples, Salerno came under Angevin (French) and then Aragonese (Spanish) rule. The Napoleonic occupation in the early 1800s saw the closure of Salerno's esteemed medical institute, although the city continued to expand throughout the 19th century supporting a burgeoning textile industry.
Salerno was an important battleground in WWII when it was chosen by the Allies as the site of their crucial invasion of mainland Italy.