The garden of Minerva is located in the very heart of the city of Salerno, in a place called during the Middle Age “Plaium Montis”, between the sea and the Castle of Arechi along the path of enclosed terrace gardens.
In this place during the XIV century there was the “viridarium”, a herb garden, the first model of the all the European Botanical Gardens. The physician Matteo Silvatico established the herb garden in his family property for cultivating the plants from which he could prepare the medicamenta, the medicines. Matteo Silvatico used to teach the therapeutic virtues of the herbs showing the plants by their names and features.
In the XVII century the place had already the same look we can see today: a house with a terrace garden with fountains and a pool of fresh water, a fig tree and a pergola of grapes from which it’s possible to enjoy the view of the sea, the Old Town and the hills.
In 2000 the Garden of Minerva was restored in the same place thank to the help of the European Community.
One of the most distinctive feature of the garden is a long stairway, emphasized by cross-shaped pillars, supporting a wooden pergola. The staircase, which connects and visually frames the different levels of the garden is built on the ancient walls of the city. A complex water distribution system, consisting of pipes, tanks and fountains (one for each terracing), denotes the presence of capable sources that have allowed, over the centuries, to preserve the coltivations. The site also has a unique microclimate, favored by the low incidence of the north wind and the favorable exposure, which, even today, allows the cultivation of plant species demanding in terms of humidity and heat.
The main terrace is divided by the perpendicular cross of two paths into four corners which are named after the four qualities:
- Caldo – Hot
- Freddo – Cold
- Umido – Wet
- Secco – Dry
Around the central point four concentric circles show by the sides a decreasing degree from 4° to 1°. The qualities of the herbs were classified by a degree corresponding to their power. From the 1st degree which corresponds to very mild and gentle power, to the 4th degree which corresponds to strong and violent effect almost similar to poison. So in order to exemplify this classification, which was found in most of herbarium as in Galen, Avicenna and “Regimen Sanitatis” of the Medical School of Salerno, in each sector of each circle grows a plant of the corresponding qualities and degree.
Visiting the Garden of Minerva is a pleasure and a feast of senses and intellect. The garden unfold itself in the middle of Salerno, surround by a clew of tortuous and narrow streets, up the gentle sloop of a hill in front of the gulf of Salerno. The fountains, which are in every corner of the garden show to the visitors the clear and watery tongues hanging from their stone masks and singing their ancient used song; the basin, which gathers the water, fade the song away in a peaceful timeless calm as the red and white carps swim among the water plants. The smell of aromatic herbs fill the air. The bees glide over the flowers in blossom, inclining them. The butterflies flirt in whirls. The seagulls and swallows encircle the sky while the cicadas chirp tirelessly. At sunset the crepuscular sun going to fade in the sea casts long shadows through the trees and the plants and prepare the garden for the nocturnal coolness and rest.
Garden of Minerva web site: Giardino della Minerva