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Peter Duncan chills on the Cilento Coast

Peter Duncan chills on the Cilento Coast Uncategorized The Natural Adventure

Our co-founder and one of life’s adventurers, Peter Duncan, shares tips, tales and trails from his walking holiday along the Cilento Coast in Italy. From the temples at Paestum to secret coves on the Tyrrhenian Sea, he was delighted to explore somewhere new. And somewhere wonderfully quiet too. 

What made you choose the Cilento Coast for a walking holiday? 

Well, I like walking when it’s a bit quiet and the nearby Amalfi Coast can start to get a bit crowded at this time of year, so this looked like an interesting alternative. I travelled with my lovely wife, Annie and we also wanted to visit Naples, which is not too far away. Also, it looked like fairly pristine stuff, and you also get to see the amazing Temples of Paestum, so it had a lot going for it. 

Santa Maria di Castellabate, where Peter and Annie spent two nights.

You travelled in April – was this a good time to walk here? 

It was very early in the season and it was certainly quiet. Some might say deserted, but that didn’t worry us. We actually met up with a Canadian family who were also travelling with The Natural Adventure at one of our hotels and they were loving it. But there weren’t many tourists here at all really. The Italians come to this area in particular in July and August, and it does have a very real Italian feel about it. 

Did you get much rain?

We did get caught in the rain one day and got totally drenched when we were on our walk, and so we decided to finish the journey in a cab. We just called ahead to the hotel, where they had already received our bags, and they sent a cab out to get us, which was very straightforward. You just drop a pin on a map and send it to them, which is clever. I hadn’t done that before and I put it right in the middle of the sea first time! So, yes, you can expect a bit of rain, but we also had some lovely sunny days. 

Expect rain in April on the Cilento Coast, but Peter and Annie had plenty of sunshine too.

How did you travel there?

I actually decided to go from London Heathrow to Naples with Lufthansa. I booked it through a website called My Trip. We had to change in Munich onto another flight, which added an hour or two onto our journey, but it was really efficient. And we didn’t have any of those luggage restrictions that you get with some budget airlines. It was all pretty slick really.  

How was your first night and day? It often sets the tone for a holiday.

The first night was amazing because we had an incredible meal at the hotel, with some fantastic local wine. And then the next morning we were able to walk straight from the hotel to the Greek temples at Paestum, which were fantastic. 

Tell us more about the temples at Paestum. Did you know about the site before? 

No I didn’t know about it, and it feels as if it’s totally unknown really. They really are fantastic. There’s a huge one and then two other separate ones, plus the village all around them. All laid out beautifully with lots of clear information about each building as well as lots of interesting things about the hedonistic lifestyles Greeks and the Romans. It was brilliantly done. And it really was great going there on the first day because you just think ‘wow, look at this!’. It’s a proper place to visit and unknown to me and probably to lots of other people. It’s like Rome in the middle of nowhere! 

Peter at Paestum. The place on this trip that he says will stay in his memory forever.

Another interesting thing about the area around Paestum is that this is the point at which the Allied Forces had their landing point, 80 years ago this coming September [2023]. Over 400 British and American ships came in here and they then continued on land up the Italian coast to take Naples away from the Germans. So, for those interested in that period of history, it’s fascinating. Like the D-Day landings, but in Italy. 

And how was the walking? 

Well, it’s just lovely walking along the coast but we also loved the days when you were more inland, walking through small villages and alongside rivers. We walked about 15 or 16km every day and felt like we were getting pretty fit throughout the nine days.  

Were there any of the hotels that stood out for you? 

Well they were all lovely, but I particularly liked the Antico Convento in the fortified village of Rocca Cilento, where we stayed on the second and third nights. It’s a former convent run by Paolo and his wife, Concetta. They are very much part of the community and, for example, they organised getting walking route signs up locally, which are lovely yellow signs. They made it very clear where to go, if you aren’t using GPS, although he did provide us with good maps as well. We had a beautiful circular route from there actually, past all these medieval water mills, and then we came back to a lovely log fire and dinner. So this really was a lovely place. 

We also enjoyed our nights in San Marco di Castellabate and, in particular, the restaurant that we went to there, called Nautilus, run by two young brothers. 

Paulo at L’Antico Convento.

How was our representative on the ground?

He was excellent. His name is also Peter, a very good Dutch guy. He’s very sharp, and he’s very into making the area accessible. His notes were brilliant, and we had dinner with him at our second hotel, and he also joined us on part of our walk on the third day, so that was great.  

Did you do any swimming?

Yes I did, even though it was early in the season. We particularly enjoyed the coastal walks around Palinuro, where we also spent a couple of nights. As well as a fantastic headland walk, we took a walk to some little secret bays which were perfect for swimming in. I couldn’t really name them, but you can always tell by the map. When there’s a raised bit of ground you know, that’s a cliff and then when that disappears on the map, you know there’s a way down to the sea. 

A descent into Palinuro, one of Peter’s favourite spots on the coastal walks.

How was the walking terrain? 

It was fine really, not too difficult. One of the interesting things about our coastal walks was the towers that are scattered along the coast. They date back to when Saracen hordes invaded the coastal villages, and these towers were used as beacons to send warning signals up along the coast, even as far as Naples, that they were on the way. It’s also why so many of the villages were formed on the hilltops, so that they could get away from the dangers of invading Saracens. 

Is there a smell that you will keep as a sense memory of your walks along the Cilento? 

Oh that’s interesting. Yes, there is. Across the whole area, the yellow Euphorbia was in bloom and it had a lovely sweet smell that accompanied us on all our walks. 

The sweet aroma of Euphorbia filled the air on the Cilento Coast.

Had you packed the right gear? 

Yes, I think so. We weren’t exactly travelling light but then you don’t have to when you are having your bags transferred for you. We had some jumpers and wet weather gear, and we brought two pairs of walking shoes in case one got wet. 

What would be your main tips for someone thinking of doing this walking holiday?

I would say take your time to find somewhere nice to eat. Sometimes you might have your one big meal in the evening but you can also have it in the middle of the day, which we did. Usually a late lunch, when you are close to your base for the night. So, don’t be manically regimented about the walks and allow yourself to be distracted by lovely restaurants or swimming spots.

Peter enjoying his hikes by the blue sea (aka Blue Peter).

I also highly recommend extending your time there and going to Naples for a couple of nights. Especially because you feel pretty fit by the end of the trip and you need that in Naples! When we walked up to the top of the hill to Castel Sant’Elmo we were overtaking everyone. And of course Naples was a lot more crowded than the coast that we had just spent nine days walking along. But it’s a great city really. It’s so anarchic in many ways and so, if you like that, I highly recommend it.

And if you close your eyes and try to recall one favourite image from the trip, what would it be?

I think it would be the temples actually. They were just amazing. 

Find out more about this nine day holidays walking on the Cilento Coast, as well as our collection of other holidays on the Cilento and the Amalfi. You may also enjoy our blog on Best coastal walking tours.