6 Best Things to Do in Salerno, the Hidden Gem of the Amalfi Coast

Last updated on March 26, 2024

When planning our trip to the Amalfi Coast, I came across a lot of discussion threads where users debated whether it’s better to stay in Sorrento or Positano. As both were majorly out of our budget in the summer months, I set out to find an alternative option and ended up discovering the region’s hidden treasure. Salerno lies on the gulf of the same name, less than an hour away from Naples. This Mediterranean port city offers scenic views and a vibrant food scene at a fraction of the price. If you’ve never considered, or even heard of it, I hope my post might just sway you in the right direction…

An alley with pastel buildings and a vintage shop sign in Salerno, Italy
A woman walking and a man riding his bike in a street of Salerno, Italy
A man riding his scooter in an alley in Salerno, Italy

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Where to stay in Salerno

From the dozens of properties we looked at, only one immediately stood out to us. We chose to stay at B&B Flora House* which we dubbed Italian Versailles due to the extent of luxury and glamour within these four walls. There are only two rooms available, so if you’re lucky, you may have, or at least feel like you have the entire place to yourself.

Entrance corridor inside B&B Flora House in Salerno, Italy

We picked the triple room with a private external bathroom and paid €280 per person for 4 nights. I was more than happy to pay that amount for the ability to pretend like I lived in my very own palace (I may have watched Roman Holiday one too many times…!) I found the ancient-looking vases and statues in the built-in display cabinet particularly fascinating. They looked like they were taken directly from a museum and I would’ve loved to learn their history!

The cheapest places in the Amalfi Coast get booked up fast – book your stay now:

What to do in Salerno

1. Indulge in Italian cuisine and coffee

Marittimo Tobacco & Coffee

Our breakfast was included in the price, but it was served at a nearby café rather than the B&B itself. When we checked in, we received some vouchers for a pastry and a drink at Marittimo Tobacco & Coffee every morning. We’d never experienced a similar solution during our travels before, and while I understand it may not be to everyone’s liking, we honestly LOVED it.

Heading there for a freddo and trying out their selection of sweet and savoury pastries soon became the highlight of our mornings. They also offered refreshments which we happily took advantage of after a long afternoon of strolling around the town.

Pastries and a massive jar of Nutella on display inside Marittimo Bar Tobacco and Coffee in Salerno

Pizzeria Resilienza

The drawback of travelling to Italy in August is that many restaurants shut down for holiday. The struggle we experienced in Naples didn’t end once we moved to the Amalfi Coast. However, as it often happens, we discovered that we had a great pizzeria practically on our doorstep.

Throughout our stay, Pizzeria Resilienza became our go-to place. We tried a variety of their pizzas and they didn’t disappoint us once. The dough was light and the toppings were perfectly fresh and delicious every single time. The best part is everything was so reasonably priced that I had to do a double take at the menu. With pizzas starting at a mere €3.50, it really is a must-visit place!

Osteria del Campo

One evening, we decided to switch from pizza to pasta and chose Osteria del Campo for its charming outdoor dining area. We could enjoy observing people while having our meal, one of my favourite activities in Mediterranean countries. I am captivated by the sight of people of all ages gathering in the streets to chat or play games, and I love the sense of togetherness as music and laughter fill the air.

A handpainted ceramic sign with fish and a seahorse outside Osteria del Campo in Salerno, Italy
Two plates of pasta, wine glasses and a basket of bread on a table at Osteria del Campo in Salerno

One of my favourite parts about this restaurant was the open kitchen, adding to its charm. Even dining outside, we could see our meal being freshly prepared by an Italian grandmother. I cannot fault a single aspect of our dining experience. The food was delightful and the prices were highly appealing. At less than €10 for a generous serving of pasta and only €5 for a litre of house wine, it was an unbeatable value!

Pantaleone

The mini guide we received from our host recommended stopping by Pantaleone, the oldest pastry shop in Salerno dating back to 1868. One afternoon, we went to Portovecchio in search of pizza. They didn’t serve any, but we did spot Pantaleone tarts on the menu and decided to try them.

Sadly, they were massively overpriced (we paid €14 for two small tarts!) but the quality didn’t match the price. I believe in second chances, so I would have their pastries again, this time from the source. After all, their reputation didn’t come from nowhere and I’m not one to turn down dessert…

The entrance to Pasticceria Pantaleone in Salerno, Italy

Tip: When dining in Italy (excluding the Lazio region), keep in mind that some restaurants may ask you to pay a “coperto” fee. This covers the use of tablecloths and cutlery and usually ranges from 1 to 3 euros (but may be higher in touristy areas). They may add it to your bill automatically, so keep an eye out! On the other hand, tipping is not customary, so you can simply pay the cover charge.

2. Enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine by the waterfront

In addition to mouthwatering cuisine, another excellent way to get a taste of Italy is through wine. Italy remains the world’s largest wine-producing nation, so whatever your personal preference is, you are certain to have some of the finest varieties at your fingertips.

Green grapes hanging from grapevines in Salerno, Italy

As I mentioned in my blog post about our day trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, there are a number of vineyards planted on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. During our time in the Campania region, we really wanted to try the unique wines born in the volcano’s shadow. However, we were rather short on time, so we couldn’t book a proper wine tasting experience.

Instead, we opted for a bottle of Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio wine from a local shop. We found a quiet spot overlooking the Salerno harbour and savoured our bottle there. I generally prefer white wine over red (with sparkling being my favourite), but this one was truly wonderful – rich in flavour, but not overpowering. If you can get your hands on some Mount Vesuvius wine, don’t hesitate!

A cocktail bar next to the entrance to Embarcadero in Salerno, Italy

Another evening, we chose to have a mini date at Embarcadero. We admired the twinkling lights of Salerno while sipping cocktails on the upper terrace, which I highly recommend. I loved the fact that they served antipasti free of charge with every cocktail, which helped to justify the prices in the double digits…

3. Stroll along the Salerno Promenade and relax on the beach

When in the area, don’t miss the chance to soak up some sun. I’m not much of a beach person myself, but even I couldn’t resist the charm of the Italian coast. When we weren’t exploring, we’d lounge on the beach with drinks nearby, hoping to get enough vitamin D to last us until autumn.

Tourists on the beach in Salerno and Castello di Arechi seen from the water
A building under construction in Piazza Liberta in Salerno seen from the water
Panoramic view of the Bay of Salerno

We also took daily walks along the Lungomare Trieste. Often considered Italy’s most beautiful seafront, this tree-lined promenade is about 2 km long and offers stunning views of the Gulf of Salerno. Young locals often gather here because of the nearby bars and restaurants. Cyclists can ride on its wide bike lanes, families can enjoy long walks, and elderly men can play chess or fish. Regardless of the time of day, it was always a lively gathering place where everyone could something to enjoy.

A man with a backpack walking alongside the Lungomare Trieste promenade in Salerno, Italy
A girl walking alongside the Lungomare Trieste promenade in Salerno, Italy

4. Learn about the city’s medieval heritage

If, like me, you can’t imagine a holiday without at least a little bit of sightseeing, don’t worry! Right in the heart of Salerno, you can find an 11th-century cathedral that is one of the most important churches in the entire country.

Flowers and a wall painting above the entrance to a church in Salerno, Italy
Palm trees outside the cathedral in Salerno
Wall painting inside the cathedral in Salerno

Don’t be fooled by its unassuming exterior. The church houses valuable medieval artwork and the tomb of Pope Gregory VII. The real gem, however, can be found behind a small door at the front of the basilica. It leads to a grand crypt that contains the relics of Saint Matthew. The crypt boasts marble floors, stunning frescoes, and golden mosaics, showcasing the height of baroque design. It provides a rich glimpse into Salerno’s history. Admission to the cathedral is free. However, a donation box is located near the entrance to the crypt and visitors are encouraged to contribute what they can.

Lavish columns inside the crypt that houses the relics of Saint Matthew in Salerno, Italy
Sculptures and an altar inside the crypt that houses the relics of Saint Matthew in Salerno, Italy
Frescoes inside the crypt that houses the relics of Saint Matthew in Salerno, Italy

5. Engage in some retail therapy

It’s well known that Italy is one of world’s fashion capitals. If you’re looking to do some shopping in Salerno, head to Corso Vittorio Emanuele. It’s the city’s main commercial street that connects the historic center to the railway station at Piazza Vittorio Veneto. From high street shops to more refined brands, there are a variety of places to find new additions to your wardrobe. What won us over was the stunning view that stretched before our eyes as we walked. We were more than happy to stick to window shopping and instead take lots of photos in the street…

Cars driving down the street in Salerno, Italy
People walking on Corso Vittorio Emanuele street in Salerno, Italy

6. Get a bird’s-eye view of Salerno

Giardino della Minerva

I had to save the best for last… As a traveller, I always try to find the best viewpoint, and Salerno was no exception. One afternoon, we headed to Giardino della Minerva (Minerva’s Garden) and it immediately captured my heart.

A girl in a white crop top and denim shorts standing in a passage in Salerno, Italy
Street signs showing the directions to Giardino della Minerva and Villa Avenia in Salerno

The history of this multi-level botanical garden dates back to the Middle Ages. Some of its plants were cultivated for therapeutical and educational purposes, to be shown to the students of the Salerno School of Medicine. It was the first medical school on the continent that made great contributions to the development of modern medicine.

Today, there are five different terraces you can visit for €3, or €1.50 for students. Inside, you can find more than 200 plant species, including examples of rare flora. You can also enjoy a drink on a sun-drenched terrace or find refuge from the sun in the bookshop, where you can purchase herbal teas and natural soaps.

A cactus and a table at a café inside Giardino della Minerva
A girl sitting at a table on the terrace of Giardino della Minerva in Salerno, Italy

Thankfully, we came on a clear day, so we could enjoy unparalleled views over the city and bay of Salerno. There weren’t too many tourists around, so the gardens felt really tranquil and provided respite from the city’s humid streets. We were both absolutely mesmerised and just couldn’t put our cameras down. Unfortunately, the background information was in Italian only, so we had to do our own research. Despite this, it was hands down our favourite place in Salerno – well worth the steep hike!

A view of the Bay of Salerno seen from Giardino della Minerva
An alley inside Giardino della Minerva seen from the top of the stairs
A girl taking a photo inside Giardino della Minerva in Salerno, Italy
A girl looking at her camera inside Giardino della Minerva in Salerno, Italy
A girl pointing her camera at the photographer on the steps of Giardino della Minerva in Salerno
A girl standing inside Giardino della Minerva with vines hanging above her head
Girl looking up with vines hanging above her head and the Bay of Salerno in the background
Girl in a white crop top and denim shorts sitting on the ledge of Giardino della Minerva in Salerno

Castello di Arechi

We also wanted to explore Salerno’s most recognisable landmark, Castello di Arechi, a medieval fortress towering over the city. Unfortunately, it closes at 5 PM most days and we didn’t manage to see it. Four days were enough for us to fall deeply in love with Salerno, so it won’t take much to convince us to return…

The dome of the Church of Saint Mary of the Announcement in Salerno, Italy

Have you ever heard of Salerno? Would you consider staying there during your trip to the Amalfi Coast, instead of more popular destinations such as Sorrento or Positano?

I’d also love to hear your experiences of discovering other hidden gems during your travels. What are some underrated places that deserve more recognition? Share your stories in the comments section below and let’s fill up our bucket lists again…

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2 Comments

  1. Katarina
    May 22, 2024 / 9:18 am

    Hi.
    I just finished my vacation in Salerno.
    Thanks to you I found Flora house bnb. I must say I loved the room, everything.
    I just wanted to give my thanks for your blog!
    Now, from being the queen of Versailles I am leaving to my normal 8-17 life hahah

    • Dominika
      Author
      May 23, 2024 / 10:10 am

      Hey Katarina, thank you so much for your lovely comment! I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed B&B Flora House. I totally agree, it’s tough to return to normal life after feeling like royalty in your own Italian palace, haha! I’m so pleased my blog could help make your trip special. I would happily return to Salerno myself! If you ever need recommendations for your next adventure, feel free to reach out.

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