The Paestum archaeological site is home to three of the best-preserved temples of Magna Graecia. These are the temples of Hera, Apollo and Athena, all dating back to the 6th century BC. The massive walls, which run to almost 5km, are accompanied by 28 watchtowers and four ancient gateways.
Agropoli (Cilento Aruòpule in dialect) is a town of about 20,000 inhabitants. It takes its name from its geographical position, a “high city” on a promontory overlooking the sea. It may also originate from the ancient acropolis of Paestum, as there is evidence of a temple that was dedicated to Poseidon. During Roman times, a seaside town called ”Ercula” developed. This was a useful harbour, serving the nearby town of Paestum, although the problem was that it would frequently silt. In the 6th century, the Byzantines fortified this site, giving it the name the “Acropolis” high town. After centuries of alternating between Byzantine and Saracen rule, from 1660 to 1806, it belonged to the Sanfelice, Dukes of Laureana. After the 18th century, when the nightmare of constant invasions finally came to an end, Agropoli began to expand beyond its ancient core and into a larger, modern city.
The medieval village of Castellabate is perched on a hill 280 meters above sea level. It has a fascinating position, dominating the coastline between the headlands of Licosa and Tresino. The history of the village begins in 1123, when Constabilis IV, Abbot of the Abbey of Cava, received permission to build a fortress to defend the population from constant attacks by Saracen pirates. Close to the fortress, which was later known as the “Castle of Abbot”, the first houses were gradually built around the town. In fact, the town was once home to five gates: Porta di Mare and Porta Cavalieri by the seaside, Porta S. Eustacchio and Porta La Chiazza from the countryside, and Porta de li Bovi from the hinterland. The historical centre of Castellabate has narrow streets and staircases, interspersed with open spaces and spectacular views that take your breath away. The best way to access the village is from Belvedere San Costabile, a particularly fascinating panoramic viewpoint. Here, at sunset, the colours of the sea and sky seem to merge with each other, creating a spectacular show. In the heart of the old town is Piazza X October 1123 (named in reference to the date that the castle’s foundation stone was laid). The “Piazzetta”, as it is known by the Castellabatesi, is the natural forum of Castellabate, and also offers a beautiful panorama with views of the lovely Annunziata valley.
It is a place of myth and enchantment. In his Odyssey, Homer praised its beauty and told the story of the three sirens. One of the sirens was named Leucosya, who tried, in vain, to bewitch Ulysses. Myths aside, Licosa really is a place of enchantment, where the beauty of the landscape is symbolised by the steep cliffs that stretch down to the sea. Combined with the typical flora of the Mediterranean. This place is unique in the world. The territory is largely owned by the Granite Belmonte family, who also own the building located a few metres from the Porticciolo coast. There is also the islet of Licosa, which was connected to the mainland probably until the 4th century B.C. Even now, there are still clear traces of a Roman settlement here.
The circuit of Monte Tresino is one of the most beautiful routes on the Cilento coast. From the square of the Trentova beach parking lot, south of Agropoli, there is a road from the southeast, slightly uphill and parallel to the sea. After about 1.5 km, the path leads to a plateau, where there is an abandoned farm, called a house of oxen, overlooking the sea. The building stands on the remains of a Roman villa. Not far from the farm is a small beach, which marks the beginning of the Castellabate territory, while the inlet is called “Sauco’s”. From here on, the territory continues uphill for about three kilometres, with a beautiful view towards the cliff, the bay and the beach of Lake and Santa Maria di Castellabate. Continuing left, there is a detour that leads to the abandoned village of San Giovanni, where S. Costabile, founder of Castellabate, was born. There are also the remains of a monastery and a church, built in 957. On either side of the small square you will find a massive unfinished building. This dates back to the 18th century, and comprises a large three-level convent building with a chapel dedicated to St. John. This place is really charming and worth visiting.
Vatolla – Palazzo De Vargas (castle/palace)
Located in Vatolla, a small area of the municipality of Perdifumo, Palazzo De Vargas hosted the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico between 1686 and 1695. Here, the Enlightenment philosopher wrote his most important work, “new science”, and tutored the children of the building’s owner.
Acciaroli is one of the most beautiful places in our region. In fact, the sea near this part of the coast is so pure that it is “certified”. For more than a decade, the Pollica area has won the Blue Flag award in recognition of its excellent water quality. The small port of Acciaroli was once a fishermen’s village, allegedly the inspiration for Hemingway’s masterpiece “The Old Man and the Sea”. There is a record of a settlement known as “Aczarulo”, a name probably derived from “lazzarolo” (a shrub-like hawthorn), dating back to the mid-12th century. Acciaroli has always been an important maritime commercial hub (until the 19th century it was the customhouse). Today, thanks to its important marina and great choice of accommodation, it is the most famous resort of the municipality.
The headland of Capo Palinuro includes a huge 200m-high limestone cliff. It has been carved by the sea and is surrounded by fascinating caves. Charm, nature and myth blend wonderfully in this place, which was an inspiration for Virgil, one of Ancient Rome’s greatest poets and the writer of the epic poem ‘Aeneid’. In total you can count 32 caves, the most important of which is the Blue Grotto, which is accessable only by sea. It is noted for its bright blue colour, which is due to the siphon that allows the sunlight to radiate inside. With dramatic displays of light and colour, and stalactites with archaeological findings, Capo Palinuro is a unique and fascinating spectacle that will capture your emotions. Your visit will finish with a bath in the crystal-clear, unpolluted sea.
Considered by many to be “a small pearl set in a dream landscape”, the fraction of Scario, in the municipality of San Giovanni a Piro, is in an unspoilt area of the Cilento National Park. Its crystal-clear water make it a popular tourist destination, and its stunning location on the Gulf of Policastro allows you to enjoy views of rare beauty and natural landscapes.
This is the major fraction and most populous village in the municipality of Santa Marina. The actual fraction of Policastro was at the mouth of the river Bussento, as the Greek colony region (Reggio Calabria) was a strategic base for businesses. Just outside the town you can still see the ruins of the ancient aqueduct that once provided water for the city. In minutes, you can also reach the town of Santa Marina via a steep road that starts from the centre of Policastro. From the 10th century, Santa Marina was a place of refuge for the inhabitants of Policastro fleeing attacks by the Saracens and the malaria that plagued the area around the mouth of the River Bussento.
The Bussento River
The oasis was created in 1985 to protect the rich ecosystem of the Bussento area. The main feature of this area is the Bussento River, which disappears into the depths of the earth before re-emerging in the Morigerati caves. Today, it can be reached via a protected path. The oasis is one of the most important conservation projects of WWF Italy, and represents the practical efforts to defend natural biodiversity. Founded in 1985, it covers a huge area of 607 hectares. It is an oasis of fauna protection, subject to rigid landscape and hydrogeological protection rules. The oasis is also managed directly, in agreement with Morigerati, a town perched on a cliff overlooking the WWF Oasis of Morigerati cave. Inside you can admire the wonderful Bussento river rising from the ground. The oasis is equipped with a nature trail and picnic area for visiting the caves. It is perfect for guided tours, work camps, green weeks, fields of study and research. First and foremost, the oasis safeguards territory, protects biodiversity, preserves landscapes, and helps to maintain natural values. The existence of the oasis has protected a piece of land that would otherwise have been lost or would have suffered irreversible damage. WWF has decided to set up the nature trails so that everyone can fully appreciate and enjoy the natural environment. The oasis features small relaxation areas, and allows you to observe the animals in quiet conditions. The path also enables you to get in touch with nature without causing any disturbances.
Rio di Casaletto
The most powerful river in the area of Casaletto Spartano: “The Capello.” This resort is part of a complex sorgitivo with high environmental value. The area takes its name from the waterfall “Hair of Venus”, whose name derives from the elaborate growth of the Maidenhair tree. Near the river there is also a well-preserved mill and an old ruin called “Sorgitore”. This allows water coming from the source to deviate from its original location at Melette so that part of the water feeds into the mill and the remaining part flows into the river. Capello also has a number of internal routes that allow you to visit various scenic places near the river.
Caselle in Pittari
Caselle in Pittari is located on the River Bussento basin in the southern Cilento. The town grew up in the Middle Ages, when its inhabitants came from the Gulf of Policastro. The main religious building of Caselle is the Church of “S. Maria Assunta in Cielo”. The area is also rich in natural and archaeological beauties: the “Bosco Ficarola”, populated by chestnut trees and Neapolitan alder with a rich undergrowth; the “Bussento river” and the 13 water springs called “the 13 fistulas”; and the artificial lake in the Sabetta area, which is rich in freshwater fish. Of particular interest are the archaeological sites found in Lovito and Kythira.
The ancient city of Elea, the name of which derives from the local source Hyele, was founded around 540 BC by a group of refugees fleeing the Greek city of Phocaea, in modern Turkey, which was besieged by the Persians. The city, known in the 5th century BC for being the birthplace of the philosophers Parmenides and Zeno, founders of the famous Eleatic school, developed greatly by the Hellenistic and Roman period, when its name was changed to Velia. In the Middle Ages, the inhabited part was moved up to the Acropoli, creating the small town of Castellamare della Bruca, the structures of which partially overlapped the ancient ones, and where, between the 11th and 14th century, the great cylindrical tower was built, which is still the hallmark of the Velino landscape. The remains of the ancient city are now surrounded by vegetation and lush olive groves, a beautiful and charming combination of archaeology and nature. Two of the main monuments you can admire include the famous Porta Rosa, an exceptional example of Greeks’ use of the arc, and the Hellenistic-Roman theatre, which could seat up to 2,000 spectators.
Certosa di Padula
Certosa di San Lorenzo, dating back to the early 14th century, and restored in the 16th century, was founded by Thomas Sanseverino, Lord of Teggiano and feudal lord of Cilento. An ‘architectural and artistic ensemble of great interest’, it covers an area of 50,000 square metres, and is one of the most important religious complexes in Europe. While the original structure dates back to the 14th century, much of the current structure dates was built in the 16th century, when it was greatly expanded. The monastery has an impressive, large outdoor courtyard for the church, and contains paintings of great value. The kitchen, which dates back to the 18th century, is adorned with frescoes in the upper part and coloured tiles in the lower part. The visit to the monastery ends with the large cloister garden, which looks different from the past but is nevertheless a thing of great beauty. Inside the Certosa is the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Western Lucania, which contains archaeological remains found in the Sala Consilina and Padula areas, where 150 tombs have been unearthed.
Perched on top of a hill on the western side of the Vallo di Diano, Teggiano was a strategic settlement for centuries. It probably existed by the Greek or Lucan era, and certainly by the Roman era. By the Middle Ages, it took on the new name of Diana, and had a dominant role in the valley. The powerful Sanseverino family built a castle to make an ‘extreme stronghold’ in case of danger. Aesthetically, the Teggiano area is extremely pleasing, with impressive artistic features in nine of fifteen Teggianesi churches. Thanks to its cleanliness, tidiness, and the careful preservation of its architectural and monumental heritage, Teggiano is a UNESCO site. It is an important medieval town, situated on a hill that rises in almost entire isolation from the Vallo di Diano below. Teggiano is a place of great cultural interest, with a historical centre and the preserved San Severino Castle which was one of southern Italy’s most important manors, because the Conspiracy of the Barons was plotted in it in 1485.
Eboli, in the Sele Zone, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Province of Salerno. It has a very mild climate, with gentle hills rich in history, picturesque streams, and fertile plains that produce high-quality foods such as mozzarella, artichokes and strawberries. Thanks to its favourable geographical position between the Salerno coast and the Piana del Sele inland, the Eboli area offers plenty of opportunities for nature walking, and relaxation at its accommodation.
Walk along the hilly paths of San Donato in the Picentini Mountains, where you can find the nature park of Eboli. In the park you can also find the ancient church of San Donato, where, on August 7th, a feast, commemorating the San Donato anniversary, takes place. Many people go to worship the saint and receive the blessed cotton that, once tied around the wrist, chases away the Evil, as tradition dictates. Near Monti Picentini is the main source of the Sele River, which flows through the hills of Contursi, Campagna and Serre, before coming to the valley and arriving at the Sele plain, which separates the river from the sea. Eboli is one of the archaeological centres of the province of Salerno. It is so rich in archaeological remains, discovered from multiple sites across the hills, that there are many funerary objects dating back to the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. There are also numerous cemeteries scattered around the historic centre.
The cultural and archaeological journey to discover the city of Eboli continues at the National Archaeological Museum of Eboli and the Media Valle del Sele site in the Monumental Complex of San Francesco. Dominating Eboli and the beautiful territory of the province of Salerno, the Eboli Castle, built in the 5th century, was also known as “the Colonna Castle”. That’s because in the 15th century it underwent substantial renovations, ordered by Antonio Colonna, the nephew of Pope Martin V. Another place of interest is the Sanctuary of S.S Cosma and Damiano of Eboli, now a destination of pilgrimage and an important place of worship. Go on a spiritual and artistic journey south of Salerno to this vast territory studded with churches, rural chapels and monuments of great value. Eboli is also a tourist destination for gastronomy, and offers culinary tours of different restaurants where you can sample dishes that recall the flavours of the past, in Ebolitani kitchens. And for young people, Eboli offers music and concerts throughout the year, with different artists performing at the PalaSele arena. These events attract a broad audience from the Campania region and beyond.
The Mediterranean diet originates from the history, culture and lifestyle that have been passed down from the Magna Grecia. The habits remain embedded in today’s society, having survived the poverty of the Middle Ages, when people were forced to integrate the simple products of the earth into their diet. Thus, the Mediterranean diet is not only a way of eating, but a lifestyle that the Cilento region inherited from the culture of the Ancient Greek cities of Paestum and Elea. Ancel Keys, a well-known American physiologist with considerable experience in nutrition studies, was struck by the eating habits of the Cilento people, known to him through the experiences of soldiers who landed at Paestum in 1944. After the war, the doctor, inspired by his Italian experience, moved to the Cilento community of Pioppi, where he was able to conduct detailed studies on the effect of the diet against modern diseases such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and generally all cardiovascular diseases.
In the 1950s, starting with the ‘observation of the eating habits of the Cilento populations’, he developed the idea that the low incidence of cardiovascular disease was due to the type of food these populations lived on for centuries. In fact, the Mediterranean diet consists of simple foods, available to the poorest classes. It includes bread, pasta, legumes, olive oil, fruit and vegetables with a few cheeses, and red wine in small quantities.
Luxury foods high in fat, such as meat, fish and desserts, are permitted at the table only once a week. The diet is also complemented by widespread, healthy physical activities. In fact, the University La Sapienza of Rome studied the Cilento and concluded that there are many centenarians in this geographical area and that the average age is higher than the national average. It proved, as Keys thought, that Cilentani foods, used as a diet and in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, reduce cardiovascular disease and increased the average life expectancy far beyond the national level. In 2010, the Mediterranean diet was recognised by UNESCO for its ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’.