With its 100 km of coastline and its mountains rising up to 1,900 m, the still mainly untouched Cilento region is an ideal holiday destination for bathing vacationers as well as hikers and cyclists. But there is more to discover in southern Campania!
From the fifth century BC on, two important centres of Greek culture were to be found along the coast of the Cilento: Poseidonia, later to become Paestum, and Elea, present-day Velia.
Even today, you can visit three extremely well preserved Greek-Doric temples at Paestum. It was only in 1968 that the "Tomb of the Diver" was discovered – its five frescoes bearing significant testimony to antique artistry.
Velia gained importance due to its famous school of philosophy, its main representatives being Parmenides and Xenon. Today, you can visit the remains of this town with its amphitheatre and its town gate Porta Rosa.
World Heritage Site: the Chartreuse of Padula
The late baroque Carthusian monastery "Certosa di San Lorenzo" at Padula is the largest of its kind in Italy and it is one of the major ecclesiastical monuments of Italy. It was declared World Heritage Site in 1998.
A short detour to the small town of Padula with its medieval centre and located above the chartreuse is also worthwhile.
However, the Cilento has more places of interest and beauty to offer: many small fishing villages and medieval mountain towns, which awaken from their slumber only during the summer months, line the coast.
The town of Palinuro owes its name to the helmsman from Virgil's Aeneis who fell overboard and drowned while navigating around the cape. Today, fishermen take you safely to the grottos which are accessible only by boat and which can easily match their famous sister on Capri.
Located on a hill and also World Heritage Site, Castellabate invites you with its winding alleys and village palaces. With its romantic nooks and corners, Pisciotta, its medieval centre and authentic village life are equal in rank. Camerota, located on a plateau, is also worth a visit.
Spectacular Costa di Maratea
Costa di Maratea takes on a special role. Although Maratea belongs to the Basilicata region, many connoisseurs of Southern Italy regard this spectacular cliff line as the southern extension of the Cilento area.
Maratea Borgo wins you over with its Mediterranean small town charm.
Wonders of nature upcountry
Near Morigerati lies one of the grand wonders of nature of Campania: It is here that the river Bussento, after running several kilometres underground, resurfaces, framed by a spectacular canyon.
Impressive caves can be admired at Pertosa and Castelcivita (as an alternative on a day of bad weather, e.g.).
In the course of millions of years, the karst mountains have given birth to fantastic stalactite and stalagmite formations. Several kilometres of underground cave country are awaiting their visitors.
In the hinterland: authentic towns and abandoned villages
The untouched hinterland of the Cilento is worth the serpentine journey. Countless medieval towns, in which time seems to have come to a standstill, fascinate their visitors, e.g. Laurito, which is picturesquely situated on the slope of "Monte Fulgenti" and offers a beautiful panoramic view, San Mauro la Bruca, Rocca Cilento, Lentiscosa or Teggiano.
Due to a lack of prospects, many Cilentani felt and still feel impelled to leave their home country. San Severino is an example for a meanwhile forsaken medieval village and castle.
The Cilento landscape is strongly defined by evergreen olive trees. Whoever wants to can take part in the autumn harvest. The mild olive oil is meanwhile produced with the "D.O.C." guarantee of quality, often also as an eco-product. Good olive oil is offered, for example, at the Landgut Fasani, where products in small quantities can be purchased directly, or at the Cooperativa San Mauro Cilento, which also organizes Cilento evenings, meals included.
Water buffaloes play the main role in the plain of Piana di Sele around Paestum and they provide the exclusive mozzarella di bufala. On the ecologically managed country estate Tenuta Vannulo, you can, for example, watch the impressively big but at the same time gentle animals at close range, try wonderful creamy and savoury mozzarella and watch the casari at work as they deftly pluck off pieces from the still warm loaf of cream cheese. Thus, the origin of the word mozzarella quickly becomes clear: ‘mozzare’ means ‘to pluck off’.
Festivals and events in the Cilento
In the Cilento, cultural events and festivals occupy a permanent place.
Religious customs are impressively alive. The candlelight processions at sea near Palinuro, the dramatic Good Friday processions at Pisciotta and the live nativity scenes at Agropoli, San Severino and Torre d'Orsaia are only some examples out of a variety during a church year.
Furthermore, plays are performed (e.g. in the amphitheatre of Marina di Camerota), musical and folkloric performances offer insight into the culture and history of the towns (e.g. the South America festival "chévere" at Marina di Camerota) and the weekly markets offer good opportunities for shopping, for meeting people and for having a chat (e.g. on Wednesdays at the harbour at Marina di Pisciotta).