AMAZING PLACES & HISTORY
More than just the beaches of Cilento
The other parts of this dramatic coastline the Italians kept for themselves [almost]
During your stay with us at Il Rifugio the only challenges we foresee for you is being spoilt for choice. From the splendour and romanticism of the incredible Amalfi Coast, the bustle and history of Naples, the awesome catastrophe of the living museum of Pompeii, the ancient towns of Ercolano and Paestum with their over 2500 years of history to the secluded mountain villages and the breathtaking views and discoveries like the city of Matera - the list is almost endless.
Here are just a few of our favourites:
Much of the area is covered by the Cilento national park - the second largest in Italy - and it boasts 100km of coastline and a wild, mountainous interior sprinkled with historic villages still wedded to a traditional way of life.
This is where ordinary Neapolitans escape to in the summer and is still largely off the tourist radar, granted little more than a passing mention in most guidebooks.
You could spend your days clinging to the coast, swimming in some of the clearest water ever seen, dining at lovely waterfront restaurants and wandering round charming fishing villages, but even those only vaguely interested in history shouldn't miss out on Cilento's impressive historic sites.
For anyone who enjoys more quirky sightseeing, though, we’d recommend to visit in the town of Padula the Joe Petrosino Museum, which is the house where the local hero was born in 1860.
After emigrating to New York as a child, Petrosino became the first Italian officer in the NYPD, and made it his goal to defeat the mafia, but was killed on a trip to Palermo to investigate its links with the Chicago "Black Hand" in 1909.
THE AMALFI COAST
The coast comprises 11,231 hectares between the Gulf of Naples and the Gulf of Salerno. The only land route to the Amalfi Coast is the 40 kilometres (25 mi) long Strada Statale 163 which runs along the coastline from the town of Vietri sul Mare in the east to Positano in the west.
We’d recommend a day trip as it’s many hours, so you may prefer to use one of your complimentary days aboard the yacht Pinelli and see Amalfi and Positano from the sea - no traffic jams there!
CAPRI, POSITANO and AMALFI
From our harbour berth in Agropoli you can see the beautiful island of Capri. We’d recommend a day trip aboard the yacht Pinelli for lunch on Capri and then to leisurely cruise back to port seeing Positano, Amalfi and the coast from the comfort and luxury of our lovely yacht. You’ll make so many wonderful memories!
This ancient wonder (originally called Poseidonia), has some of the best-preserved Greek temples in the world. Situated on the costal edge of the Piana del Sele - a vast plain south of Salerno where the buffalos that produce the region's delicious mozzarella graze - the sudden appearance of these soaring honey-coloured monuments comes as something of a surprise.
Paestum was founded by the Greeks in the 7th century BC and colonised by the Romans in 273 BC; malaria and Saracen raids left the town almost deserted by the 9th century - only to be "rediscovered" amid the thick forest in the 18th century. Writers, poets and artists from Goethe to Shelley flocked here for inspiration. "Inexpressibly grand," concluded Shelley.
When we first stumbled upon Paestum we were dumbstruck as to why this most incredible and almost unique piece of history is not known world wide. We urge you to visit and make your own decision but don’t miss going while you’re here. The city walls and amphitheatre are largely intact, the temples are simply stunning and the paved roads lead to many buildings and shops of which only the base is still visible.
Paestum is approximately 20 minutes from Il Refugio; we highly recommend a visit of the archaeological site and museum.
Further down the coast, the archaeological site of Velia is worth a stop, though these ruins of the Hellenistic town of Elea, founded in 540 BC, are much less intact. It was an important port, home to one of the greatest philosophy schools in the Greek world and a holiday resort for wealthy Romans - Horace being among those who came on the advice of his doctor.
SASSI DI MATERA
Matera is the only place in the world where people can boast to be still living in the same houses of their ancestors of 9,000 years ago.
The Sassi originate from a prehistoric settlement and are suspected to be among the first human settlements in Italy. There is evidence that people were living here as early as the year 7000 BC.
The Sassi are houses dug into the rock itself, and the streets in some parts of the Sassi often run on top of other houses.
In the 1950s, the government of Italy forcefully relocated most of the population of the Sassi to areas of the developing modern city. Riddled with disease, the unhealthy living conditions were considered an affront to the new Italian Republic.
Ironically, Italy’s shame drew curious visitors to the Sassi, especially after the area was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1993. Matera’s fame has since increased, attracting a trickle of inhabitants back into the caves. Today, many buildings in the Sassi are crumbling and abandoned, but a growing number have been restored and transformed into cosy abodes, restaurants and swish cave-hotels.
We recommend a day trip with an overnight stay in one of the incredible ‘cave’ hotels.
The list is endless. However, if you're keen on caves, some of the most stunning examples in Europe can be found in Cilento, up in the north - the vast complex of Grotte di Castelcivita and Grotte dell’Angelo in Pertosa, where you're taken by boat on a subterranean river past strange natural sculptures.
As Campania’s largest city, it’s no surprise that Neapolitan cooking traditions have greatly influenced the specialities that you’ll find across the region.
Peperoncino reigns, fresh seafood is abundant and the pizza is to die for. Campania is also home to the gorgeous Sorrento Peninsula, the Cilento coastline and the Mediterranean island jewels of Capri and Ischia.
Understandably, all manner of fish is the local staple. However, if you venture inland in the provinces of Salerno, Avellino, Benevento and Caserta, the focus changes from mare (the sea) to terra (the earth). A day’s drive in Campania can take you from fresh caught seafood to wild boar hunted in the mountains.
And of course you are holidaying in the heart of Buffalo Mozzarella country.
Unquestionably the best steaks this side of New York with service to match its cuisine
YOU CAN'T FALL IN LOVE WITH ITALY
IF YOU CAN'T FALL IN LOVE WITH FOOD
Cilento - The garden of Italy
Every inhabitant of every single region of Italy will lay claim to having the best food of Italy, and who could argue with them! However they all tend to forget that Cilento is renowned as the ‘garden of Italy”.
Jane Dunford - the Observer Travel journalist described a first visit to Santa Maria Di Castellabate [15 minutes from Il Rifugio] thus :
“As I sit outside Café Gioia and ask the waitress for the orange-coloured aperitivo that everyone seems to be drinking I am introduced to "spritz", a delicious concoction of Aperol and prosecco. As the sun melts into the sea, I move next door to Perbacco restaurant and feast on fried fresh anchovies with bread, olives and tomatoes (a Cilento special) and linguine with baby squid and broad beans”.
So, along our coast you'll discover a mix of sandy bays, rocky coves and imposing cliffs, dotted with fishing villages and tiny holiday resorts. Acciaroli was a favorite of Hemingway, who came here in 1952 after he'd finished writing "The Old Man and the Sea", spending hours in the cafe-bars along the seaside promenade.
It’s one of the regions most famous products and everywhere you will see the roadside sign “Caseificio” or dairy, daily selling their freshly made own-farm mozzarella and of course its many many derivatives - try Scamorza!
Probably one of the oldest established mozzarella farms is close to Il Rifugio is Tenuta Vannulo; not only can you witness the famous cheeses being made, but also you can get up close and personal with the buffaloes that gave their milk to make it, very often see the “maternity” ward with new born calves and best of all dine in the fabulous restaurant or indulge in their gelateria, - yes buffalo ice cream!
Tenuta Vannulo is just 15 minutes from Il Rifugio and don’t have more than 2 scoops!
‘What…?‘ Well it is claimed that the oldest pizzeria [the Antica Pizzeria Via Port’Alba, founded in 1738 as seller of street food, became a real pizzeria in 1830. Vincenzo Luciano is the 5th generation to run the business] is in the heart of the old quarter of Naples so yes we’re famous for pretty well a global dish, but you haven’t tasted pizza until you taste Cilentan pizza. Made from an ancient recipe dating back to Roman times, using four different flours that, after carefully and lovingly mixed together, will produce the thinnest, lightest pizza you will ever eat. The great news is you don’t have to travel to Naples to eat it - no more than 750 metres from Il Rifugio up the hill towards Ogliastro Cilento is “La Civetta” a restaurant owned and run by Alfonsina and her son, the adorable Emiliano. We give this the highest possible recommendation for its food hospitality and million dollar views across the bay of Salerno. Try Francesco’s [he’s the Pizza chef] Aphrodite pizza.
Our advice is to drive to the restaurant as it’s a steep hill and you’ll be too full to walk back.
Pasta, Pasta, Pasta
It is estimated that there are approximately 350 different types of pasta - and about four times that many names for them! This is due to the fact that some types may have different names and often names vary according to the region or area.
Pasta shapes are specifically designed to hold the sauce in the best way possible. Many regions have created their own pasta shapes: for example, bigoli (thick, noodle-like spaghetti) are from Veneto; strozzapreti (meaning, ‘priest strangler’) are from Emilia-Romagna; trofie (perfect with pesto) are from Liguria, and orecchiette (or, ‘little ears’) are from Puglia. Cavatielli is a Cilentan favourite.
Maybe its because of the endless miles of coastline, maybe its because of the azure blue clean seas or maybe its because of all of those Nonnas and ““cucina povera”” that has provided the most varied and incredibly fresh and delectable seafood dishes in all of Italy. From their famous spaghetti vongole, to the weird exotic local onion fish - a long thin ribbon of tasty joy - the number of places to enjoy great seafood is endless, our two local favourites ? Well again La Civetta and over looking Agropoli Marina “Il Cormorano” just great food and great service abound all over Cilento.
Recommend : light lunch to leave room for a hedonistic dinner feast.
Too much to choose from and just cannot decide......there’s always other choices - in fact may we suggest just two ?
#1 DIY - with five fresh [wet] fishmongers in Agropoli alone plus nearly every supermarket also having a well stocked super fresh wet fish counter and our state-of-the-art-outside-kitchen-cum-BBQ the only thing stopping you having a home cooked feast is imagination.
#2 Alfonsina Falcone - remember us mentioning her ? She’s the owner and cook of La Civetta, and because they are such nice people and we have emptied their prosecco cellar on too many occasions, with a little bit of planning Alfonsina will bring herself and her wonderful cooking skills to Il Rifugio and cook for you.
You may just return home a few hundred grams more than when you arrived at Il Rifugio, but it’s well worth the excessive weight when you’re back home.
Oh, and if there’s any left please take a complimentary bottle of our own produced wine and Olive oil, and the dried figs too!