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Holidays to Santa Maria di Castellabate offer more than postcard-worthy beaches, inviting waterfront restaurants and softly hued houses along meandering streets. Its relatively undiscovered location in southern Italy, along the beautifully unspoilt shores of Cilento in Campania, lend well to its exceptionally preserved history and charming ‘frozen in time’ character.
The Blue Flag beaches in the small, family oriented town are perfect for both beach and water sports and the numerous hiking trails lead to remarkable points of historical interest. The bay is home to various coves if a relaxing swim is what you’re after and there is a choice of wineries, shops, restaurants and more on land.
Santa Maria di Castellabate is part of the striking cultural landscape of Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park with the archaeological sites of Paestum and Velia, and the Certosa di Padula - Italy’s second largest national park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the region is culturally, historically and naturally rich, containing evidence of human activity from some 250,000 years ago and occupying an area of outstanding natural beauty.
When in Santa Maria di Castellabate, the possibility of being overwhelmed by crowds is very slim. Even so, there are alternatives to wandering through the winding streets, finding yourself in the main square of shops, lost in an architectural gem or on the beach.
Located just half an hour from the resort is the Polito Viticoltori - the Polito Vineyard. For three generations, the Polito family have been supplying quality wine throughout Campania. Why not take a day trip to sample the product of grapes that have been ripened in an optimal microclimate? A pairing with Soppressata di Gioi - a locally cured meat, will go down a treat.
The region of Cilento is famous for its fresh buffalo mozzarella and just half an hour’s drive away from your Santa Maria di Castellabate base, is the Tenuta Vannulo – an organic Buffalo farm. From here private guided tours and tastings can be arranged and if you’re lucky, some of the dishes may even include Cilento’s famous olives and figs.
The resort in Santa Maria di Castellabate is tailored for families who delight in spending active or relaxed days at the beach. Reminders of the town’s medieval history are ubiquitous. Located in the heart of the centro storico, historic centre, in the Piazza Perrotti, the 15th century Palazzo Perrotti landmark is situated directly on the seafront and recognised as a Cultural Heritage Site.
Local transportation or use of a rental car also make Santa Maria di Castellabate a great starting point from which to explore the plethora of attractions, natural and manmade, that reside in the surrounding national park. The seaside resort is decorated with beautiful Mediterranean flora, vines, olive and fig trees, which serve as a natural reminder that you are in the heart of a UNESCO Listed National Park.
It is hardly surprising that a coastal town like Santa Maria di Castellabate, which is set amidst several old fishermen’s villages, is famous for its fresh seafood dishes. Other staples of the wider Cilento region include beans, dairies - notably ricotta and mozzarella, vegetables and fruit - notably olives and figs, extra virgin olive oil and wine.
Anchovies are a local catch of the day and the Anchovies Inchiappate del Cilento or Alici di Menaica is a tasty traditional dish that can be found on most menus along the coast. Fresh anchovies are stuffed with ricotta and mixed with stuffed olives, garlic, parsley, pepper and salt. Once coated with breadcrumbs, the stuffed fish is deep fried and served alongside a refreshing salad.
Low fig trees grow all over Cilento, producing rare and wonderful white figs that are exclusive to the region. The prized fruit are often referred to as santo miele or sacred honey, not only revealing of the taste, but also of how highly they are valued. Various ‘fig boutiques’ are dotted around Cilento, and though irresistible on its own, delicious delicacies include figs stuffed with either cinnamon, nuts or even chocolate.