Salerno cannot compete for fame or tourist dollars with Florence, Venice or Rome, but the cosmopolitan city which sits right between the Amalfi and Cilento coasts is home to one of the most beautiful architectural works in Italy. The oyster shaped ferry terminal designed by Zaha Hadid opened in late April 2016, just a month after the genius architect passed away.
Because tourism to the Amalfi coast has soared, summer traffic on that terrifying cliffside road which connects the coastal towns from Sorrento to Salerno has been mitigated by ferries and hydrofoils. Thirteen years ago, Salerno's city officials created an international call for proposals to build a ferry terminal that could receive large boats and even cruise ships. Hadid's proposal won helping her to secure the prestigious Pritzker Prize for architecture in 2004, the first time it had ever been won by a woman.
Hadid was a British-Iraqi architect is known for her futuristic buildings with dramatic, swooping lines that seem to defy gravity and linearity. She was born in Baghdad, studied mathematics at Beirut University and then moved to London. She came of age during the student rebellions of 1968 and established herself next to her talented peers Rem Koolhaas and Bernard Tschumi. But while others in the group were known for their rigorous written statements and philosophical ideas, Hadid was known for her beautiful drawings.
The Salerno project began when Hadid was still sketching ideas by hand, before the computer entered her studio and profoundly changed her design aesthetic. Long years of bureaucratic challenges delayed the project and it became a local symbol of the structural problems that plague Italy. But when it finally opened, it was met with resounding praise. Locals placed posters around the city honoring the late Hadid and thanking her for her beautiful contribution to the city.
Salerno is an ancient city whose history has been greatly obscured by World War II bombings. The historic center remains intact, sloping up a mountain to to the medieval Castello Arechi, Few cities in Italy integrate town and country so well. You can walk along the elegant Lungomare and buy designer shoes or strap on your hiking boots and hike along the cliffs immediately above you for clear views of the Tyrrhenian sea.
Salerno was an important city for the Normans whose vast trading network was centered at nearby Amalfi. The first medical school in Western Europe was in Salerno. Medical students were trained by a steady flow of European Crusaders returning from the east. Trotula, the west's first female physician worked and taught at Salerno where she wrote a famous gynecological treatise. The so-called "Salerno Ivories" are inside the cathedral, an enigma for art historians and a incredible surprise for the few tourists that explore Salerno beyond it's well-heeled Lungomare or the train station to return to Naples or Rome.
Guests of our tour Campania Past & Present have the opportunity to view the ferry terminal both before and after traveling by sea to Amalfi.