Benvenuti al Sud: A Weekend in Cilento, Italy
Welcome to the South of Italy. You’ve heard of the Amalfi coast and you’ve heard of Naples… but have you heard of Cilento?
Benvenuti al Sud: Introducing Cilento
Cilento is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the province of Salerno (in the region of Campania). Cilento has crystal clear waters on the Tyrrhenian sea, Greek ruins, protected national parks and beautiful seaside towns like Castellabate. So then – why is Cilento little known globally?
For one, Cilento is just south of well-known and popular holiday spots, Capri and the Amalfi coast. But Cilento is slowly receiving the attention it deserves. In 2010, the town of Castellabate (and Santa Maria di Castellabate) in Cilento was the setting for the well-loved Italian comedy, Benvenuti al Sud. If you haven’t heard of/watched the movie yet, I insist you do (with subtitles, of course!) As a result, the small town and surrounding areas have been receiving more tourists than ever.
I visited and stayed in Cilento (in the city of Agropoli) with my father in the fall for 4 days, a long weekend. While in Cilento, we toured the area and fell in love with the region. Here’s why you need to add Cilento to your Italian bucket list and how to do it.
How to: A Long Weekend in Cilento
Transportation: Rent a Car (or Vespa!)
First, it’s important to note that when visiting the South of Italy, it’s best (or almost necessary) to rent a vehicle. Getting around the South isn’t as easy as the North, in terms of public transportation. Also, since Cilento is a geographical region in Campania, it encompasses different cities, towns and sites that you’ll want to travel to and explore. And like the famous Amalfi coast, Cilento’s roads are tight and winding (i.e. not pedestrian friendly).
What to Visit
The region is home to many important sites worth visiting, including:
Castellabate and Santa Maria di Castellabate
As I mentioned earlier, the film Benvenuti al Sud was set in Castellabate. Castellabate offers sweeping views (being 289 metres above sea level) of the Tyrrhenian sea and of the seaside town, Santa Maria di Castellabate. A great way to experience the two towns is from top to bottom. Start by driving up to the top (Castellabate) and enjoy the panoramic views at Belvedere San Costabile. Then, drive down to Santa Maria and watch the sun set over the sea (Santa Maria beach). Once the sun sets, enjoy the lively town for an evening passeggiata and some shopping on the main street, Corso Senatore Andrea Matarazzo.
Explore Agropoli from the main square, Piazza V. Veneto, to the historic centre. Take Via Patella up to Agropoli’s old centre – follow the stairs up to the entrance at Chiesa Santa Maria di Costantinopoli. From there, explore the historic town; its tight, cobble-stoned sidewalks and the 6th century castle, Angevin-Aragonese. Make time to walk along Lungomare San Marco (a short, 5-minute drive from the historic centre). During warmer months, you can enjoy the beach at the Lungomare.
Paestum is a protected (UNESCO) ancient town of Magna Graecia (modern Southern Italy), with 3 ancient and well-preserved Greek temples. The temples and site (the city walls, amphitheatre, paved roads…) are worth visiting and pondering over (to think that ancient Greeks lived, ate and slept here…). Paestum is a short drive (give or take 10 minutes) from Agropoli. Besides the archaeological site and its adjacent museum there isn’t much to do or see – except to have an espresso across the street from an ancient Greek temple 😉
Photo by Irene Grassi via Creative Commons
Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park
The National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Greek, Etruscan and Lucanian history. The park is home to rare and unique flora and fauna, archaeological sites (Paestum), clear waters and sandy beaches (Trentova Beach, Case del Conte).
There is of course more to do and see while in Cilento, but with a long weekend, you’ll have plenty to explore and learn at these 4 spots. Also, we mustn’t forget the experience of just being where you are, in this case, in Cilento. Benvenuti al Sud!
Over to you – have you heard of Cilento?
What have you discovered in the South of Italy?