Castellabate is a small town (slightly more than 8000 inhabitants) in the Italian region of Campania, province of Salerno. The town is located in the the National Park of Cilento and Vallo di Diano. Castellabate is a well known tourist destination offering beaches, nature and mild climate and developed tourist infrastructure. It is very close to the archaeological site of Paestum (12 miles or 19 km) and easily reached by car, train or bus. The closest train station is in Agropoli (7.5 miles or 12 km). The closest international airports are in Naples (81 miles or 130 km) and Rome (220 mile or 354 km).
The history of Castellabate is full of legends among which is the one that describes the return journey of Odysseus and the siren Leucosia who fell in love with the Homeric hero. When Odysseus showed no attention to the mermaid, she threw herself into the sea from a cliff and died transforming into a rock known today as the island of Licosa (in the commune of Castellabate). What we know about the area beyond legends is that Castellabate, like other areas of Cilento, was an area inhabited since prehistoric times (Upper Palaeolithic). Later, the territory was inhabited by various local tribes like Lucani as well as Greeks. In 9th century Licosa was considered a stronghold of Saracens, when they were defeated in 846 by the coalition which included the Byzantine Duchy of Naples, the maritime powers of Amalfi, Sorrento, and Duke of Gaeta.
The actual history of Castellabate town starts in October 1123 when Costabile Gentilcore (1069-1124, Catholic Church saint remembered as the 4th Abbot of Cava) began the construction of the Castle of the Angel which eventually gave the name to village and town built around the castle (merging "castle dell'Abbate" into Castellabate). His successor, Abbot Simeon, completed the construction of the castle and granted many privileges to the growing population. All this resulted in Castellabate becoming in time the most important barony of Cilento. Over the time, the ownership rights to the castle and control over the area passed to Caracciolo, Loffredo, Filomarino, Acquaviva, and the Granito family which finally united lands and titles with the Spanish crown noble title of Prince of Belmonte. The current Prince, Angelo Granito Pignatelli di Belmonte, still lives in a private wing of Villa Belmonte located in Santa Maria di Castellabate not far from the old town of Castellabate.
The town of Castellabate is located on the top of the hill (about 1000 feet or 300 m) overlooking the coastal line. Still, the place is known as a sea town because it is very close to several sea villages (frazioni) which also belong to the commune of Castellabate: Santa Maria di Castellabate, San Marco di Castellabate, Ogliastro Marina and Punta Licosa. The first, Santa Maria di Castellabate, is the largest and the closest to the Castellabate. In fact, most Castellabate's municipal and commune offices are located in Santa Maria. To get better idea about the place please visit our photo galleries dedicated to the old town Castellabate and Santa Maria di Castellabate.
The following YouTube clip is in Italian; however, it was produced professionally by RAI, an Italian state broadcast corporation and gives a good idea what you can find in and around Castellabate:
To put it simply, Castellabate and its villages are just a nice place to spend some time to enjoy breathtaking views, crystal clear waters and charming medieval architecture. With everything considered, Castellabate is on par with other major tourist destinations including nearby Amalfi Coast. Although we all have our own preferences, one obvious advantage of visiting Castellabate and adjacent areas is less crowds of tourist. The result is not only more relaxed environment, but also lower prices, better services, more parking spaces - you name it. At the same time, Castellabate is easily reachable by car train and bus from major transportation hubs including Rome and Naples. So, it should not be a surprise that the place is being discovered by tourists as the popularity of Castellabate has been growing steadily year after year.
If my common sense reasoning does not sound convincing enough, I can support it by some official data and facts. First, Castellabate is a part of the area called Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park declared in 1998 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its "testimony to a cultural tradition" and "outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape." Interestingly, if you look at the map of the Cilento National Park, you will see that its highly irregular shape is formed by the inclusion in the park of the coastal area between Agropoli and Casal Velino with Castellabate in its center.
But there is much more to Castellabate than just a place in the World Heritage Site list. For its natural and environmental heritage, the sea and the coast of Castellabate are protected marine biology area since 1972, representing an early example of the marine park in Europe. In 2009, the natural marine protected area around Castellabate became a marine park in Campania covering the sea surface between Punta di Ogliastro e la Baia del Sauco (Point Ogliastro and the Bay of Sauco).
Scientific recognition of the environmental value of the marine area around Castellabate is complimented by year after year European Blue Flag awards selecting three Castellabate beaches for its beauty and high quality. But there is more: Castellabate is one of the six "most beautiful villages" in Campania belonging to a club of some 200 most beautiful small Italian towns identified by National Association of Italian Municipalities for their artistic and historic value.
And finally, in June of 2011, Joe Biden, Vice-President of the United States of America, has chosen Castellabate as a destination for his holidays spending a night in the eighteenth century Palazzo Belmonte. If it's good enough for Joe Biden, consider it as your next destination.
International travelers visiting the Cilento area usually arrive to Italy through the Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO) near Rome or Naples Airport (NAP) located in the Capodichino district of Naples.
Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (also know simply as Fiumicino Airport) is one of the busiest airports in Europe with annual traffic around 37 million passengers. It is located in Fiumicino, 16 miles (35 km) from Rome's historic city center. It is safe to say that all major and small aviation airlines have scheduled flights to and from Fiumicino Airport which makes it very convenient for travelers with final destinations in Italy.
However, since Castellabate, our final destination, is much closer to Naples than to Rome, I would suggest considering Napoli-Capodichino Airport depending on where you will be coming from. Keep in mind that the Naples Airport is a rather busy international airport (around 6 million passengers annually) with scheduled connections to many international destinations including: Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Basel/Mulhouse, Berlin-Schönefeld, Birmingham, Bristol, Brussels, Bucharest-Băneasa, Cologne/Bonn, Copenhagen, Dublin, Düsseldorf, East Midlands, Frankfurt, Friedrichshafen, Geneva, Glasgow-International, Hamburg, Hanover, Heraklion, Ibiza, Istanbul-Atatürk, Kiev-Boryspil, Liverpool, London-Gatwick, London-Stansted, Luxembourg, Madrid, Malta, Manchester, Moscow-Domodedovo, Munich, New York-JFK, Newcastle, Nice, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly, Prague, Sharm el-Sheikh, Stuttgart, Tel Aviv, Tunis, Vienna (some of these services may be seasonal). For example, from the United States, it may be much more convenient to fly to a major European airport (for example, Paris CDG) and have a connected flight to the Naples Airport. Same logic applies to flying to Rome with a connecting flight to Naples - it all depends on your specific point of departure and itinerary. Keep in mind that there may be also seasonal non-stop flights (usually in months from June to September) to Naples Capodichino Airport (NAP) from various destinations; in particular, for such flights check Meridiana/Eurofly.
Castellabate is 220 miles (354 km) from Rome. To get to Castellabate town from Rome you can choose plane, train, hired or rented car (or a combination of the above). However, most likely, if you travel from Rome to Castellabate, your intermediate destination will be Naples. From Rome to Naples you can get by air or train. Driving time by car from Rome to Castellabate is roughly 4 hours.
Castellabate is 81 miles (130 km) from Naples and 41 miles (67 km) from Salerno. To get to Castellabate town from Naples you can use hired or rented car, bus, train. Driving time by car from Napels to Castellabate is about 2 hours, from Salerno - 1.5 hours.
Train is good option to travel to Castellabate, although it must be combined with the car/taxi or bus since the closest to Castellabate train station is in Agropoli (9.3 miles or 15 km). You can travel to Agropoli from Roma Termini - traveling time about 3.5 hours with 4 - 5 train departing every day and the base ticket costing €30 - €51. There are also trains from Napoli Centrale to Agropoli - also several times a day with travel time slightly more than one hour and base ticket around €12.50 (prices are 2011, prices and travel time depend on the the type of train used).
Perhaps the most convenient (and the most expensive) way of getting to Castellabate from Naples is to use a car. In addition to convenience and more freedom, the biggest advantage of using/renting a car is an easier access to many tiny villages and spots in the area with unforgettable views and excellent food that otherwise would be practically off limits. There is no problem to find a parking sport in Castellabate or one of its surrounding villages; although some hotels may charge additional fees for parking (usually around €10/day).
If you travel by car, your should take Autostrada (motorway) A3 in the direction Salerno-Reggio Calabria and exit at Battipaglia (if you travel from Rome you use Autostrada A1 first to reach A3 near Naples). After exiting Battipaglia, take Strada Statale (SS or highway) 18 to Agropoli south, then follow the SS 267 to Castellabate. Keep in mind, that SS267 goes along the coast and will lead you to Santa Maria di Castellabate whereas Castellabate town is on the top of the hill (additional 5-minute drive using a local road). SS267 goes to other villages in the area (for example, San Marco or Ogliastro Marina), however, depending at your specific destination you may take at the end local roads. NOTE: there are other roads to Castellabate. For example, you may be tempted to turn right in the area of frazione di San Pietro (located after Agropoli on route 267). Such roads go through the mountain areas in Cilento, and we do not recommend to use them unless you know what you are doing and prepared to drive in places like this.
Finally, I would like to mention that the bus is yet another option to travel to Santa Maria di Castellabate and San Marco di Castellabate. If you are interested, check the Web site of CSTP Azienda della Mobilità S.p.a and in particular Lines 34 and 35. Schedule may change over time, but these two provide services to Santa Maria and San Marco from Agropoli, Salerno and during summer even from Naples.
As usual with the Italian sea resorts in Campania (near Naples), the best time is July and August with September as a good compromise: crowds of tourists become significantly smaller but the weather is still excellent.
Due to its location on the Tyrrhenian coast, the area is characterized by a Mediterranean climate with hot summers, mild winters and plenty of sunny days. The average temperature of the coldest month, January, ranging from a minimum of 39.2 °F (4 °C) to a maximum of 53.6 °F (12 °C) (averaging 44.2 °F (6.8 °C) in January), while in July and August it is between 64.4 °F (18 °C) to 84.2 °F (29 °C) (averaging 75.9 °F (24.4 °C) in August),. The rainfall is very low during summer months (July is the driest month with 33 mm or 1.3" of rain); it reaches its peak in December, when it rains on average every second day (121 mm or 5").
In this section we recommend hotels in two places: Castellabate town and Santa Maria di Castellabate. As we mentioned earlier, the two places are very close to each other (5-minute drive). The difference is that the village of Santa Maria is on the coast offering sandy beaches and... the largest tourist crowds (by the way, Santa Maria di Castellabate is the largest inhabited place in the commune of Castellabate). On the other hand, the old town of Castellabate is usually quieter and is a better choice if you enjoy medieval towns. Also, the majestic views from the top of the hill here the town is located are its strongest selling point.
In Castellabate we recommend Albergo Il Castello (Via Amendola, 1 84048 Castellabate, Italy ), a small family hotel in the very center of the old town. The hotel has 12 rooms - all finished in a simple style with either terraces or balconies (most views are on mountains and valleys in the Cilento National Park). Hotel offers excellent service and food with prices reflecting perhaps the best price/value ratio you can find in the area. 2011 prices are from €70 - low season (April and October) to €100 - high season (July - August) per room. Access to the local beach (in Santa Maria) with sunbeds & umbrellas is included in price.
In Santa Maria di Castellabate are choices are:
- 1861 Residenza d'Epoca (Lungomare Perrotti, 84072 Santa Maria di Castellabate, Italy) - another small family hotel with just 6 rooms located on one of the promenades in Santa Maria with immediate access to the beach 50 yards from the hotel. Rooms prices (2011) are €85 - €90 depending on the type of the room (prices are per person and include taxes and breakfast).
- Hotel Villa Sirio (Lungomare De Simone 15, 84072 Santa Maria di Castellabate) - a 4-star hotel offering modern amenities, a free private beach, a panoramic terrace, and a fine restaurant with sea views. Hotel has 34 rooms (which include several suites) most of which have balconies or terraces with a sea view. A nice feature offered at Villa Sirio is the beach deck/platform with access to a deeper water area (in addition to a sandy beach with low grade slope). High season prices (2012, B&B per day) are high: from €220 (standard room) to €500 (suite).
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In addition to mild climate, Castellabate offers many resources to tourists: sea, beaches and nature. In addition, it is not far from other interesting places including archeological sites, seaside resorts and natural wonders. So, visitors to the area have a wide spectrum of things to do - the first one (and most popular) is "sweat doing nothing". You just relax spending time on the beach and enjoy food and local wine.
If you want to be more active, you can still stay mostly at one place but include in your activities things popular in the area such as scuba diving, biking and house riding. As always in Italy cooking and Italian language classes are popular as well. The best way to organize such activities is to inquire at your hotel (and you can do it in advance).
If you are going to spend in Castellabate more than just two or three days, I would strongly suggest exploring the area - meaning undertaking half-a-day or one-day trips to various places. Among them archaeological sites of Paestum (12 miles/19 km from Castellabate) and Elea-Velia (24 miles/38 km), sea caves of Cape Palinuro (Grotte Marine di Capo Palinuro, 38 miles/61 km). Finally, you can expand your excursion to other beautiful villages near Castellabate: Acciaroli (12.5 miles/20 km), Casal Velino (23 miles/37 km), Ascea Marina (24 miles/38 km), Pisciotta (32 miles/51 km), Marina di Camerota (48 miles/78 km). Finally, if you have a car, consider just driving around the Cilento National Park using local roads - you may be stunt be the beauty of the park and vistas from many its spots.
For more details on visiting specific places mentioned here, see our "Useful Visitor Information and Tips" section below.
Unless you are the type of the person who always stays in one place during his or her vacations, consider renting a car. No matter how beautiful Castellabate is, and how welcoming the beaches of seaside villages are, all these places are small and may become boring. On the other hand, there are many interesting villages and other places in the area around Castellabate (with the radius of 30 miles/50 km). If you have a car, it will give you a freedom to travel and explore many of them.
If you stay in Castellabate, it is almost a must to visit Paestum, one of the most important archeological sites in Italy and Europe. I would recommend to reserve the whole day for such visit - you can explore the excavation site with the remnants of the ancient city of Paestum (including three Greek temples in excellent conditions) and visit Paestum's National Archeological Museum. The latter is very interesting even if it has plenty of obligatory chips of broken ancient pottery.
One of the places to visit is Punta Licosa (about 4.5 miles/7km from Castellabate) and its island. Legambiente (Italian major environmental association) considers Punta Licosa beach as one of the most most beautiful in Italy. Note that the access to the area of Punta Licosa may be restricted. There is a small village at the feet of Licosa Mountain (1069 feet/326 m above the sea level) and an ancient fortress.
Velia (Ascea, Italy, 27 miles/44km from Castellabate) is the Italian name of the ancient town of Elea originally founded by the Greeks as Hyele. Velia is known for its archeological ruins including the old Greek theater, remains of the city walls belonging to several periods, medieval tower of Velia built out of a Greek temple. Some archeological monuments date back to 4th-3rd centuries BC.
For more adventurous travelers I would recommend to visit Cape Palinuro which is located further south from Castellabate (about 1.5 hour drive - 45 miles/73km). Palinuro is very popular due to the cleanliness of its waters and beaches (is regularly awarded a European Blue Flag). Palinuro's sea grottoes are its major attraction. Among them are La Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto) with the sunlight creating amazing effects, Grotta d’Argento (Silver Grotto) with effects created by limestone deposits at its bottom, Grotta del Sangue (Grotto of Blood) with the name reflecting the color of red algae, Grotta dei Monaci (Grotto of Monks) reminiscent of formations looking like monks in prayer - totally there are 32 caves currently cataloged. Good news is that caves, although very popular and frequently visited, have not yet transformed into such ridiculous tourist trap as Capri's Blue Grotto (La Grotta Azzurra).
There are many other places to visit in the Castellabate area; even a simple car drive through the surrounding mountain roads can be extremely interesting that will leave with unforgettable memories of majestic vistas. Our suggestion - explore the area; before you embark on such exploration inquire and learn from locals.