The Dieta Mediterranea is world famous. What is for the most part unknown is the fact that the Mediterranean diet's origins lie in the Cilento National Park area.
It was at Pioppi, in the heart of the Cilento, that Ancel Keys, the father of the Mediterranean diet, once settled down and developed the guidelines of this now world famous nutritional model, which is based on a rich and generally healthier diet. Bread, pasta, fresh vegetables and fruit, cheese, fish and olive oil are favoured over dairy products and meat. Wine with the meals is also a must-be.
Ancel Keys came to Italy for the first time in 1944, commissioned by the Pentagon to see to the diet of the 5th division of the US Army. In 1952, he returned to Italy and settled down in the small fishing village of Pioppi. It was there that he started on his "Seven Countries Study", which continued for 20 years. Keys examined the nutritional habits of 12,000 persons between 40 and 60 years of age in Japan, the USA, Yugoslavia, Greece, Germany, Finland and Italy. He found out that most of the cardiovascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis and diabetes, are directly linked to nutritional habits. His book "Eat well and stay well, the Mediterranean Way" argues that the risk of cardiovascular disease increases the more you stray from a Mediterranean kind of diet.
Due to this study, the Dieta Mediterranea became a new lifestyle which was not based on cutting down meals, but on attaching value to a healthy diet. According to the Mediterranean diet cholesterol reduction may be improved by food such as cereals, vegetables, fruit, pulse, culinary and medicinal herbs, fish, meat (mainly poultry and rabbit), oil and wine, the latter always part of the meals. All these products are used in the Cilento cuisine, which has hardly changed since the 1950s, a time when the local population lived solely on farming.
As evergreen olive and chestnut groves are prominent all over the Cilento, the most widespread delicatessen are olive and chestnut products. The mild olive oil meanwhile meets the top quality standard "D.O.C.", sometimes even organic quality standards. Taking part in autumn harvesting is possible.
Fruit and vegetable harvesting in the Cilento takes place four times a year; among them are citrus fruits (limoncello liqueur!), figs (covered with chocolate!), apples (apple tart!), nuts,mushrooms and on and on.
However, the most famous delicacy is the buffalo mozzarella. Various dairy products are made from cow´s, buffalo´s, sheep´s or goat´s milk. And dairies can be visited, too.
Wine (especially the "Cilento Rosso") is grown by mainly small producers - i.e. almost every family owning some ground.
Everybody knows the culinary delights of the Italian cuisine. However, hardly anybody knows where to enjoy genuine, indigenous delicacies in a family atmosphere. We have discovered trattorias in little mountain villages where fruits, vegetables, olive oil and wine are self-produced, lambs self-raised, wild boars caught in the local chestnut woods, and ricotta and pasta (gnocchi!) are homemade. To top it all, the sweet filled calaloni are served as a dream of a dessert.
Especially recommendable are the restaurants “da Brera” (also self-made grappa, liqueur and oil available!) and “U´ Sciavichiello” in Marina di Camerota and the beautifully and scenically situated agriturismo “Isca delle Donne” in Palinuro with on-site produce sale and little livestock husbandry. We also recommend the restaurant “Tre Gufi” (Three tawny owls) in Pisciotta, which offers a large terrace with a splendid view from the highest point of the medieval town centre.
There are still numerous fishermen living along the Cilento coast, whose fresh catch can be bought at fish markets and enjoyed in seafood restaurants. A special fishing tradition, which has been carried on for centuries, still takes place in Marina di Pisciotta: “alici di menaica”.