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Sights & excursions in the Cilento

With its 100 km of coastline and its mountains rising up to over 1,900 m the still mainly untouched Cilento National Park is a fantastic holiday destination for beach vacationers as well as hikers and cyclists.

But there is more to discover in southern Campania!


Sights & excursions in the Cilento

With its 100 km of coastline and its mountains rising up to over 1,900 m the still mainly untouched Cilento National Park is a fantastic holiday destination for beach vacationers as well as hikers and cyclists.

But there is more to discover in southern Campania!

Journey into the past: Paestum and Elea/Velia

From the 5th century BC on, two important centers of Greek culture were found on the Cilento coast: Poseidonia, later to become Paestum, and Elea, later to become Roman Velia and finally present-day Ascea.

At Paestum in the northern Cilento you get to admire three extremely well preserved Greek-Doric temples. It was only in 1968 that the "Tomb of the Diver" was discovered – its five frescoes bearing significant testimony to antique artistry.

This as well as other finds from the times of the Greeks and the Romans are on display at the Archaeological Museum right next to the excavation sites. It counts among the most important museums of its kind in Italy.

Elea gained importance due to its famous school of philosophy, its main representatives being Parmenides and Xenon. Today, the remains of this town, which include the amphitheater and the town gate Porta Rosa, are part of the small town of Marina di Ascea in central location in the Cilento and the site is open daily to visitors. The round defense tower on a rise above the town makes the site easy to identify from afar.

UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Chartreuse of Padula

The late Baroque Carthusian monastery "Certosa di San Lorenzo" at Padula, in the southern hinterland of the National Park, is the largest of its kind in Italy. It is one of the country's major ecclesiastical monuments and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998.

On a total of 50,000 m² there is quite a lot to marvel at, above all from an architectural point of view, such as the Baroque staircase spanning two floors or the cloister covering an area of 90 x 130 m. Today, the monastery attracts art lovers from all over the world. It houses the Museo Archeologico della Lucania Occidentale, which includes a large collection of paintings.

The small town of Padula with its medieval center and located above the chartreuse is also worth stopping by.

Cilento maritime: Museo Vivo del Mare and Museo della Dieta Mediterranea at Pioppi

The museum at Pioppi is one of the most frequented museums in the Campania region. It is found in fascinating Palazzo Vinciprova, a historically significant building at Pioppi’s lungomare. It was built in the 17th century by the Ripolis, a family from Catalonia.

Today’s name Palazzo Vinciprova goes back to its last owners – family Vinciprova from Omignano. Under the leadership of G. Garibaldi, they took an active part in establishing an Italian state in the 19th century.   

On the first floor of the museum, the underwater world of the Cilento coast is presented in a total of 12 aquaria. Some of the tanks are open, giving visitors the opportunity to touch the animals and plants.

The maritime museum is also a first aid/rescue center for sea turtles, which are found more and more often at the Cilento coast.

On the second floor of the palazzo, there is a permanent exhibition on the topic of the Mediterranean Diet (Dieta Mediterranea). It is dedicated, above all, to the American dietician Ancel B. Keys, who lived and worked in the area for all in all over 40 years. You can also have a look at Keys’ private library.

Opening hours: 10.30 – 12.30 h and 17.00 – 21.00 h; closed on Tuesdays

Admission: € 3 / person

Guided tour: € 2 / person (in German and English)

Information at www.museovivodelmare.it

Culinary delights

The Cilento landscape is strongly defined by evergreen olive trees. If you want to, you can take part in the autumn harvest. The mild olive oil is meanwhile produced according to and meets the strict "D.O.C." guarantee of quality, very often also as an organic quality product. Good olive oil can be purchased directly from the producer or at local stores, for example Cooperativa Nuovo Cilento at San Mauro Cilento, Cooperativa A.Ma at Pisciotta (Agriturismo Principe di Vallescura), Cantina Lamadé at Pisciotta, Tenuta Chirico at Ascea (actually a cheese dairy, but with a large offer of local specialties) as well as Marco Rizzo at Felitto.

Water buffaloes play the leading role in the plain Piana di Sele around Paestum. They provide the milk for the exclusive mozzarella di bufala. At country estates such as Tenuta Vannulo or Barlotti, you can watch the impressively big, but at the same time gentle animals at close range, try creamy and savory mozzarella and watch the casari at work as they deftly pluck off pieces from the still warm loaf of cream cheese. The origin of the word mozzarella then quickly becomes clear: 'mozzare' means 'to pluck off'.

Wonders of nature upcountry

It is above all 'inside' the Cilento National Park that you find an abundance of geological attractions. When hiking through the limestone massif you keep discovering spectacular crevices, enormous solution holes, waterfalls and impressive cave systems.

Grotte di Castelcivita: One of Italy’s largest cave systems is found between the Calore river and Monti Alburni. Grotte di Castelcivita are a fascinating underground world of innumerable corridors, chambers and fissures. If you are fit and sure-footed enough, you can advance into the cave for as far as 4 km. Stone tools and some bones found in the entrance area of the cave are estimated to be about 40,000 years old.

March & Oct.:  10.30 h, 12 h, 13.30 h, 15 h
April – Sept.:  10.30 h, 12 h, 13.30 h, 15 h, 16.30 h, 18 h

Grotta di Pertosa: With its ca. 3 km the cave near the town of Pertosa is as impressive as well. It can be traversed by boat on the underground river Negro. The enchanting stalagmite and stalactite formations you get to admire often serve as an extraordinary setting for theater performances. At Pertosa, too, finds from the Bronze Age indicate early settlement of the area. 

Opening hours:
March & Oct.: 10 – 17 h
April – May: 9 – 19 h
June – Aug.: 10 – 19 h
Sept.: 10 – 18 h
Closed on Mondays: Sept. 01st – March 31st  

Oasi WWF Morigerati: Grotte del Bussento below the town of Morigerati have been a WWF oasis since 1995 and therefore enjoy special protection. An old mule trail takes you to the Bussento river, which, after running several kilometers underground, 'roars' back to the surface there from a spectacular gorge. A beautiful circular hiking trail in the midst of lush vegetation runs through the ca. 600 ha area around the river and the grotto.

March & Oct.:  10.30 h, 12 h, 13.30 h, 15 h
April – Sept.:  0.30 h, 12 h, 13.30 h, 15 h, 16.30 h, 18 h

Picturesque fishing villages and medieval mountain villages

The Cilento has, however, more places of interest and beauty to offer. A lot of small fishing villages and medieval mountain towns, which awaken from their slumber only during the summer months, line the coast.

Acciaroli, the fishing village located on a cape, was visited several times by the author Ernest Hemingway and has therefore become quite well-known. Nowadays, it is not only known for its charming village center, but also for its especially good beach and water quality.

The picturesque town of Scario on the Gulf of Policastro has been chosen as a summer resort by well-to-do Romans and Neapolitans. Strolling along the lungomare you enjoy a fascinating panorama of the mountains and the sea of the southern Cilento and of the Maratea coast.

Marina di Camerota is inviting with its bustling activity, its beautiful harbor and promenade and its touch of the exotic - the slight South American breeze you might feel throughout the alleyways is due to emigration and immigration. When this is celebrated every year in June, the Parrandeando festival turns the town center into a large salsa stage.

Agropoli with its wonderful Old Town, which sits proudly on a rocky plateau above the sea, is also brimful of life. In summer, you should really stop by the small town. That’s when numerous events take place in the inner courtyard of Castello Aragonese, which is one of Agropoli’s landmarks.

Palinuro owes its name to the helmsman from Vergil's Aeneid, who fell overboard while navigating around the cape and drowned. Today, fishermen take you safely to the grottos which are accessible only by boat and which can easily match up to their famous sister on Capri.

Castellabate with its appealing winding alleys and village palaces is located on a hill and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The breathtaking view of the sea from the Belvedere is one of the settings in the movie "Benvenuti al Sud" (Welcome to the South).

Pisciotta with its romantic nooks and corners, its medieval center and authentic village life is equal in rank. Local life takes place, preferably, in Piazza Pinto between bar, alimentari and market stalls.

Camerota, which is located on a plateau, is also worth stopping by.

Spectacular Costa di Maratea

Costa di Maratea holds a special position. Although Maratea belongs to the Basilicata region, quite a number of those who know Southern Italy really well regard the spectacular section of steep coast as the southern extension of the Cilento area.

Maratea Borgo wins you over with its Mediterranean small town charm. Standing ca. 21 m high at its feet and gazing out to sea, the Statue of Christ is a sight to see.

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 stood still, fascinate 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 long forsaken medieval village and castle. Unfortunately, the place is meanwhile off limits to visitors. On your way down to Palinuro and Marina di Camerota, however, you might catch a glimpse of it.