Minerva's Garden (Salerno)
The Minerva's Garden (Giardino della Minerva) is located in the heart of the old town of Salerno, in a zone known as the "Plaium montis" in the Middle Ages It is halfway along an ideal route that runs along the axis of the walled and terraced vegetable gardens, climbing from the Municipal Park, near the river Fusandola, towards the Arechi Castle.
The "viridarium" was owned by the Silvatico family from the 12th century, as recorded by a parchment conserved in the Badia archives in Cava de' Tirreni. Later on, in the first twenty years of the 14th century, Matteo Silvatico created a garden of simples here, a forerunner of all future botanical gardens in Europe.
In this area of extraordinary cultural value, which can now be identified in the area of the Minerva's Garden, he cultivated some of the plants used to produce the active ingredients employed for therapeutic purposes. Matteo Silvatico also taught here, showing the plants to the scholars at the School of Medicine and providing their names and characteristics. During a recent archaeological dig, the mediaeval garden was found at a depth of around two metres under the current ground level.
The last owner was Giovanni Capasso who, thanks to the interest of the lawyer Gaetano Nunziante, chairman of the Asilo di Mendicità, donated the whole property to this charitable institution immediately after the Second World War. In November 1991 a project was presented for the creation of a botanical garden dedicated to Silvatico and his garden of simples. This project was funded and developed in 2000 by the Municipal Council, using funds from the European Urban programme. Now that the restoration work has been completed, visitors to the garden can see an interesting series of elements dating back to the 17th and 18th century. One of the most attractive is the long flight of steps, marked by cruciform pillars, which support a wooden pergola.
The Minerva's Garden is not a traditional botanical garden, but most cater for the numerous themes and multiple specificities present therein. The most important educational element of the theme linked to Salerno's botanical tradition is the illustration, in the largest terrace in the garden, of the ancient plant classification system. In all the other flower beds in the garden, the plants are arranged on the basis of the landscaping criterion. All the species are identified with a label that refers to the ideal position of the simple in a design representing the positioning of the elements, superimposed over the concentric subdivision of the grades.
After the 2001 restoration, several rare species were planted, mostly chosen among those quoted in the Opus Pandectarum Medicinae, which were used as medicines in the Middle Age.