In the heart of the Medieval town of Salerno, at the back of Fusandola torrent and of the old Mediaval walls, a terraced fenced orchard is situated....
In the heart of the Medieval town of Salerno, at the back of Fusandola torrent and of the old Mediaval walls, a terraced fenced orchard is situated. In it the remains of a glorious and rich history can be still seen: it is the so called Minerva’s Garden. This structure develops along the orchard line which from the Town Villa gardens goes up to the Medieval Castle. Minerva’s Garden is exactly situated in the middle of this ideal itinerary and it is certainly the most interesting example of orchard for the art-historical valuesit represents.What is today really striking for any visitor – thanks to a restoration work completed in September 2000 - is an interesting variety of eighteenth century style elements.Among these the most characteristic one is a long staircase emphasized by cross plan pilasters, with stucco decorations supporting a pergola. The staircase, linking and evidently framing the different levels of the garden, ends up to a belvedere-terrace which is also covered with a pergola, it is built on the old walls and allows a wide and privileged view of the sea including the port, the historical centre of the town and the hills.The water system, composed of basins and fountains, one of them for each terrace, with decorations made from calcareous concretions, shows the presence of abundant water sources which, suitably canalized have over centuries allowed – besides other uses – the cultivation of plots of land. This site is characterized by a special microclimate, fostered by a poor influence of north winds and by a favourable exposure, which still today allows the cultivation and spontaneous propagation of plant species needing a particularly moist and warm climate.Since the twelfth century Silvatico family had owned these places, one of its members, Matteo, physician of the Salernitan School of Medicine, between the thirteenth and fourteenth century, distinguished himself as big expert of the plants used for producing remedies. His work called Opus pandectarum medicinae, is a precious collection of information about semplici, that is on parts of plants which were used for producing remedies.In fact, after a careful examination of the historical documents and sources, scholars have proved the existence in the area of the Medieval town of Salerno, of a garden called giardino dei semplici, (garden from which parts of plants were extracted) founded in the first twenty years of 1300 by the Salernitan physician and botanist Matteo Silvatico, for being used by the scholars of the Medical School. In this space of an extraordinary cultural value, which can be today identified just in the area of Minerva’s Garden, the plants from which active principles used for a therapeutic purpose were extracted, were cultivated;besides this, in this place a real didactic activity was carried out in order to show the students of the Medical school the plants with their names and their characteristics (ostensio simplicium).This background testifies that the garden, situated in the area of the old site of the hortus sanitatis of the Salernitan Medical School, can be considered the oldest botanic garden linked to a school of medicine.