The Cilento Coast will surprise you with its serene, hidden magic. Unlike its neighbor, the Amalfi Coast, this Southern region of seaside Italy rarely gets crowded with tourists. Instead of Amalfi’s glittering villages, you’ll find beautiful, natural beaches and rustic towns along this stretch of the Campania coast.
When you visit the Cilento Coast, you’ll experience the authentic summer vacation that many Italians enjoy each year: eating delicious fresh seafood, exploring gorgeous ocean bluffs, and visiting ancient Greek historical sites.
Where to Stay in Cilento
How to get to Cilento Coast
Before we dive in on the best things to do in Cilento we need to get there. There are several ways on how to get to Cilento. By train from Naples to Agropoli or Paestum for more information check trenitalia. By bus with BusItalia Campania with regular buses from Salerno and Paestum to many coastal villages like Santa Maria di Castellabate, Acciaroli, San Marco di Castellabate. By car from Salerno by following the SS 18 Tirrenia Inferiore traveling time about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
The Cilento Landscape
As you travel into the beautiful and diverse Cilento region, you’ll notice its many unique landscapes of seaside cliffs, sandy beaches, mountains, and plains. The Sele plain, a flat vista home to Agropoli, is a beautiful place to explore Greek archaeological ruins like Paestum.
Turn South to the coastal city of Castellabate, and you’ll find a hilly landscape with castles dotting the cliffside. Moving into the mainland, you can begin to explore the Cilento’s unique valleys and the historical sites preserved within.
Of course, much of the draw for visiting the Cilento is its beautiful blue waters. Famous bays, like the Cala Bianca and Baia del Buondormire, offer a respite from the crowds with their quiet layout. Finally, the Blue Grotto of Marine di Capo Palinuro will shock you with its jewel-colored waters.
If you haven’t heard of the ancient Greek ruins at Paestum, you’re in for a treat. Back in the sixth century B.C., the city was known as Poseidonia, and you could compare its untouched beauty to Pompeii. You’ll find ancient temples built to honor Greek gods, including Athena, Neptune, and Hera.
The Cilento is also home to a lesser-known archaeological treasure: the ruins of Velia. Back in 500 B.C., the Greeks built this three-mile walled city and named it Hyele. Be sure not to miss the medieval tower that stands at the highest point of the site, and follow it with a stroll through the two museums you’ll find within the walls.
Towns to Visit in the Cilento
Agropoli is the largest town on the Cilento. Here, you can enjoy Italian cuisine with an expansive ocean view. Make sure you wander through the town’s many 16th and 17th-century churches to enjoy their beautiful Byzantine style. Agropoli sits close to several other major coastal hubs. Just fifteen minutes South, you can leave the flat plains and reach the nearest hill town, Castellabate.
If you’re making the hike to Castellabate, get ready to explore the village’s medieval core and quaint architecture. Dine your way through the many cafes that make up the bustling social scene on its castle-topped hills.
This town is a famous shooting location for the film “Benvenuti al Sud” so you may recognize some of the cinematic ocean views as you explore. You can even stay in the historic Palazzo Belmonte castle, whose owners have lived in Italy for over 1000 years.
A more down-tempo option is the fishing village of Acciaroli. Here, you can relax just like Ernest Hemingway famously did on his vacations between writing novels. A quiet seaside town, Acciaroli is known for its high population of elders with remarkably long lifespans.
You’ll encounter many centenarians on your walks through the pleasant streets. Try some of Acciaroli’s fresh-caught dishes, seasoned with locally grown rosemary, to get a taste of the life-extending Mediterranean diet.
Pioppi is an excellent next stop on your journey through the Cilento. It’s another charming seaside village, but the unique local culture will keep you interested throughout your stay. Famous physiologist Ancel Keys visited Pioppi to study the Mediterranean diet, which many researchers believe is why so many Cilento residents live to be over 100 years old.
Take a tour through the two museums at the core of Pioppi’s villa to learn about Keys and his work in the village. Afterward, don’t miss the Museo Vivo del Mare, or “living museum of the sea.” Here, you can see gorgeous architecture along with some of the most beautiful local fish of the Cilento coast.
Finish up your visit at the Pioppi cafe, where you can finish off your Mediterannean meal with a spin on the restaurant’s stationary bikes.
Last but not least, don’t miss Pollica on your tour of the best Cilento towns. This mountain town offers a quaint rest point on your journey down the coast. Here, you’ll enjoy some of the most delicious artisan products produced by Cilento mountain dwellers. Make sure you taste the buffalo mozzarella!
When to Visit The Cilento
Many Italians visit the Cilento Coast during the peak of the summer. While the region’s tourist activity is modest compared to other Italian hotspots, many restaurants and cultural centers still operate on a seasonal schedule. Therefore, if you visit between April and September, you’ll get the most out of your trip.
Of course, Cilento is beautiful all year round, especially if you enjoy milder weather. However, traveling in the off-season means that you’ll find that many restaurants, hotels and other activities are closed, just something to keep in mind.
Here are some of the best beaches in Cilento:
- Cala Bianca – This is a beautiful white sand beach with crystal clear waters. It’s a popular spot for snorkeling and swimmign
- Marina di Camerota – This long sandy beach is perfect for families and offers a range of activities, including water sports and beach volleyball.
- Spiaggia del Buondormire – This quiet and peaceful beach is perfect for those who want to escape the crowds. It’s a great spot for swimming and sunbathing.
- Punta degli Infreschi – This rugged beach is popular with hikers and nature lovers. It’s located in a protected nature reserve and offers stunning views of the surrounding coastline.
- Cala d’Arconte – This beach is located near the ancient ruins of Velia and is known for its clear blue waters and golden sand.
- Spiaggia della Marinella – This small beach is perfect for those who want to relax and soak up the sun. It’s surrounded by lush vegetation and offers stunning views of the sea.
- Baia del Buon Dormire – This small bay is surrounded by rugged cliffs and is only accessible by boat. It’s a popular spot for swimming and snorkeling.
- Spiaggia dell’Arco Naturale – This beach is located near the famous natural arch and offers stunning views of the surrounding cliffs and sea.
The Cilento Coast offers a glimpse into Italy’s past: before millions of tourists descended on more popular coastal areas, like Amalfi, there was a more rustic way of life. When you visit Cilento, you’ll understand why so many Italians visit this region for a breath of fresh air and relaxation.
Plus, if you eat enough of the delicious food that this amazing reagion offer, you may unlock the secret to one of the most extended lifespans on earth. There are few places on the globe where you can get such an intimate, authentic look at the small-town way of life on this magical coastline.
With families in Cilento who can trace their ancestors back 1000 years, it’s no wonder that so much of the region’s history and culture remain preserved. If you’re ready to walk through an ancient Greek temple and finish off the day with an amazing freash organic meal, the Cilento coast is your next destination.
We hope that our simple step by step guide will help you to plan your visit to one of the most underrated parts of Italy, the Cilento Coast. For more free advice on the best places to visit in Italy check our articles here.