Cilento Coast in National Park, instituted in 1991 it is second biggest Italian park, inscribed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The Cilento countryside also contains many other characteristic villages perched on terraced hillsides which are a delight to explore.
The Cilento's pearl is Castellabate, medieval hilltop village erected a thousand years ago as a stronghold against the Saracens. Castellabate,
offering spectacular panoramic views of the coastline of the Gulf of Salerno and Capri. Above Castellabate there is San Marco, picturesque
fishing village, it has a pretty harbour which is built on a more ancient Greek harbour still visible today. The most famous sites on the
waterfront of Cilento are Paestum, Pertosa, Castelcivita, Castellabate, Punta Licosa, Acciaroli,
Pioppi, Velia and Palinuro.
In just 30 minutes from San Marco you can visit Paestum, one of the most important archaeological centres in the whole of Italy is an ancient
Greek and later Roman city. Paestum is famous for its Greek temples, generally recognized as being the best preserved Doric temples in the world,
even better preserved than those in Greece. Paestum’s Temple of Hera – also called the Temple of Poseidon or of Neptune ( the Roman Poseidon )
– is one of the oldest, best preserved and most beautiful Doric temples still in existence today. The Basilica of Hera, next to the Temple of
Poseidon, and the Temple of Ceres, on the southern end of the site, are two other wonderful examples of Greek Doric architecture.
For those with an interest in the ancient history of the area, we would recommend a visit to the Paestum Museum, near the Temples.
It has a collection that includes materials from the Greek period up to Roman times; c400BC painted tombs and the famous diver’s tomb
( “ Tomba del Tuffatore “ ) dating back to c500BC. This is the only c500BC painted tomb found in Paestum, and one of only a few examples
of archaic and classic Greek painting where a diver symbolises mortality in passing from life to death.
In just 40 minutes from San Marco you can visit Velia, is known for its school of Greek philosophers, its medieval castle, 5th century BC
Greek temple and amphitheatre, once popular with wealthy Romans. Of particular historical and architectural value are “ La Porta Rosa “
( the Pink Door ) datable to the 4th Century BC, a clear indication that the Greeks had already discovered the uses of the arch, and that
it was not an Etruscan or Roman invention. The perfection of La Porta Rosa and the harmony of its dimensions are not accidental : just think
that the light of the arch exactly registers two circumferences one over the other having a diameter the width of the total arch.
In just one hour and half from San Marco to get to the Caves of Pertosa and Castelcivita known as far back as to be referred to by Seneca, have
long galleries with extraordinary stalactites and stalagmites of different shapes and colours. The Grottoes are characterized by several caves
( or galleries ) rich in stalactites & stalagmites, wells, bottlenecks, chasing and crossing tunnels that fall into scary chasms where the
nightmarish and the beautiful are mixed together creating a magic panorama, a result iof the effect made by underground water on the carbonated
rocks over time. The extraordinary formation of the stalactites and stalagmites has given names to some of the galleries – for example the
Crocodile Hall, the Lemon Room and the Cathedral.
In just one hour and half from San Marco you can visit Palinuro, as Virgil recounts in his Aeneid, Palinuro was Aeneas’ helmsman in the
long escape from conquered Troy. According to legend, during this long trip to Italy, the Sea God Neptune permitted a safe passage to the
fleeing Trojan population a safe trip on the condition one of them was sacrificed. It was Palinuro who paid for the safety of his people.
Neptune in fact sent for Morpheus, the God of sleep, who tried to prevail upon Palinuro to leave the rudder. Palinuro struggled with all
his strength but finally succumbed to Morpheus who, wetting Palinuro with River Lete water, made him fall asleep and than threw him into
the sea in front of the promontory that was thereafter called Capo Palinuro.
Today, Capo Palinuro is a chalky rock pushed out into the sea.
Its overhanging rock faces continue underground with a depth of up to 45/50 meters. The calcareous spur of that cliff is full of grottoes due
to the erosion caused by waves over time : some of them are among the most evocative of the Cilento coast, such as those of the Blue Grotto,
the Ribalto, and the Buon Dormire.
One of the best known is the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra), that is reachable only by sea as a lot of
the other grottoes in our opinion it is as beautiful as its sister grotto in Capri even if less well known. The rays of light that filter into
its grotto enlighten its stalactites with beautiful turquoise blue rays, especially at noon and sunset.
Blue Grotto, Capri