Cilento, a hauntingly magical place

Published in Cilento
28 June 2016

An area rich in history and artistic and natural beauties, Cilento’s coast, much of which is still untamed, not only boasts golden beaches, coves and cliffs that, each year, are awarded ‘Blue Flag’ status by FEE, but also picturesque towns set amidst hills and mountains.

Paestum and Velia, ancient colonies of Magna Grecia, located just steps from the sea, are well worth a visit. In Paestum, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage Site, landmark attractions of note include the magnificent Temples of Ceres and Neptune. While in the area, a visit to the Archaeological Museum, housing paintings of the Tomb of the Diver, among the few examples of classic painting that have been handed down to us intact, is an absolute must.

One of the most charming seaside places in Cilento is Punta Licosa: according to legend the island of Licosa is nothing but the shape assumed by the body of the siren Leucosia, who committed suicide by throwing herself into the sea after failing to entice Ulysses to the rocks. Uncontaminated pine forests and crystalline waters framed by wild, scenic coves make it a small paradise for nature lovers and snorkelers. Recently decreed a protected marine area, most of the area of Punta Licosa is privately-owned, meaning that it is not fully accessible to the public.

Perched on the top of a hill, Castellabate is one of Italy’s most beautiful medieval towns. Its historic centre, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, consists of a labyrinth of small streets, stairways, 18th century Patrician houses, chapels and breathtaking facades including that of the Belvedere of San Costabile.  

Acciaroli is a picturesque fishing village that has now become a sought-after seaside resort. According to hearsay, Ernest Hemingway was so struck by its beauty that he drew inspiration from it for his novel entitled ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. Located just a short distance from Acciaroli is Pioppi, a charming town known as the cradle of the famous Mediterrannean diet, to which a museum is dedicated. Both  Acciaroli and Pollica are the two seaside towns of the commune of Pollica, ideal spots for those in search of an oasis of peace and breathtaking natural scenery

A land of ancient myths and unparalleled beauty, Palinuro is renowned for its extraordinary landscapes and crystal-clear waters. According to legend, its name derives from Aeneas’ unfortunate helmsman who fell overboard, only to be killed by the island’s inhabitants on reaching the shore. Numerous grottoes are scattered along its jagged, rocky coastline. The best-known and most widely visited is the Blue Grotto, so-called due to the unusual plays of light created by the rays of the sun that filter through it, giving the water a deep, rich blue colour. No less evocative are the Silver Grotto, the Monks’ Grotto, where stalactites resembles monks at prayer and the Bone Grotto whose walls are embedded with the bones of humans and animals dating back to the Quaternary period. Make sure to visit the beach of the Arco Naturale.

Most of the area surrounding Cilento is a part of the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park. The Park, which extends over an area of approximately 180,000 hectares, is the second largest national park in Italy. A Unesco World Heritage Site and a MaB (man and Biosphere) reserve, it is characterized by a wealth of lush vegetation and the bio-diversity of its species. Uncontaminated coastlines, rocky outcrops, paths, waterways and mysterious grottoes combine to further enhance the appeal of this area.

The Certosa of  Padula, spread over an area of more than 50,000 square metres, is the largest monastic monument in Southern Italy. Its high altar, featuring mother-of-pearl intarsia and one of the largest cloisters in Europe, is particularly noteworthy. 

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