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Hidden Gems
Cycling the Coast and Hills of the Cilento National Park 14

Cycling the Cilento Coast

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 wonderful 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 great part of the geographical regions of Cilento and Vallo di Diano, in the Province of Salerno (Campania).

This tour will let you discover the unspoilt coast of Cilento National Park, starting from the plain of Paestum, known for its impressive Greek temples, and continuing towards the little fishing village of Marina di Camerota in the far south. Along the route, you will be able to enjoy the stunning coastal scenery, wild mountain valleys and deep gorges, vineyards and olive groves. This is a moderate tour suitable for all 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 arriving in Paestum, your private minibus picks you up and brings you to the hotel, just outside the ancient city walls, just a few metres from the Greek temples. Depending on your arrival time, you can take an optional short trip to test your bicycles, or go for a visit to the archaeological site, dating back to the 6th century BC (on the UNESCO World Heritage list), where you will admire not only the temples but also several other monuments.

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

Your first trip takes you on a ride through the ancient territory of the Greek town 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 countryside and offering some 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. The route 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 the hotel tonight. After dinner, you can opt to make another short stroll through the temples and perhaps grab a gelato.

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

Day 3: From Paestum to Casalvelino through Castellabate and Acciaroli I 55 km

Today you will leave the Paestum plain for a first taste of the real Cilento. Your trip takes you on quiet roads through the fragrant Mediterranean maquis and shady olive groves, up into the coastal hills above the town of Agropoli, through some dreamy medieval hamlets, and down again to the coastal villages of Santa Maria and San Marco di Castellabate. From here you continue along the coast in a southern direction. This is definitely one of the finest coastal rides in Italy, full of wonderful views with charming seaside villages. You cycle past the headland of Punta Licosa, named after the nymph Leucosia, and then climb the ‘red hills’. After a flatter section, you may then stop for a drink in Acciaroli, where, back in 1952, Ernest Hemingway spent some holidays and – some say – was inspired to write ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. After a last easy climb, you descend to the delightful little fishing village of Pioppi, where you can visit the small Sea Life Museum dedicated to the local marine fauna and flora. A last short stretch brings you to Casalvelino Marina, where you will stay in a beautiful agriturismo for the next two nights. Tonight you’ll indulge in local specialities: the dinner you’ll have is completely based on the agriturismo’s own produce and original recipes.

Day 4: Around Monte Stella: Round trip from Casalvelino I 65 km

Today’s trip starts with a long and winding climb up the southern slopes of Monte Stella, to the beautifully located old village of Acquavella, through olive groves and vineyards. The road continues uphill and, past the village of Stella Cilento, you reach Omignano. Once you have reached this village, the route becomes easier,  from here you’ll start the ‘Ring of Monte Stella’, a very panoramic tour with fantastic views in all directions, all around the ‘Mountain of the Sea’. This circuit touches several charming villages at more or less the same altitude (a transfer to either Stella Cilento or Omignano can be arranged). The easy road now passes through chestnut forests, opening up now and then to wonderful views over the inland Cilento, reaching as far as the Alburni and Cervati mountain ranges. Once you reach the northern edge of Mt. Stella, your views open up towards the Amalfi Coast and Capri, and on clear days you sight might stretch even as far as the island of Stromboli in Sicily. You pass a number of nice medieval villages: Celso, Galdo, San Mauro, Stella Cilento, all worth a shortstop. Their simplicity and quiet peace are best savoured from the local bar, with an Italian coffee at hand. At the end of the day, you descend towards Pollica, and then along the coast back to Casalvelino. Or you can opt for a slightly longer route that takes you down to the fishing village of Acciaroli again, for a nice ‘aperitivo’ at the harbour, before doing the beautiful final stretch back to Casalvelino. After arriving here, you can make a stop at the beach for a well-deserved relaxing swim. Another great dinner awaits you on the premises of your beautiful agriturismo.

Day 5: From Casalvelino to Cape Palinuro I 40 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 through the coastal plain of the Alento River. Soon you reach the archaeological site of Velia, home to the Greek philosophers Zeno and Parmenides, and cradle of one of Europe’s most ancient schools of medicine. Amongst its remains, one finds the celebrated ‘Porta Rosa’ (Pink Gate), one of the first examples of the use of the vault in Greek architecture. After a short visit, you continue your ride, which now starts to go uphill, reaching the village of Ascea. The road now passes through the fragrant Mediterranean maquis and century-old olive groves, also offering fantastic views over the sea. At about lunchtime, you reach the medieval hilltop village of Pisciotta, where you can enjoy a great lunch, overlooking the Mediterranean below. The ride after lunch is mostly downhill. Halfway through the afternoon, you reach the 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 cycle to the little village of Palinuro and stop at the tiny port. In case you are not too tired, you can take a short boat tour of the cape, visiting the caves.

Day 6: Marina di Camerota and Monte Bulgheria Round Trip I 53 km

After an early breakfast, you start your cycling day with a wonderful stretch along the southern coast of the Cilento National Park. You arrive in the lovely coastal town of Marina di Camerota, where you can have a short biscuit stop, and then you start cycling uphill. During this very scenic climb, you 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 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 a picnic lunch at one of the most stunning places you’ve ever been to, or visit a cosy little restaurant. You then continue the tour around the impressive Mt. Bulgheria, first with a short downhill section, taking you to a flatter one through the villages of Bosco and Acquavena. 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 go downhill, alongside the river, towards the entrance of the impressive Mingardo canyon, dominated by the abandoned medieval village of San Severino. Through the Mingardo canyon, you return to your hotel at Cape Palinuro.

Day 7: Departure from Cilento (or continue to the Amalfi coast)

Today you can sleep in for a bit longer and enjoy the scenery. After a leisurely breakfast, you are brought to the train station from where you can take the train to Naples, Rome or to Salerno, the gateway to the Amalfi Coast. In case you would like to extend your adventure, you can very easily get on our Cycling the Amalfi Coast tour, for the most complete biking experience of this iconic region.

  • Included meals: Breakfast

What to Expect

Accommodation

All nights are spent in beautiful, welcoming farmhouses (‘agriturismo’*), or in small, authentic 3-star hotels. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour. All rooms have en-suite facilities**.

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 Agriturismo Zio Cristoforo near the village of Casalvelino, in the Alento coastal plain, offering a taste of peaceful country life. Breakfast and dinner are based on local specialities.

Nights 5 & 6: The last two nights you stay in Palinuro, in a beautiful 4-star hotel located in an awesome position. Hotel Santa Caterina or Grand Hotel San Pietro.

*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, 2, 3 and 4 (as listed in itinerary), and for the rest of the dinners, you are free to choose from the wide choice of restaurants in the area. 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

Mostly moderate rides with several 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, 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. Naples has an international airport. From Rome (and many other cities) Naples and Salerno, and thus Paestum, can easily be reached.

Departure: The tour ends at Palinuro. A short 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)
  • 2 nights in Hotel*** in Paestum
  • 2 nights in Agriturismo in Casalvelino
  • 2 nights in Hotel **** in Palinuro
  • 6 breakfasts
  • 4 dinners (Days 1-4)
  • 1 luggage transfer from Paestum station to the hotel – day 1
  • 1 luggage transfer from Paestum to Casalvelino – day 3
  • 1 luggage transfer from Casalvelino to Palinuro – day 5
  • 1 transfer guests + luggage from Palinuro to Pisciotta train station – day 7
  • 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, 2 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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