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Minerva’s Garden is a botanic garden located in the heart of the old town in the city of Salerno, the gateway to the Amalfi Coast. A must-see if you are looking for an oasis of peace without forgoing the pleasure to visit a spot with historical and cultural heritage.

by Annalisa Russo

Minerva's Garden is located in the medieval city of Salerno, between the Arechi Castle and the sea, in an area known in the past as Plaium Montis. This is considered the first botanic garden of Western society and one of the most appreciated tourist attractions of Salerno together with the Cathedral. Moreover, in 2018 it was included among the 10 most beautiful historic gardens in Italy.

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Minerva's Garden -  Detail of a fountain

The history

Minerva’s Garden was set up in 1300 by Matteo Silvatico, an Italian doctor that was part of the Medical School of Salerno and author of the Opus Pandectarum Medicinae simply known as Pandette, a big dictionary about the medical therapeutic methods edited in 1217, where herbs and minerals with a great therapeutic value were described.

This place, known as the first “Garden of Simples” in the History of Medical Sciences, was a place where students could learn to recognize the simples, officinal herbs used on their own for medical treatment. In fact, during the Middle ages, therapeutics were divided into simples and compounds, the last ones were used to cure kings.
This Garden is unique because of its classification system, not only on the basis of the plants' morphology but at the same time on the basis of its therapeutic activity known as the tetradic doctrine,  in other words, the theory of the four humors, so that, all the things in the world are made up of 4 elements: air, water, fire, and earth that intersect with the four natural qualities of the world: hot, dry, cold, and damp.
The Minerva’s Garden, that today keeps more than 300 species of officinal herbs, became the keeper of the prestigious past of the city of Salerno and the first Medicine university in the western world.

Minerva’s Garden: a sensational experience!

As soon as you reach the Garden, you will love the scents of the official herbs and the sound of the water that will lull you flowing through the 5 terraces of the Garden thanks to a complex system of canalization. This Garden will enrich your visiting experience at the city of Salerno and if you want to know more about the plants and their use, don’t forget to scan the Qr Code on the botanic tag with your smartphone.

Instead, if you are passionate about arts, the painting of the first level of the Garden, dating back to the 18th century, is a must-see. It represents a fountain with cherubs and columns and the painting technique used is the trompe-l'œil (from the French deceive the eye). This technique was not so commonly used in the garden of the South, and this underlies the noble nature of this place. Equally interesting is the exhibition of painted tiles, dating back to the Middle Ages, and recovered during the restoration of Palazzo Capasso, the former palace of the Silvatico Family, and part of the Minerva's Garden.

A break with a sea view

So, the Minerva’s Garden, in addition to being the keeper of the prestigious past of the Medical school of Salerno, is a perfect place to relax, favored by its strategic position on the Gulf of Salerno. The tea bar, close to the Capasso room, is famous for its panoramic terrace and its delicious handmade products such as infusions and beers, a must to taste if you are here. This place will make, definitely, your visit more enjoyable!

If you want to reach the Garden by foot starting from theCathedral, stroll through these narrow streets: Via Torquato Tasso or Via Trotula de Ruggero. I suggest the use of Google Maps. Instead, if you want to use the public lift, reach the Fornelle district, also known as the murals district. Considering the structure of the Garden developed on several levels, I suggest you wear

For more information about the Garden and its opening hours, consult the site:

  • The name of this Garden probably comes from the fountain of Gorgon. The Gorgon, as a matter of fact, was the medusa on the defensive armor of Minerva, the goddess of arts, including the medical one.
  • If you are passionate about Harry Potter, the Garden also keeps one of the magic plants named in the book: the Mandragora.
  • Matteo Silvatico was a doctor so important that the Italian writer and poet, Boccaccio, mentioned him in his worldwide famous collection of novellas, the Decameron.

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