Salerno is situated at the northern end of the Gulf of Salerno. The old town, rising up the slopes of the hill on the site of the ancient Salernum, still bears evidence of its great days during the medieval period. It had the oldest medical school in Europe, which flourished from the 11th century until it was closed down by Napoleon's brother-in-law, Murat, in 1812.
Today, Salerno's main attraction is an imposing Romanesque cathedral, built in 1085 and remodeled in the late 18th century. A flight of steps leads up to an atrium with 28 columns from Paestum and fourteen ancient sarcophagi. The magnificent bronze doors were made in Constantinople in 1099. Inside is the ornate tomb of Margaret of Anjou and the tomb of Pope Gregory VII, who died in Salerno in 1085. In the richly decorated crypt under the alter lie the remains of the Evangelist Matthew, brought here from Paestum.
A 45-minute walk from the cathedral leads to a hilltop crowned by the old Lombard Castello, from where extensive views are available. Along the seafront, to the east of the harbor, extends a fine promenade lined with impressive modern buildings. The Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi is the town's principal traffic artery.
Travelers coming to Salerno mainly use the port as a starting point for visits to the Greek temples of Paestum. Other favorite excursions from here are to Pompeii and to visit the popular resort towns of Amalfi and Ravello.