Salerno, Italy – Today


Modern Salerno

The Journey of Rebecca, my trilogy of Rebecca’s story after Ivanhoe, has a distinct geographic flavor, in concert with the overarching theme of her search for home. The first book takes place in Salerno, now in southern Italy—during Rebecca’s time, part of the Kingdom of Sicily. I was fortunate to be able to spend a day in Salerno in Oct. 2015, and got a taste of the place where Rebecca resumed her life adventures.

According to the guidebooks, Salerno today is a city that doesn’t have much to offer any tourist. In fact, the city sounds kind of depressed. Headed to the tourist meccas of Naples, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast, Lee and I figured that spending the day in a depressed city for research purposes was not a terrible sacrifice.

Depressed? The vibrant city we got to explore came as a pleasant surprise—and did not match any definition I’d give credence to of “depressed”. Despite its difficult past—a Lombard city conquered by the Normans and the Hohenstaufens, later dominated by Spain, site of Allied landings during World War II, and hit by devastating earthquakes and plagues, Salerno is nonetheless alive and flourishing.

Salerno medical schoolWhat drew Rebecca to Salerno was its medical school—blog post to follow on that subject! What then drew me was the new interactive museum about…the medical school! At that time, it was open only a few hours several times a week and had a small number of interactive exhibits. According to my latest forays on-line, the museum is open a few more hours and is still very much a work in progress.
While there, I asked the young woman guide questions. Though I’d been studying Italian, my command of that language and her English did not suffice to accomplish any real exchange of information. She summoned the museum’s director. Fortunately, we both were able to talk in French, and I learned a lot. One of the museum’s challenges is that much of their material and artifacts have found homes in other museums, which are not cooperative about returning them to their home. In addition, the director gave me a lovely book about the museum.

In addition to enjoying the museum and some delicious morning pastries, Lee and enjoyed the seaside promenade. The cathedral was breathtaking—with mosaic tiles and gold in almost overwhelming displays. We enjoyed a lunch served by an ex-pat waiter from Boston, who’d come to Salerno several decades before and reconnected with family.

For me, most of all, it was a thrill to be on streets, seeing sights that my Rebecca may also have viewed. If you’re ever in that part of the world, I totally recommend a visit to “depressed” Salerno.

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