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Hidden Gems
Cycling the Coast and Mountains of Cilento

Cycling the Cilento Coast and Mountains

Overview

The region of Campania in southern Italy is primarily known for its beautiful Amalfi Coast and the Sorrento Peninsula. But Campania’s real secret is located south of Salerno and the marvellous Greek temples of Paestum. Founded in 1991, the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park is the second-largest park in Italy. It includes a significant part of the geographical regions of Cilento and Vallo di Diano, in the Province of Salerno (Campania).

This tour brings you all along the coast from Paestum to the Gulf of Policastro and takes in some bits of the authentic rural Cilento, full of olive groves and ancient villages. The inland of Cilento will bring you back in time, and you will encounter a few other tourists along your way. You will cycle along world-famous cultural sites, through pristine natural areas, and dreamy coastal scenery. This is a moderate tour suitable for all those who have some experience with bicycle touring and are in a good physical shape. On some of the inland stretches, you may encounter some steeper climbs. Average cycling time for the day is approx 5-6 hours.

Highlights

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival – Paestum (Capaccio)

After you arrive at Capaccio, you will pick up your rental bike. The short trip to your hotel takes you along the temples and city walls of Ancient Greek Paestum. In case you have arrived early you can visit the site immediately, leaving more time for a longer trip tomorrow or you may take your bikes down to the beach for a quick dip before turning in and getting settled in the hotel immediately near the archaeological site. Your luggage will be transported for you to the hotel.

  • Cycling for the day: 6.5 km, approx 0.5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Villa Rita or similar
  • Included meals: Dinner

Day 2: Over the plain and through the foothills of Paestum I 25-33-65 km

Your first cycling stage takes you on a ride through the ancient territory of Paestum. You may opt for a relaxed ride through the plain, or a longer and harder one taking you to some nice medieval hamlets in the foothills and offering amazing views. Before taking off, you can visit the temples and the museum of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Paestum and its world-famous Doric temples. Your cycling trip will take you through the plain to the Sele river and along the ‘Capo di Fiume’ karstic springs to the villages of Giugnano and Cicerale (optional) and back down again to your hotel. Dinner is on the premises of our hotel tonight. After dinner, we can opt to make another short stroll through the temples and perhaps grab a gelato.

  • Cycling for the day: 25/33/65 km, between 3 and 6 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Villa Rita or similar
  • Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3: From Paestum to San Marco di Castellabate I 40 km

Today you will leave the Paestum plain to get the first taste of the real Cilento. The trip takes you on quiet roads through fragrant Mediterranean maquis and shady olive groves up into the coastal hills above the town of Agropoli along some dreamy medieval hamlets and down again to the coastal village of San Marco di Castellabate. After arriving at your hotel and settling in, you can either cycle or walk the short way along the coast to the wonderful tiny islet of Leucosia, situated in the marine reserve of Punta Licosa, or take a stroll through the centre of town for a pre-dinner aperitif at one of the local bars.

  • Cycling for the day: 40 km, approx 4 hours
  • Accommodation: Agriturismo in San Marco di Castellabate
  • Included meals: Breakfast

Day 4: Around Mount Stella: Round trip from San Marco di Castellabate I 65 km

Today’s trip starts with a long and winding climb up to the beautifully located town of Castellabate, once a fortified stronghold offering refuge to the local peasants. Here you can take your time to rest and visit the medieval castle from which you enjoy a splendid view of the coastal hamlets of San Marco and Santa Maria. You then climb further up to Perdifumo and Mercato Cilento after which starts your circumnavigation of Mount Stella. Along your route, your eyes reach as far as the Amalfi Coast and Capri, while on clear days it may be even possible to see all the way to Sicily. During this part of your trip, you will pass through the exquisite medieval hamlets of Celso, Galdo, Stella Cilento, San Mauro and Rocca Cilento. At the end of the day, you have the choice of turning back again to San Marco by Castellabate or opt for a slightly longer route that takes you down to the fishermen’s village of Agnone and then back to San Marco along the coast.

  • Cycling for the day: 65 km, approx 6 hours
  • Accommodation: Agriturismo in San Marco di Castellabate
  • Included meals: Breakfast

Day 5: From San Marco di Castellabate to Pisciotta I 66 km

After leaving San Marco you will head south on the coastal road towards the Alento river plain. A short climb takes you up through Mediterranean maquis and pine woods to the ‘Ripe Rosse’ or Red Rocks. You then whizz down to the coastal hamlet of Acciaroli, where back in 1952 Ernest Hemingway spent some holidays and, some say was inspired to write ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. Slightly further along the coast, you pass through the fishing village of Pioppi, another delightful little town, where you will find a small Sea Life Museum dedicated to the local marine fauna and flora. The coastal road then takes you to Casalvelino Marina, and through the plain of the Alento River to the Greek and Roman site of Velia, home to the philosophers Zenon and Parmenides, and cradle of one of Europe’s most ancient schools of medicine. From Velia, you’ll have a last steep climb to go: up to the old village of Ascea, from where you’ll follow a stunning coastal route to the hilltop village of Pisciotta, one of the best-preserved medieval villages of the area, where you settle for the night.

  • Cycling for the day: 66 km, approx 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel in Pisciotta
  • Included meals: Breakfast

Day 6: Round trip from Pisciotta: Ceraso, Santa Barbara and Rodioscea I 46 km

During today’s roundtrip, you will discover the largely unspoilt and often rough landscape between Ceraso, Pisciotta and Ascea. Few tourists ever set foot here, even during the busy summer season, and you are certain to have the quiet roads and peaceful villages all to yourself. From Pisciotta, you return in a northern direction, first to Ascea and then down in the direction of Velia. If you didn’t visit the archaeological site the day before now is the time to explore it. Amongst its remains, one finds the celebrated ‘Porta Rosa’, one of the first examples of the use of the vault in Greek architecture. Other monuments worth exploring are the port, the Greek and Roman baths and the agora. The town’s acropolis in medieval times has been reused as a local stronghold and preserves a magnificent medieval bastion. From Velia, you will then head inland to the medieval hamlet of Ceraso with its characteristic ‘palazzi’. After visiting Ceraso you continue through shady oak and chestnut forests to the tiny, wonderfully located villages of Santa Barbara, Mandia and Rodio high above the Cilento coast. From Rodio you start descending back towards the coast, passing through groves of the enormous local olive trees, with views reaching from Monte Stella to the north and Capo Palinuro to the south. If you still feel fit you might go for a short extra loop to Marina di Pisciotta (and back up); otherwise, you can ride directly back to Pisciotta and enjoy in drink in the village.

  • Cycling for the day: 46 km, approx 4 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel in Pisciotta
  • Included meals: Breakfast

Day 7: From Pisciotta along Palinuro to Marina di Camerota I 55 km

Today is a relatively easy day, which will bring you along the panoramic coastal road to the southern part of the Cilento. The first few km. are like a warm-up ride with a gentle downhill all the way to the mythical headland of Capo Palinuro. This promontory, named after one of the helmsmen of the mythical hero Aeneas, is one of the most famous spots in the Cilento National Park. Its unique topography, made up of dazzlingly high rock cliffs full of sea grottos, amongst which is the stunning ‘Grotta Azzurra’, makes for a wonderful sight. You can cycle all the way through the village of Palinuro – make a scenic loop over the top of the cape and stop at the tiny port. Those who feel like it can take a short boat tour of the cape here, visiting the caves. Or you can opt to have a drink or go for a swim at the beautiful small beach. Then you’ll cycle eastwards along the southern coast of the Cilento National Park. Upon arrival in the lovely coastal town of Marina di Camerota, you can have a drink at the harbour and then settle in your hotel. At night you can go out for dinner in one of the nice fish restaurants.

  • Cycling for the day: 55 km, approx 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel in Marina di Camerota
  • Included meals: Breakfast

Day 8: Marina di Camerota and Monte Bulgheria roundtrip I 70 km

After an early breakfast, you can start your cycling day with a short flat stretch along the coast, but then you will have to start climbing. During this very scenic climb, you’ll enjoy an unparalleled view of one of the most unspoilt stretches of coastline in southern Italy, the ‘Costa degli Infreschi’. You pass through the little hamlet of Lentiscosa and continue to the amazingly located village of San Giovanni a Piro, beautifully located with spectacular views of the Gulf of Policastro on the one side and the impressive sheer cliffs of the mountain on the other. Here you can have lunch, either a picnic at one of the most stunning places you’ve ever been to, or in a cosy little restaurant. Then you continue the tour all around the impressive Mt. Bulgheria. First with a short downhill section, and then a flatter one through the villages of Bosco and Acquavena, keeping the impressive limestone crags of Monte Bulgheria to your left. After reaching the valley of the Mingardo River, you can continue for a short visit to the charming village of Roccagloriosa, nestled on a rocky hill high above the valley floor. After a stroll and perhaps a drink in the village square, you then continue downhill, towards the entrance of the impressive Mingardo canyon, dominated by the abandoned medieval village of San Severino. Through the Mingardo canyon, you’ll return to the coast and then cycle back the coastal route to your hotel. For those who still have some energy, there is the option to take one of the most scenic roads of the area, a challenging climb up to Lentiscosa.

  • Cycling for the day: 70 km, approx 6 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel in Marina di Camerota
  • Included meals: Breakfast

Day 9: End of the Tour

The tour ends in Marina di Camerota after breakfast today. A short transfer can bring you to the local train station, from where you can reach Salerno and Naples easily.  A taxi transfer to other destinations can be arranged on request.

What to Expect

Accommodation

All nights are spent in beautiful, welcoming farmhouses (agriturismo*), or in small, characteristic 3-star hotels. All rooms have en-suite facilities. Some accommodations have a swimming pool.

Click to view default hotels

Nights 1 & 2: The first two nights are spent in Hotel Villa Rita, a perfectly located 3-star hotel, just outside the archaeological area of Paestum, at walking distance of the Greek temples. The hotel has its own park, with swimming pool.

Nights 3 & 4: These nights are spent in San Marco di Castellabate, either in Hotel Antonietta, just a few steps from the shore, or in a great agriturismo.

Nights 5 & 6: The next two nights you stay in Hotel Marulivo, located in the historical heart of Pisciotta, with stunning views on the Cilento Coast. At night you’ll eat in one of the nice restaurants in the village.

Night 7 & 8: The last two nights you’ll stay in La Casa di Paolo, a nice hotel in the coastal village of Marina di Camerota, a charming little town with a few beautiful beaches to relax at the end of your tour.

*What is an agriturismo? A combination of the words for “agriculture” and “tourism” in ItalianIt is a farm-stay, but it’s also much, much more. Typically, an agriturismo is an independently-owned farm that the owners have decided to use partially for accommodation purposes, in a way similar to English or American bed and breakfasts. One of the best parts of staying in a traditional agriturismo? The food. An Italian agriturismo will usually serve guests food that was prepared from raw materials – vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat, and often wine and olive oil – produced on the farm or from other local merchants.

**Please note that the listed hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

All accommodations are on a B&B basis. Evening meals are included only on day 1 and 2 (as listed in itinerary), and for the rest of the trip, you are free to choose from the wide choice of restaurants in the area. Your accommodation operator can give you good tips. On some occasions, you can also choose to eat at the premises of the hotel. No picnic lunches are included in the tour price, but these can be prepared for you by the accommodation holders, or products for picnics can be purchased in the villages where you’ll be staying. On some days you have the option of having your lunch in a restaurant along the way.

Bikes

For the guests that would like to rent a bike for this tour, we normally supply good quality 24 gear aluminium trekking bicycles (such as GIANT Roam and FRW Pearth). The bicycles come equipped with rear luggage carrier and bags, cycle computer, bicycle lock and repair kit for flats.  They are available in several different sizes (please indicate the size you need – or contact us directly for more information). All bikes are completely checked before each tour. On request, we can provide helmets.

Difficulty & terrain

The daily rides are mostly moderate with several more challenging climbs, only a few of which are really strenuous. All roads are well paved and mostly quiet with little traffic except for some stretches near Paestum during the first two and the last day. Extensions or shortcuts are possible on some days. Some experience with bicycle touring and a good general physical condition will certainly make your travel experience more enjoyable. You should be able to cycle for several hours a day, also in hot and dry weather conditions (read more about difficulty grades). Upon arrival, we will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to go

This trip is available from the beginning of April until the end of October. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date in the season. Late spring, the whole summer and early autumn are beautiful on the Cilento coast. It may become scorching in July and August, and some of the resort towns may become overcrowded in these months, although the trails along the mountain slopes above the coast are far from the tourist crush. The best time to see the area is from April to June when the spring flowers are in bloom, the weather is just warm enough, and the Mediterranean temperature allows for the first dips of the season. September and October are also an excellent time to visit Cilento, while the temperatures are still mild.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Naples. Other Italian airports are also well connected to the area.

By train or bus

Arrival: The tour starts in Paestum which can easily be reached by train from Naples or Salerno. From Rome (and many other cities) Naples and Salerno, and thus Paestum, can easily be reached. Use the Omio planner above to check the options.

Departure: The tour ends in Marina Di Camerota. A short taxi transfer can bring you to the local train station, from where Salerno and Naples are easily reachable.

Inclusions

Included

  • Detailed holiday information pack including GPS-checked and regularly updated route descriptions, road notes and maps (1:100000 or better)
  • 8 overnights in private en-suite rooms as detailed in the itinerary
  • 8 breakfasts
  • Two dinners (on day 1 and day 2)
  • 1 luggage transfer from Paestum station to the hotel – day 1
  • 1 luggage transfer from Paestum to San Marco di Castellabate – day 3
  • 1 luggage transfer from San Marco di Castellabate to Pisciotta – day 5
  • 1 luggage transfer from Pisciotta to Marina di Camerota – day 7
  • 1 transfer clients + luggage from Marina di Camerota to Centola train station (day 9)
  • One piece of luggage per person, max 15 kg
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative in Salerno

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches, 6 dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Any items not explicitly listed as included

Options, extras & supplements

  • Supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room / single use of a double room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Extra nights
  • Private airport transfers

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