Surroundings | Cilento National Park
The current geomorphological formation of Cilento, an ancient land that is a veritable treasure trove, is estimated by experts to be some 500,000 years old. This complex area, which on its own makes up two thirds of the province of Salerno, offers its visitors around a hundred kilometres of coastline lapped by the clearest sea in Campania (according to figures from environmental organisation Legambiente) and characterised by beaches that alternate between very fine sand, rocks, promontories and grottos cut into the rock. Just a few kilometres from the Tyrrhenian Sea, we can see the summits of a vast mountain range, the Dolomites of southern Italy, with six peaks higher than 1,700 metres. Along its sloping hills dotted here and there are human settlements, most of which date back to ancient times and which are often small and even microscopic with just a few hundred inhabitants, some nestled into the rocks like classic nati-vity scenes, others situated on the mountain ridges, almost all of them sitt-ing in the shadow of ancient castles, sanctuaries or monasteries. This is the
area of the typical crops that form the ingredients and the raw materials of the Mediterranean diet. Many medium-sized rivers cross the rich plain, the most important being the Sele, the Calore, the Tanagro and the Bussento. Otters, one of the spectacular symbols of Cilentan
biodiversity, still inhabit these rivers. Since December 1991, the territory of Cilento and the adjacent Vallo di Diano area have been included within one immense protected natural oasis, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The National Park of Cilento and the Vallo di Diano with the recent addition of two protected marine oases (Punta Li-cosa, between Agropoli and Castellabate, and Punta Infreschi, between Palinuro and Scario) make it one of Eu-rope’s largest natural reserves. Its surface area totals 215,000 hectares. The National Park embraces 7 mountain communities and 86 municipalities, where almost 250,000 people live, ‘blessed’ with longevity. Here the average life span is longer than anywhere else in Eu-rope. Specialist teams from European and American universities are studying the specificity of the so-called ‘Cilento genome’. History has left indelible marks in the Cilento area, which is universally known as the ‘Terra del Mito’ (Land of Myth). In ancient times, it was home to important Greek, Lucanian and Roman settlements. Today we find two great examples of antiquity in this vast area: the archaeological areas of Pae-stum and Velia, beacons of classical civilisation which saw moments of significant development in this region.
These archaeological sites have been returned to their original splendour by a painstaking policy for the protection of cultural heritage and are now open to scholars, travellers and enthusiasts.