In this guide, I will take you to discover Santa Maria di Castellabate and the village of Castellabate, two unmissable destinations for those who want to visit the Cilento Coast. The itinerary I propose can be adapted to different types of stay: it all depends on the type of stay you have planned or you are planning, as well as the hours you have available. Read on to get organized!
A walk in Santa Maria di Castellabate
If you are considering Santa Maria di Castellabate for a walk, I propose here a circular route that will allow you to visit all the points of interest in the time you have available.
The route I propose starts from the parking area in Via Giuseppe Mazzini, where you can park your car for free, or get off the bus (the bus terminal is right here). Take Via O. Pepi to head towards the seafront, where you will find the small beach of Punta dell’Inferno in front of you. At this point, turn left and walk along the seafront for about 10 minutes (900m).
At this point you will find yourself in front of the most famous portico of Santa Maria di Castellabate: it is the Porto delle Gatte (the port of the cats). I recommend that you follow it closely going under the arches. At first glance, you will notice that it is a restaurant location, certainly one of the most famous in Santa Maria. In fact, it is one of the most important ports of this place which, in the past, was an important fishing village. The arches were warehouses used to repair and store goods from all over the Cilento coast and which were exchanged with the inland towns (such as Naples or Cava de’ Tirreni). The arches of this portico, illuminated at night, gave the impression of cat’s eyes, a feature that gave the name to this place.
Leaving the Porto delle Gatte behind you, you will find yourself in front of the Marina Piccola beach, dominated by the Perrotti Tower in the background. First, however, turn right towards Via Gennaro Naso and then turn left, to reach the small square where the Sanctuary of Santa Maria a Mare is located. A curiosity about this sanctuary is that the decision to dedicate the cult to Santa Maria a Mare was proposed by the fishing families who came from Maiori, a village in the Amalfi Coast, and who, having to settle here for work, could not give up the cult of Mary, whose statue, according to the legends, was found at sea by some fishermen.
At this point, return to the seafront towards Via Perrotti. Before heading towards the Tower, however, do not give getting ice cream at the Baffo Gelateria, the most famous in the area. Head to the tower with your ice cream and take a seat on the wall with the sea behind you. From here you can admire the Perrotti Tower. More precisely, the name of the tower is Torre Pagliarola and takes the name Perrotti from the Perrotti Palace to which it is linked. The purpose of the Tower was to spot the Saracen boats heading along the coast. Today, together with the palace of the Perrotti barons, it houses hotels and tourist facilities.
Sitting on the wall, with the Tower in front of you, you can lose your gaze to the right in the direction of San Marco of Castellabate, a place that I recommend you to visit if you spend several days in Santa Maria, while on the left, you can admire the Marina Piccola beach, which for its cosy and intimate style is called “the living room”.
Little update: according to National Geographic UK, the beach of Santa Maria di Castellabate is among the 12 most beautiful in Italy. In fact, in the magazine it can be read like this: "Santa Maria di Castellabate in Cilento, home to Campania’s loveliest coastline, is the kind of place you might fear no longer exists — a tiny, laid-back fishing village with great restaurants, no nightlife to spoil your sleep and a lovely little beach. Heading south towards here from Salerno, time seems to unravel as you pass the Greek temples of Paestum and the medieval hilltop town of Agropoli, and continue along the pristine Cilento peninsula to reach your destination. Santa Maria is a gorgeous little town, with a handful of pretty crescents of sand right in the centre, and a long strip of lidos (private beach clubs) within easy walking distance of the centre."
Once you have finished resting (and the ice cream!), go back to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria a Mare and proceed along with the Corso Sen. Andrea Matarazzo, full of local shops, which will take you back to the parking area from which our journey began.
A weekend or more days in Santa Maria di Castellabate
If you are thinking of spending a weekend or several days in Santa Maria di Castellabate, you can definitely follow the path I have described over it, maybe taking it more calmly. What you absolutely must not miss, however, is a visit to the village of Castellabate, which I advise you to reach around sunset time. The village of Castellabate was awarded fourth place in the ranking of the most beautiful villages in Italy. What are you waiting for to include it in your travel plan?
The road that connects Santa Maria to the village of Castellabate is a panoramic road consisting of a succession of hairpin bends that will take you to the top of the Colle Sant’Angelo, where the medieval village is perched.
Once you have parked your car at the Parkplatz parking (3 euro full stop), head towards the main entrance, the “Belvedere San Costabile”: a panoramic terrace overlooking the sea, Santa Maria, the Gulf of Salerno and from which you can admire the island of Capri and Ischia. Enjoy the sunset from here, it’s crazy.
The village develops around the “Castello dell’abate” (“Castle of the abbot“) (hence the name Castellabate), founded by Abbot Costabile with the aim of spotting any attacks by the Saracens in time. Abbot Costabile is the figure who, from the top of the hill, has his gaze fixed on the sea to protect Castellabate and who seems to admire the sunset.
As for Castellabate, I will not show you a precise path. The narrow streets of the village are a real labyrinth in which everyone traces his own path. Surely you will come across the writing dedicated to Gioacchino Murat which reads “Here you don’t die”, as the latter stated referring to the purity of the air of this small seaside village. I recommend you sharpen the view on the walls of the streets, even if it will not be difficult to notice the writing where there will certainly be some tourists who take a photo at that point!
Another point of interest that you shouldn’t miss is the Piazza X October 1123, better known as “The Piazzetta ”, a small lounge of bars and restaurants, where you can stop and enjoy the silence and calm of this village among the most beautiful ones in Italy.
As you may have noticed, staying in Santa Maria di Castellabate for several days is ideal to discover and appreciate every corner of this magical place in Cilento.
If you need further advice on what to visit and where to stay, write to me on Whatsapp!
It will be a pleasure for me to tell you everything you have not found in this guide. Don’t hesitate to write to me!