Our Home in Italy’s Cilento National Park

My husband’s hometown, Sacco, and our summer home are right in the middle of a national park, is one of Italy’s most interesting places. Interesting because it’s rarely ever visited. Interesting because it’s a striking area of lonely, rugged mountains, extending into the Tyrrhenian Sea, and forming the southern end of the Gulf of Salerno.

And also because the Cilento National Park (in the Salerno province) is largely a park of hill towns. Most of which are small, averaging about 3000 inhabitants, though my husband’s village is much smaller.

A quaint and quiet area

We love this area, with its lonely villages and quaint people. And every time we go there, I’m struck with the past. Almost like stepping back into another century, suggestive of the Middle Ages or even Bible days.

Cilento’s history

Cilento has undergone many changes in its history. Starting with Greek settlement, around 600 BC, which caused the locals to scurry for safety and build the little hill towns.

Then followed by other kingdoms and civilizations, like the Samnites, the Romans, the Barbarians, and Medieval nobility. All of which have come and gone, while Cilento’s hill towns remain.

Times have changed since the days of Zia Pasquelina, who had us write her name because she’d never seen it before. And since Zia Rosa’s First videocassette (post coming soon!), but Cilento remains an enchanting place to visit. Still populated by simple, down-to-earth people, with easy-going, relaxed lives. The kind many of us dream of living.

Far from touristy areas

So if you come to Italy, consider leaving the touristy areas behind. Head south and up into the Cilento hill area.

Where you can visit ancient towns bearing quaint names like Bellosguardo (Beautiful View), Sacco (Sack), Roccagloriosa (Glory Rock), and Buonabitacolo (Nice Place to Live). Or Roccadàspide (Rock of the Asp), the town my father-in-law’s family originally came from.

A rich history

We think it’s mostly a delightful place to just lie back and relax. But if you’ve a mind to, you’ll also find plenty to do. From visiting Greek ruins at Paestum, Agropoli, and Atena Lucana, or Enotrian ruins (in Roscigno). To the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Certosa Monastery (in Padula).

A natural treasure trove

Or if you don’t care for ancient ruins, immerse yourself in nature activities, like mountain hiking or the boat races (at Castel San Lorenzo). Or visit Pertosa’s famous Caves, with spooky, eiry scenes, straight from Dante’s Inferno!

Unique culture

On the cultural side, many monasteries still house ancient libraries. And here and there, we find hidden little treasures. Like the tiny old hermit dwellings (at Pittari), or the Poor Toy Museum (in Montana Antilia), which features toys farmers made for their children.

Getting around

The best way to visit this area is by car. Bus and train service are not plentiful and can be sporadic. It takes several hours to cross the park, but the gorgeous scenery and quaint villages make it well worth your time.

Especially since, during warmer months, you’ll find various sagras or food festivals (sometimes dedicated to the local saints). Festivals which feature all kinds of gastronomic delights like: bread, wine, local pasta dishes, sausages, salamis, cheese, and chestnuts.

The heart of slow living

Just take your time. This area is, perhaps, the heart of slow living.

A place to meander through. To savour, in more ways than one! And if you do race through you’re likely to hit something along the way. This is open range territory for the Podolica cattle of southern Italy, from which we get the area’s delicious Caciocavallo cheese!

In my husband’s area, we also meet herds of shaggy, open-range horses. And quite often shepherds as well, leading flocks of sheep and goats across the road.

Touring the park truly is like entering a time machine. But little things, like those shepherds, also show the odd mix of new and old that Italy has become.

For those shepherds trek the paths of their grandfathers, but to the beat of iPods and smartphones!

Images ©SignoraSheila / SignorMario.

21 replies on “Our Home in Italy’s Cilento National Park”

You’re right, Karen. It is amazing and special. And as you know what Italy was like years ago, it’s like going back in time to that special place!! You really must come over and visit it!!

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You are more than welcome, Deborah Marie! This is indeed a rough time, but I think that it’s perhaps in just such moments that we need to remember and see all of God’s beauty around us!

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This looks like a beautiful and fascinating part of Italy. Now I have a new place to plan to visit! Thanks for writing about somewhere off the beaten tourist track! There are so many of these hidden gems in Italy that most people don’t even know about.


It is both beautiful and fascinating, Lisa. And yes, Italy is chock full of hidden gems. Now we just need both time and money to visit them all!! I enjoy your blog too, and learning about all the places you travel to, as well!


It truly is a beautiful and unique place! And I am so grateful to you for taking the journeys with me. Traveling in tandem is always better!!

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