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NATURE TRAILS

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Percorsi naturalistici

The Cilento National Park is Italy’s second largest national park and one its most diverse as it weaves together inland mountains, rolling hills and spectacular coastline.  Castellabate is at the northern end of the park, cradled between the two low promontories of Tresino and Licosa, with gorgeous landscapes and seascapes to enjoy.

The park, along with a designated Marine Protected Area, were established to preserve the natural habitats of indigenous plants, animals and marine life and keep the environment clean and healthy, while making the area’s natural and cultural treasures accessible to visitors.

Castellabate’s sea and surrounding area boasts abundant natural resources, beautiful unspoiled areas of undeveloped land, and a seafront that offers breathtaking views and a peaceful natural experience.  These unique natural areas can be explored on foot, so you can enjoy endless panoramas and an outing surrounded by the calming effects of nature.

ITINERARY 1 – FROM ZONA LAGO TO PUNTA TRESINO

The path starts at Zona Lago.  Follow the signs from Santa Maria di Castellabate and go all the way to the end of the road, just below the promontory of Tresino at the piazza called Belvedere dei Trezeni.  Zona Lago was the site of the ancient Trezeni people whose name was given to the protective promontory (Tresino).  This zone is also a designated Marine Protected Area that encompasses 19 kilometers of coastline from here to Ogliastro Marina.

Along this stretch of shoreline there are some fascinating geological features.  Take a few minutes to see these unusual formations.  The sandstone is pocked with a network of lace-like erosion formations called tafoni- an intricate sculpted effect created by the expansive action of salt that penetrates the rock, then crystallizes, expanding in the rock and crumbling it, creating these interesting networks of cavities.   

Down on the beach you can get a glimpse of the rock known as the Principessa Saracena, an outcropping that resembles the profile of a woman that local lore says was a beautiful princess named Hadija who was in love with a local fisherman.  Every evening she waited here for his return, but one evening he didn’t come back.  Hadija, consumed by grief, threw herself into the water to die in the sea so that she could be forever reunited with her true love.  Neptune, the god of the sea, was so moved by such suffering that he petrified her body on the shore with her face fixed towards the sea waiting for her lost love, as a memorial of their eternal bond.

The beach here holds another secret – an ancient archeological site.  The Cava dei Rocchi was a Greek quarry, and tangible testimony of the temple dedicated to Poseidon, the god of the sea, erected by the Trezeni people on the Tresino Promontory in the 6th century BC.  It is believed that the columns from Paestum (ancient Poseidonia) were excavated here, as well.  You can still see the circular extractions from the rock.

To start the hike, walk up the dirt track that skirts the promontory, climbing steadily uphill towards the sea.  There are signs pointing to San Giovanni.  You’ll go through aromatic natural scrub dotted with fragrant rosemary, pretty wildflowers, and berry bushes, with views down to the glassy water and the town of Santa Maria di Castellabate. 

You’ll arrive at the abandoned village of Tresino (also called San Giovanni in Tresino), a now-vacant and eerie evidence of a once-important settlement.  The village of San Giovanni in Tresino continued to be inhabited until the period around World War II.  Farmers left the land and moved to nearby towns or migrated to northern Italy or overseas in search of work, and the village was eventually deserted.  The remnants of a once-bustling piazza, a church and stone walls of houses still remain, along with outdoor bread ovens.  Just past you’ll find the fountain of San Giovanni, where water fills the rectangular stone basins.  Above the spring are date palms that lend an exotic atmosphere to the place.

Continue uphill to arrive at the point where you can bask in the sun and gaze at the spectacular scenery –looking down you’ll see the Marine Protected Area and the rocky reefs peeking through the water.  Views sweep across the bay to Punta Licosa and its island lighthouse, while you can glimpse the outline of the Amalfi Coast and Capri in the distance.

If you want a longer hike you can take the intersecting trail called Scoglio del Sale/Cala Pastena that leads over the point to the Bay of Trentova on the Agropoli side of the Tresino promontory. 

ITINERARY 2 – FROM SAN MARCO DI CASTELLABATE TO PUNTA LICOSA

Take an easy, delightful walk to the point of the promontory known as Punta Licosa, an enchanting spot where a miniscule island holds Castellabate’s lighthouse.

The trail begins in the charming fishing village of San Marco di Castellabate, where life still revolves around the sea.  Go to the port where boats bob in the water and fishermen mend their nets, and take a look at the remains of the ancient Greco-Roman port that brought boats here more than 2000 years ago.  The path is well marked, so follow the signs for Punta Licosa and enjoy the scenery.

The path passes some vacation villas and skirts the coast, ducking in and out of woods with stands of pine, myrtle and carob trees filled with the chatter of birds and sprinkled with wildflowers.  There are nice views of the water and side tracks that lead to little coves, in case you want to dip into the sea.  Here, sedimentary rocks known as Cilento Flysch lend an artistic strata effect. 

The trail passes a tiny stone village and ends at a small castle and chapel, still owned by the Prince of Belmonte.  From here you can enjoy the Marine Protected Area and the pretty little island of Licosa with its lighthouse proudly standing guard.  This is a mythical island, named for the siren Leukosia, who tried to allure Odysseus to his death with her melodies in Homer’s Odyssey.  When she failed, she plunged herself into the deep, and her body came up here, turning into stone and producing this island.  The lighthouse now protects other sailors from harm on this shoreline.

There are loads of colorful fish and marine life to see in these crystal-clear waters, so dive in if its calm and have a swim before returning to San Marco.

 Valerie Schneider

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NATURE TRAILS

The Cilento National Park is Italy’s second largest national park and one its most diverse as it weaves together inland mountains, rolling hills and spectacular coastline. Castellabate is at the northern end of the park

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