Salerno is a terrific place to stay during a visit to Italy’s Amalfi coast area. This town has a great ferry service to all the coastal towns as well as a fascinating history, particularly World War II history. Our visit to Salerno was part of our grand Retirement Extravaganza.

We chose to have a driver take us from Pompeii to Salerno instead of risking being lost forever on the local train as had already nearly happened on our trip to Herculaneum.

Also, we wanted to enjoy a different perspective than we would have from the train. Guiseppe from Villa Franca B&B in Pompeii very kindly found us a great driver. He and his wife drove us the short distance to our hotel in Salerno.

We decided to spend some days in Salerno because the Amalfi Coast is nearby, within easy reach by ferry, and Salerno can provide much more economical lodging than I could find elsewhere in this popular tourist area.

My focus was on visiting Capri, and I did not research the town of Salerno very well. We did not know how fortunate we were to have chosen this great city! We could easily have never ventured outside of this town and been perfectly happy. 

Hotel Olympico

Hotel Olympico

I was nervous and a little unsure about the hotel I had reserved because some of the reviews were a wee bit negative based on the hotel’s isolated location, fifteen minutes from the city center.

The isolation problem seemed to me to be a non-issue since the hotel provided a free shuttle to the town, ferry dock, and back to the hotel, plus the hotel’s private beach was right across the street. I did not, however, expect this hotel to be anything other than an economical and comfortable stay.

I am forever trying to squeeze a bit of luxury zing into our economical comfort, but I did not expect this hotel to do that. Sometimes being wrong is not a bad thing. Hotel Olympico had that zing! Once we arrived at the front door we discovered this hotel had the feel of an elegant resort hotel.

It was first-rate, sparkling clean, had an overwhelmingly gracious and accommodating staff, fantastic food, and a delightful and comfortable room with a balcony. (That was a whole lot of superlative adjectives there, huh?)  Bonus: we paid for this hotel with Amex points! 

I was dipping my toes into the noisy surf and turned around just in time to see this pony and cart pass me! I had not heard it at all because of the noisy surf and was quite startled. This is across the street from Hotel Olympico.

The town

We took the shuttle into town not long after we got settled in our room to have a look around. We found Salerno to be charming but more of an urban city than I expected.

It does have, as you might expect, a long history beginning with its founding as a Roman colony in 197 BC. The Salerno coast experienced massive bombing during World War II, which damaged much of the city. 

The Duomo

Salerno’s principal tourist attraction is the cathedral of St. Matthew (or San Matteo) constructed in 845 and then rebuilt a few hundred years later. A beautiful 12th-century bell tower graces this cathedral, also called the Duomo.

Saint Matthew’s remains are in the beautifully adorned crypt on the lower level of the cathedral. The tomb of Pope St. Gregory VII is also here. Frescoes covering the crypt illustrate scenes from the Gospel of Matthew as well as scenes depicting Salerno’s history. Quite beautiful.

Ferry to Capri

Our friendly shuttle hotel driver dropped us off at the ferry port the next morning and we purchased round-trip tickets to Capri. The ferry trip was not long but it did stop a few times for folks to embark and disembark and the postcard-perfect towns along the way.

I was amazed at how quickly, efficiently, and safely, these ferries docked and set off again to each port. During our little “sea voyage,” we visited with other guests from our hotel and made a few other friends on the ferry.

Meeting people is always the best part of our adventures wherever we are.  We left the boat at Capri and began to explore this lovely little town. 

Views to die for!

Capri and the Blue Grotto

Our convertible taxi tour in Capri

The Amalfi Coast is another UNESCO World Heritage site, what a hectic place! We joined right into the swarm of tourists and began our tour of this charming town. There were so many souvenir shops and so many people, just too crowded for me.

We purchased tickets for a tour of the Blue Grotto and shopped around the dock area until our assigned time for the Blue Grotto tour. We did not attempt to climb up the millions of stairs leading up hotels and restaurants, but I know there must have been a beautiful world up there.

After our Blue Grotto tour, we did hire a taxi convertible to drive us up the hills to see the magnificent views.

Blue Grotto

Inside the Blue Grotto

This sea cave with crystal clear blue water was something I had wanted to see for many years. We boarded a large tour boat that took us on a narrated, beautiful tour of the coastline. The tour boat cost was 10 euros per person.

We eventually arrived at the entrance to the Blue Grotto, along with several other large tour boats, and anchored there to wait our turn. There were so many boats stationed around this little cave! Tourists were also approaching the cave on foot from a stairway on land, making this quite a money-making business.

One man stood at a prominent location on the shore and directed the placement of tour boats and rowboats so that everyone stayed safe. There were no boat collisions or cutting in line. As you can expect, with all those boats moving in and out in one small location, the water got a bit choppy.

When it was our turn we physically climbed from our tour boat onto small rowboats that held two to four people. Our rowboat driver took our entry fee (4 euros each) and rowed us past a floating booth at the shore where he handed over our money to another person.

We waited in the rowboat for our turn once again and then in a big swoosh, with our heads lowered so we wouldn’t slam into the rocks, our oarsman pulled us into the very small cave opening by hand with a metal rope chain.

Boats cannot enter the cave on rough sea days or during high tides, but we were lucky enough to be there on a good sea day. Steve and I were alone in our rowboat with the oarsman, but there were several other rowboats in the cave at the same time, all circling in the cave.

The oarsmen sang lovely Italian ballads, and all the tourists, including us, took a zillion photos of the magical blue water. I am pleased we had this experience, we did enjoy it, but it was by far the most touristy thing we have ever done.

We had a really pleasant ferry ride back to Salerno but it was a full day, mostly in the sun, and we were eager to be back at our hotel, have a delicious dinner, and prepare for the next day’s adventure – Paestum.


The Paestum Archeological Park, another UNESCO World Heritage site, was about thirty minutes from our hotel. Paestum is a large park covering over 300 acres, with part of the city wall still standing in many places.

This site contains some of the best-preserved Greek temples in the world, as well as a museum containing a collection of painted tomb slabs. Greek colonies began building these massive temples at Paestum (Poseidonia was its original Greek name) around 600 BC to honor the gods they worshipped.

The three main temple ruins found here are the temples of Neptune, Hera, and Ceres. The park was slightly crowded with several school groups, and we had a great time taking group photos for the classes and clowning around with the kids.

We were able to walk around two of the temples.  Walking upon and being able to reach out and touch such massively huge ancient structures gave me an overwhelming feeling of smallness and an awareness that we live in a vast world. 

Old City wall — We found a geocache here

The hotel shuttle driver graciously drove us out to Paestum at the start of our day as a courtesy, not part of their daily route. We had been given the phone number of a reliable taxi service to contact at the end of the day to request a return ride to the hotel.

Unfortunately, no one at the taxi number could understand English, and I was not very clear with Italian. I, finally, in desperation after a long conversation of I don’t know what, grabbed a passing waiter on the street at a random restaurant and thrust the phone at him asking him to please get us a cab.

Thank goodness he was not offended by my rude behavior and arranged for a taxi to pick us up. We enjoyed a late lunch of sandwiches and beer at an outdoor cafe while waiting for our taxi and got back to the hotel before dark – another long fun-filled day.

Our visit to Salerno, the Amalfi Coast, and Paestum went by in a flash and before we knew it we were being dropped at the train station on our way to Rome, our last destination on this Retirement Extravaganza.


5 thoughts on “Salerno

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  4. Beautiful pics and enticing post! Prayers for Italy’s recovery from this dreadful virus. I can’t imagine the world of travel
    Without that lovely country.

    Love that convertible taxi!

    1. Thank! I know, I am so sad for Italy — all of us actually. Everyone we met in Italy were so casually gracious. I cannot imagine the busy busy streets being so empty and still. We’ll be able to travel in Italy next year, right? The taxi was fun; our driver was so funny and entertaining.

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