Salerno is a very beautiful city situated in the middle of the Amalfi and Cilento coasts in the region of Campania. Located on the Tyrrhenian Sea on the Gulf of Salerno, the city is within an easy distance of the stunning Amalfi Coast. Famous for being the location of the world’s first medical university, Schola Medica Salernitana, Salerno was also an important center for art, culture and learning dating back to the 16th. century. Over the years Salerno suffered through many plagues and earthquakes, as well as foreign rule. Today Salerno is a city filled with many interesting things to see and do.
The Salerno Cathedral is the main tourist attraction in the city. The cathedral’s large bell tower dominates the historical center of the city. In the cathedral’s crypt is the tomb of Saint Matthew, one of the twelve apostles.
Another church worth visiting is Chiesa della SS. Annuziata, which was built in the 14th. century and is situated near the entrance to the old city in the north. The main feature of the church is the beautiful bell tower designed by Ferdinando San Felice.
There is also San Gregorio Church, a 10th. century structure that is the home to the Museum of the Medical School of Salerno, and the San Giorgio Church. San Giorgio is the best example of Baroque architecture in Salerno. Inside the church you can view beautiful paintings created by Andrea Sabatini and frescoes by Solimena and Francesco in the 17th. century. The church is related to the oldest monastery in the city, which was built in the 9th. century.
If you like to walk and people watch head to Lungomare Trieste, the city’s promenade, which was built in 1950 and is known to be one of the best in the country. Lungomare, literally translated as “along the sea,” extends for five miles and is lined with trees. It is often compared to the beautiful promenades of the French Riviera.
Castello di Arechi is a large castle built on the top of a hill by Arechi II over an existing Byzantine-Roman castle. Today the castle is mainly used for meetings and exhibitions. If you visit the castle you will be able to enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the sea beyond.
One of the most interesting places to visit in the city is the historic center of Salerno, considered to be among the best preserved in Italy, and it is also the main shopping center in Salerno.
The Minerva Garden, or Giardino della Minerva, is located close to the old part of the city. The first ever botanical garden in Europe can be found in this garden.
The large castle, Forte La Carnale, was named after an ancient battle that was fought against the Arabs. The fort is now part of a large sports complex that is also used as a local cultural center.
In 194 BC. Salerno was a Roman colony and was named Salernum. The city made progress and also enriched its culture and its traditions during the occupations by the Goths, Byzantines, Longobards and Normans. From the 14th. century onwards, most of the Salerno province became the territory of the Princes of Sanseverino, powerful feudatories. In the 15th. century the city was the scene of battles between Angevin and Aragonese heirs with whom the local princes took sides. The years 1656, 1688 and 1694 represent sorrowful dates for Salerno due to the plague and the earthquake which caused many deaths.
A slow renewal of the city occurred in the 18th. century with the end of the Spanish empire and the construction of many beautiful houses and churches. During the Napoleonic period Giuseppe Bonaparte and then Gioacchino Murat ascended the throne. The latter issued decrees that caused the Salerno Medical School to cease operation, the suppression of religious orders and the confiscation of numerous ecclesiastical properties.
After the Unity of Italy a slow urban development continued, many suburban areas were enlarged and large public and private buildings were created. The city expanded beyond the ancient walls and sea connections were established, as they represented an important road network that crossed the town, connecting the eastern plain with the area leading to Vietri and Naples. The city went on developing until the Second World War. In September 1943, Salerno was the scene of the landing of the allies.
The Cuisine of Salerno
Despite its rich farmland and access to ports for fresh seafood, the cuisine’s” claim to fame” is the wide selection of street food, which may be baked, fried, grilled or even frozen. These treats are generally hand held and are available at shops or along the streets and made from inexpensive, fresh ingredients.
Pizza and pasta, cooked from the local wheat, make the region’s recipes famous throughout the world.
Genuine pizza, the most famous hand held food, is usually either pizza marinara, topped with tomato, garlic and oil, or pizza margherita with tomato, basil and mozzarella.
Pasta has plenty of shapes in the region. Most are familiar, such as spaghetti, maccheroni, fusilli and ziti. Perciatelli is a less well known noodle, long but hollow.
There are many fish-based dishes, for example, spaghetti with clam sauce, fish soup, fried anchovies, swordfish rolls, octopus cooked with San Marzano tomatoes, and Mussels Impepate.
The traditional way to cook meat is to grill it along with vegetables.
Vegetables play such a large part in the cuisine that the locals are often called mangiafoglie, or leaf eaters. The fertile soil provides bountiful amounts of food, including salad greens, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, garlic and herbs. A typical cold salad might include raw or cooked vegetables tossed with herbs and cheese. Other popular dishes are a stewed dish of eggplants, peppers, zucchini and onions with basil and olive oil that is served cold, stuffed red and yellow bell peppers with breadcrumbs seasoned with black olives, capers, garlic and anchovies and, of course, the famous eggplant parmigiana.
Cheeses, including Provolone, Pecorino, Manteca del Cilento, Scamorza, Buffalo Mozzarella and Burrino, are all produced in the traditional way from centuries past.
Stone fruits, melons, citrus, figs and grapes are grown here and picked at the peak of ripeness. Olives make richly flavored green extra virgin olive oil. Chestnuts, walnuts and hazelnuts grow well in this region and are used extensively in local recipes.
Amalfi lemons are used to make the famous Limoncello liqueur and to prepare gelato, sweets and desserts, such as baba, a sponge cake made with whipped cream and strawberries or rum, Sospiri (light airy almond cookies) and Lemon Delizie, a cake filled with lemon custard.
Make Some Salerno Inspired Recipes At Home
- 1 – 14.5 oz.diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme dried, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed
- 1 -1/2 lbs. fresh clams scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
In medium skillet, heat oil. Add onion and garlic; sauté for 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and juice, wine, thyme, salt and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add clams; cover.
Simmer for 5 minutes or until clams open. Discard any clams that do not open. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving. Good Italian bread is a must with this appetizer.
Spaghetti with Eggplant and Mozzarella
- 1 pound eggplant, peeled or unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- 1 pint (1 pound) cherry tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters
- 12 ounces spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped basil or parsley
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- Grated Pecorino or ricotta salata
In a skillet, heat oil and saute the eggplant until it is soft and lightly browned. Remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.
Add the garlic and the pepper flakes and place over low heat. Cook the garlic, pressing it into the oil a couple of times to release its flavor, until it barely begins to color on both sides. Remove the garlic.
Add the tomatoes, immediately cover the pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook the tomatoes until they fall apart and become saucy, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile cook the spaghetti until al dente in plenty of salted boiling water.
Just before the pasta is done, add the eggplant cubes to the tomato sauce, lower the heat, and cook gently, still covered, for another minute or so.
Drain the spaghetti and turn it into a warm serving bowl. Add the eggplant and tomato sauce, plus the finely cut herbs. Toss well. Add the mozzarella and toss again.
Serve immediately. Garnish with some grated Pecorino or ricotta salata, if desired.
Beef and Sausage Roll
At one time very little meat was eaten in this region. When it was, humbler cuts were transformed by long cooking or combined with other ingredients to make meatballs or a meat roll such as this one.
For the meat
- 1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch pieces crustless Italian bread
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 8 ounces lean Italian sausages, casings removed
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Marinara Sauce, heated
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 10-ounce package ready-to-use spinach
- 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
- 3 ounces provolone cheese, cut into 2×1/4×1/4-inch strips
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
- 18 fresh Italian parsley sprigs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Line an 18 x 12-inch baking sheet with foil. Moisten foil with water. Mix bread and milk in medium bowl. Mash bread with fingers until soaked. Squeeze out excess moisture from the bread. Place bread in a large bowl; discard milk. Add beef, sausages, eggs, salt and pepper to bread and mix well. Place meat in center of foil. Using moistened fingers, pat meat into 12 x 14-inch rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Cover; chill while preparing filling.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Bring 1/4 cup water to simmer in large pot. Add spinach; cover and cook until just wilted, tossing often, about 3 minutes. Drain well; pat dry. Cool. Arrange spinach over meat, covering completely. Cover with prosciutto. Arrange cheese on top of the prosciutto. Place hard-boiled eggs end to end in line down long side of roll. Arrange parsley along both sides of eggs. Starting at long side near eggs and using foil as aid, roll up meat jelly roll style. Pinch ends and seams together, enclosing filling completely.
Transfer meat roll to the prepared baking sheet. Remove foil from around meat roll. Brush meat with 1 tablespoon oil.
Bake meat roll until thermometer inserted into center registers 160°F, about 1 hour. Pour hot marinara sauce over meatloaf. Let stand 15 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature; cut into slices.
Almond Limoncello Cake
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup sugar or sugar alternative
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 10 ½ ounces almond paste, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel, (2 -3 lemons)
- 3 large eggs, brought to room temperature
- 1/3 cup Limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur made with vodka)
- Powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9” springform pan.
In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
In an electric stand mixer, add sugar, oil and butter. Beat until light & fluffy. Add crumbled almond paste and grated lemon peel. Beat until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating well. Add flour mixture and blend.
Transfer the batter to the pan. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet pan and place in the oven. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool cake completely. Remove cake from springform pan and carefully remove the bottom of the pan. Place cake on a serving plate.
Brush top of cake with Limoncello or poke tiny holes in the cake and drizzle with the Limoncello. Can be prepared one day in advance at this point. Cover and store at room temperature. Right before serving, sprinkle with a little more Limoncello and powdered sugar. If desired, garnish with sliced almonds. Serves 8 to 12.
Note: The cake needs to cool completely before being removed from the springform pan and that takes several hours. Also, if it sits overnight, the Limoncello really sinks in and gives it a richer, more lemony flavor.
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