A relaxing atmosphere in a medieval village
Capital of Campania’s southernmost province, the lively port of Salerno will provide a stop-off on your MSC cruise of the Mediterranean. Much less chaotic than Naples, it is well off most travellers’ itineraries, giving it a pleasant, relaxed air to enjoy during your excursion. Salerno’s town centre is a slightly odd mixture of wide, not overwhelmingly characterful boulevards and a small medieval core full of intriguingly dark corners and alleys. It is, however, a lively, sociable place, with a busy seafront boulevard and plenty of nightlife and shops.
The old quarter’s main street is Via dei Mercanti, a narrow stretch which snakes through the heart of the centre and has been spruced up quite a lot over recent years. Highlight of Salerno is its Duomo, an enormous church dedicated to St Matthew.
Set in a wide cleft in the cliffs, Amalfi is the largest town and perhaps the highlight of the coast west of Salerno. It was one of the great naval powers; the town was devastated by an earthquake in 1343, but Amalfi still hosts the odd remnant of its past glories today, with a crumbly attractiveness to its whitewashed courtyards and alleys that makes it fun to wander through.
About an hour’s bus ride south of Salerno, the ancient site of Paestum spreads across a large area at the bottom end of the Piana del Sele. It’s a desolate, open place even now (“inexpressibly grand”, as Shelley described it). Mostly an unrecognizable ruin, it has three golden-stoned shrines that are among the best-preserved Doric temples in Europe. Of these, the Temple of Neptune, dating from about 450 BC, is the most complete, with only its roof and parts of the inner walls missing.