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Cilento. Living the legend

The historic hilltop villages, beautiful blue flag beaches and epic heroes of Cilento

Cilento. Living the legend

Our journey commences in Agropoli, natural gateway to the Cilento coast, situated to the south of the gulf of Salerno and easily reached by train using the Naples-Reggio Calabria line or by car from the Battipaglia exit of the A3 Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway.

The Byzantines were responsible for the fortification of the promontory in the 6th century and for giving the settlement the name of Akropolis, or city on high. Our tour of Agropoli begins in the narrow streets of the historic center, with a visit to the Church of Santa Maria di Costantinpoli. The old town can be reached on foot via the characteristic flight of steps or scaloni, which for centuries provided '''the only access to the highest part of the town. The scaloni are a series of wide, shallow steps, sheltered by a wall adorned with rounded ended merlons similar to those visible on the gateway to the historic center.

From Agropoli we take the SS267 high road, travelling past the well-known beach resort of Santa Maria di Castellabate before coming to the fascinating town Castellabate. The town, which developed around an early 12th century castle, is a veritable labyrinth of narrow lanes opening out on to delightful little squares lined with bars, restaurants and ancient patrician residences.

Not far from the town lies the promontory of Punta Licosa, situated within the boundaries of the National Park of Cilento and the Vallo di Diano and considered to be one of Italy's most beautiful beaches. The beach is accessed via a pathway which commences from the port of San Marco. Here, the seabed is particularly rich in posidonia seagrass which carpets great sections of the coast.

This area of the Cilento is dominated by Monte Stella, the mountain which towers some 1100 meters above sea level and from the summit of which stunning views can be admired. On the southern slopes lies Pollica, a small village which until 1410 was governed by the Trinity Abbey of Cava de' Tirreni.

Descending towards the coast, on the SS267 one finds the popular tourist destinations of Acciaroli and Pioppi. Acciaroli, acquired world wide fame in the 1950's as the preferred retreat of Hemingway. It was here that the great writer found inspiration for one of his most celebrated novels; The Old Man and the Sea. Acciaroli entices visitors not only with its superb beaches, awarded the European Blue Flag, but also with its cuisine, a cuisine which uses all of the traditional products of the Cilento coast, including the area's superb olive oil, wine, and figs.

After Acciaroli we proceed towards Velia, one of the principal holiday destinations of the Cilento area, with hotels of every category, restaurants, and modern leisure facilities. Despite the flourishing tourist industry, the stunningly beautiful coastline, characterised by a series of fascinating sea caves, has been largely untouched by human intervention.

Just a few kilometers away we find Pisciotta, its old town clinging to the slopes of Monte Cavallara, to the left of the Palistro torrent. Pisciotta is home to a great number of buildings of historic interest, such as the imposing Palazzo Ciaccio and the remains of the 16th century Franciscan convent. Pisciotta is, however, known primarily for its olive trees, many of which reach a height of over 18 meters. Those wishing to admire the century old olive trees should follow the lane known locally as the chiusa which leads through the olive groves for a total of 9 kilometers, from the principal square of the town towards the sea. The poet Ungaretti described the olive trees of Pisciotta like herds of sheep scattered across the landscape. At nearby Marina di Pisciotta, noctural fishing excursions are a regular occurrence. Among the most important ingredients used in Cilentan cuisine we find the delicious anchovies di menaica.

Palinuro, immersed in a landscape of striking natural beauty, is one of the area's most popular tourist attractions. Here we find the rocky promontory of Capo Palinuro, home to long white beaches and enchanting bays lapped by the shimmering waters of the Tyrrhenian sea. Within easy driving distance lies the fashionable coastal resort of Marina di Camerota, fraction of the town of Camerota, this latter situated further inland. Its name derives from the Greek kamaròtos meaning curved, in reference to the numerous limestone caves located along the coast and in which a great number of archaeological findings dating back to the Palaeolithic age have been discovered. The town is famous for the production of terracotta vases, reminiscent of the ancient Greek amphora, and present in almost all of the town's characteristic little shops.

To conclude the final stage of this journey, from Camerota to Sapri, it is necessary to take the SS562 highway which leads us through a landscape characterised by the presence of lush olive groves, woods, and pine trees. Here, the small town of San Giovanni a Piro dominates the gulf of Policastro. San Giovanni a Piro is home to the Abbey of San Giovanni Battista dating back to the 10th century when it was founded by the San Basilio monks, an order dedicated predominantly to the working of the land, the transcription of religious codes, and theological debate. In the immediate vicinity there is Monte Bulgheria, ideal place where to enjoy walks through the woodland.

Our journey ends in Sapri, reached via the SS18 Naples-Reggio Calabria highroad. In the southernmost part of Campania, Sapri is just a few kilometers away from the Basilicata, situated on the Tyrrhenian coast and surrounded on three sides by the Apennines. The town was celebrated in the verses of the Cicerone and in Luigi Mercantini's poem Spigolatrice di Sapri which recounts the military Expedition of the three hundred led by republican revolutionary Carlo Pisacane in 1857 - the annual summer commemoration of which has become a well established tourist attraction.


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Hotel Raito

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Il Cannito

Capaccio - Paestum

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Palazzo Belmonte

Santa Maria di Castellabate

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Hotel Olimpico


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Relais Paradiso

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Useful links
Amalfi Coast (all hotels)
Paestum Hotels
Agropoli Hotels
Palinuro Hotels
S. Maria Castellabate Hotels
Acciaroli Hotels