55km (34 miles) SE of Naples
With 150,000 inhabitants, Salerno is a lively, industrial, modern town situated at the eastern edge of the Amalfi Coast, with an atmospheric medieval center and what is arguably the most beautiful lungomare (seafront promenade) on this coast. It's made all the more enjoyable by the lack of crowds. The most important port of Campania after Naples, Salerno became the first capital of the Southern Kingdom. An Etruscan settlement founded around the 6th century B.C., it was absorbed into Magna Grecia, the conglomerate of Greek colonies in southern Italy, during the 5th century B.C. and became the Roman colony of Salernum in 194 B.C. Salerno became an independent principality under the Longobards in the 9th century and its growth continued in medieval and Renaissance times, when it was established as an important cultural center thanks to its renowned medical schools. The principality was subsequently ruled by Normans, Swabians, Angevins, and, finally, the Bourbons, but its political and cultural importance declined when Naples became the capital of the new kingdom and Salerno sank back into the quiet life of a smallish provincial town.
"Modern" Salerno enjoyed a brief flash of glory in 1944 when, after Allied troops landed just to the south and forced the Germans to withdraw, the city became the seat of the Italian government for 4 months. Today it is a lively, gritty yet enlightened city with an important port, a world away from its troubled neighbor Naples. At presstime, a new Maritime Terminal, designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid that will include shops and restaurants, was well on the way to completion, proof that Salerno is moving with the times.